The 2012/2013 season has been more than most Vikings fans could have ever hoped for after an abysmal 3-13 2011 season. There have been ups and downs throughout this season, and at one point or another we’ve all had some doubts about how this team would finish out the regular season and if our team would get a chance to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2009. Fortunately for our well-being and our dedication, the Vikings were able to squeeze their way into the playoffs after an improbable run of four-straight victories against quality opponents.
There’s no telling what could happen in the postseason and that’s what is most exciting about the playoffs – every team has a shot.
Regardless of how the Minnesota Vikings finish out what has already proved to be one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory, the following notes outline some things that ownership and leadership can do to help make the case for the upcoming season being the year of the Minnesota Vikings.
1) Determine the viability of Percy Harvin’s long-term future in Minnesota.
This one is a touchy subject for some as Harvin has quickly become a fan-favorite among Vikings fans. Recent reports have indicated a rocky relationship between Harvin, his coaches and his teammates. Other unconfirmed reports have indicated that while an MRI was negative and he was given the okay to play, Harvin refused and was subsequently placed on the Injured Reserve list – effectively ending his season.
While these reports could simply be a case of the media trying to stir things up (something that they’re surprisingly good at), the fact that so many similar accounts of instability between one the Vikings’ most explosive weapons and the coaching staff has to be concerning.
While the situation is certainly troubling for Vikings fans, it should be comforting to know that the Vikings hold a great deal of leverage in this situation. Harvin will be entering the final year in his contract and is owed a relatively light $1.55 million. This gives the Vikings the opportunity to do a couple of things. They can either extend his contract or cut ties with him completely by putting him up on the trading block.
With such a minimal value remaining on his contract and his extremely high upside, Harvin is an enticing proposition for teams hungry for wide receivers and kick returners. While I understand the love for Harvin coming from the fans (and I, myself, am a huge Harvin fan), I’m not sure if there’s any better way for the Vikings to secure a top-flight, true number one receiver without trading away Harvin. Unless the Vikings can extend Harvin’s contract and resolve their issues before the beginning of next season (as to avoid any unnecessary midseason drama), trading him away would make the most sense.
2) Add depth to the cornerback position through draft
Though the play of the cornerbacks has vastly improved over previous years, it’s been obvious how thin the Vikings are behind Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield. As much of a proponent as I am of Winfield’s abilities over the next couple years, he’s not going to last forever in this league. Other than Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels and the aforementioned duo, the rest of this CB group is disposable this offseason. I like the choice by leadership to keep Marcus Sherels on the roster as a special teamer and a situational corner, but his size limits his ability to lineup against top-tier wide receivers in the NFL, so other options should be considered. With the Vikings’ poor track-record of bringing in veteran cornerbacks (apart from Winfield, of course), the best strategy to bolster the group is to build young and draft a cornerback.
3) Add a true number one wide receiver through free agency or a trade
I’m sure this sounds like a broken record at this point, but this is where I see Harvin being a huge asset. With a huge contract either on the way for Harvin or finding use from him on the trading block, the Vikings should expect and desire to use a sizeable portion of their available cap space on securing both a top-tier wide receiver (with emphasis on size) as well as adding depth to this underperforming group.
I actually like what I’ve seen from Jarius Wright thus far, and I think he has a place in this offense and while Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins have both been underwhelming to say the least, I also think that they are serviceable members of the wide receiver corps. (albeit, lower on the depth chart than they are now). Best case scenario in my mind is picking up a player like Larry Fitzgerald through a trade of Harvin and adding another role-player like Dwayne Bowe should the cap space permit (Bowe might be available for a relatively fair market value come free agency).
Of course, these scenarios are assuming that the Vikings decide to part ways with Harvin in the first place and go all-in on rebuilding the wide receiver position, but as I said previously, it might be for the best.
Looking at the list of 2013 free agent wide receivers, it won’t necessarily require a trade to add depth and bring in a stud, but the Vikings will have to dedicate big money to secure a true number one receiver as well as pay for Harvin’s contract extension should they decide to retain his services.
I could list all my desires for wide receiver lineups that would probably never happen, but it is clear that this team’s number one necessity this offseason is to add talent that can get open for a young quarterback that is still developing. We’ve seen how effective some of the wide receivers have been like Jarius Wright and Michael Jenkins (as of late), and they can still play an important role. Regardless, no team is going to fear the Vikings passing game until we get a receiver that can burn a secondary regularly or at least out-muscle them downfield.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens this offseason. A surprising amount of the Vikings’ future relies on the resolution of the situation with Percy Harvin and this should be the first order of business for Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman. There’s a fairly flexible amount of cap space available for the Vikings, but they need to focus on solving whatever issues have arisen with their prized receiver. Either way, Vikings fans should look at the situation with Harvin as an incredible opportunity to better this team for years to come – whether he is used as a bargaining chip or is signed to a long-term deal. Here’s hoping for big things this postseason and for the positive future this franchise has ahead.
Follow Greg Jensen on Twitter – @JensenGregory