The Vikings took steps to address their linebacker situation during this weekend’s draft…kind of. Well they did take two linebackers, both from Penn State. Gerald Hodges was taken in the fourth and Michael Mauti was taken in the seventh. Hodges obviously is the better prospect but here’s the kicker: he’s never played the middle. His strength is coverage – he is a converted safety – so he at least gives them a potentially better option than Erin Henderson at nickel linebacker. But can Hodges lock down the MLB job, allowing Henderson to stay on the weak side where he belongs? Who knows.
Mauti is an even iffier proposition. He has had umpteen injuries, many of them to his knees. Right now we don’t even know if he will physically be able to get on the field this season. There are two ways of looking at the situation. One: Rick Spielman totally wasted a draft pick on this broken guy. Two: If Eric Sugarman and the Vikings can get this guy right he can be a steal.
I ain’t putting any money on Mauti making it back to become a meaningful contributor. And I’m not convinced that Erin Henderson can play MLB. So where does that leave the Vikings? They drafted a couple linebackers but did they really improve their lot?
On the surface, it doesn’t look like they are much better off today at linebacker than they were going into the draft. So it’s natural to assume that another move is forthcoming. And there’s at least one name out there that appears to make sense as a plug-in-and-play option for one year. That band aid man is Brian Urlacher.
We all know what the deal is with Urlacher. Perfect scheme fit after all those years as a dropping MLB in the Bears’ Tampa-2. Great heart. Great leadership. Guy you hate if he’s on the other team but love if he’s on your team. Unfortunately, his legs are apparently gone. If he does get on the field again he will be playing on pure heart and guts and savvy. You could argue that heart and guts and savvy are enough for him to start at MLB for Minnesota, since right now he only has to beat out Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell. That says all you need to know about what the Vikings currently are figuring to line up at MLB.
So is Urlacher in the picture? Hard to say. On the one hand, he would seem to make sense as a low-cost fill-in. On the other hand, Rick Spielman doesn’t like bringing in broken down veterans. But he might want to make an exception this once. If Urlacher still has anything left, he would immediately be the best MLB on the team. And he would help bring some leadership to a defense that keeps getting younger all the time. If the guy can still move at all, I say at least look at him. I am far from being sold on what the Vikings currently feature in the middle.