The season has now come to a close, and after an extremely exciting Super Bowl(Only Christian Ponder supporters would agree with that), fan attention is moving from the Playoffs to the NFL Off-season. Just like any NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings have lots of holes on their roster to put it kindly. In this Guide, I am going to choose what I believe is the best course of action to take in order to fill each hole on the Vikings roster, while also listing other possibilities. The goal of this guide is to give a realistic simulation of how I believe the offseason will go, so you won’t see me predicting that the Vikings will either draft a first-round prospect or sign a big-name free-agent to fill every hole. Hopefully that wasn’t too confusing, lets get started!
Quarterback: Draft Derek Carr(Fresno State), with either the 8th pick in the Draft or after trading down a few picks. Carr fits the mold of the prototypical Norv Turner Quarterback with his huge arm, but could be a bit of a reach at number 8.
-Bring in a veteran via free-agency(Michael Vick, Matt Cassel, Josh McCown, etc) and draft a Quarterback to learn behind him. This would be the safe approach. Drafting a defensive stud in Round 1 and then a guy like Jimmy Garoppolo(Eastern Illinois) in Round 2 would make sense.
-Trade-up in the First Round of the Draft and draft either Blake Bortles(UCF), Teddy Bridgewater(Louisville), or Johnny Manziel(Texas A&M). Although unlikely, it is possible. Ultimately, what I believe will keep the Vikings from trading up is the lack of a truly “elite” Quarterback prospect in this years’ Draft.
-Trade a 3rd or 4th rounder for either Ryan Mallet or Kirk Cousins. Mallet has a lot of potential, but is a big question mark, as he has only thrown 4 passes in his career. While Cousins has more experience, he has shown to be very inconsistent, at times showing that he can be a very solid signal-caller, and at other times showing why he was a 4th round pick and not a 1st.
Left Guard: Draft a Guard anywhere from Rounds 2-4 and allow him to compete with Jeff Baca(6th Round draft pick in 2013) for the starting Left Guard spot. This is both the cheapest and in my opinion best way to go. With Brandon Fusco showing tremendous improvement at Right Guard this past year, the Vikings should stick with a young player on the left side as well.
-Sign a veteran stop-gap to hold down the position until a younger player is developed. If the Vikings feel like they can’t get an NFL-ready guard in the mid-rounds of the draft and that Jeff Baca simply isn’t ready yet, this very well could be the route Spielman chooses to take.
Cornerback: Sign a top-tier free-agent cornerback(Alterraun Verner, Vontae Davis, Aqib Talib), and acquire either via draft or via free-agency someone who can play in the slot. Cornerback is a major need, so spending money on a top-talent makes a lot of sense, especially since this year’s crop of elite free-agent cornerbacks are relatively young(Verner-25, Davis-25, Talib-28).
-Draft Justin Gilbert(Oklahoma State) or Darqueze Dennard(Michigan State) in the first round of the Draft.
-Draft a corner in the mid-rounds and hope he develops quickly into a first-year starter. This is NOT ADVISED, and is highly unlikely, considering the current state of the Viking cornerbacks.
Defensive End: Re-sign Everson Griffin. Yes, there are plenty of attractive free-agent defensive ends, but Everson Griffin has shown limitless potential, and it is my personal belief that Mike Zimmer will be able to bring out the best in him, assuming Zimmer doesn’t insist on letting Griffin walk and signing his old friend Michael Johnson. Griffin should also be much cheaper than any of the elite free-agent defensive ends.
-Sign an elite Defensive End in free-agency(Greg Hardy, Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett….. Jared Allen?(HAH!))
-Draft Khalil Mack(Buffalo) or Anthony Barr(UCLA) in the first round(Khalil Mack is the more NFL-ready prospect, and could also play outside linebacker).
Nose Tackle: Sign Linval Joseph to a 2-year contract and see what he can do. He played very well at the nose-tackle position this past year for the New York Giants and shouldn’t command too big of a contract.
-If you want to go big, you could make a case for B.J. Raji from the Packers, who was phenominal as a nose tackle, but he will probably command too big of a salary for Rick Spielman.
-Turn to the draft and draft a mid-round nose tackle, much like the Saints did with John Jenkins last year in the 3rd round, who turned out to be an above-average first-year starter.
Outside Linebacker: Draft a mid-round linebacker or sign a second-tier free-agent linebacker, and have him compete with the athletic Gerald Hodges(Fourth Round pick of 2013) for the starting weak-side linebacker position.
-Once again, Khalil Mack could be drafted in the first round to play weak-side linebacker.
-Brian Orakpo anyone??? (VERY UNLIKELY!!!!)
Middle Linebacker: Allow Audie Cole and Michael Mauti(7th Round pick in the 2013 Draft) to battle it out for the starting Middle Linebacker position. Cole showed good instincts in coverage in 5 starts this past season, while Mauti would have been a 1st or 2nd round pick in the 2013 Draft had he not torn his ACL 3 times.
-Draft C.J. Mosely(Alabama) in the first round of the draft
-Sign a veteran Middle Linebacker to hold down the position for a few years(Karlos Dansby?)
Conclusion: If everything goes according to my offseason plan, the following holes that need to be addressed will be filled as such:
-Left Guard-Jeff Baca OR Mid-Round Draft pick
-Cornerback-Top-tier free-agent(my personal choice would be Alterraun Verner) with a mid-level nickel-specializing corner acquired via draft or free-agency
-Defensive End-Everson Griffin
-Nose Tackle-Linval Joseph
-Outside Linebacker-Gerald Hodges OR Mid-Round Draft Pick/Second-Tier free-agent linebacker
-Middle Linebacker-Audie Cole OR Michael Mauti
If the Vikings offseason goes according to my plan, I believe that Zimmer will be able to form a very good defense, and as long as Derek Carr is able to effectively operate Norv Turner’s offense, the Minnesota Vikings should be playoff bound(thanks to a relatively easy 2014-15 schedule). The Vikings should be able to use their excessive cap space and high draft-picks this offseason to their advantage and field a very solid team in 2014-15. Let me know what you guys think in the comments, and be sure to follow me on twitter @jackmack28! Thank you all for reading, Skol!