I have to admit, while I am incredibly disappointed that the Vikings season ended one game short of their goal, I am an offseason junky that loves nothing more than to speculate on what moves the Vikings should make.
Before addressing free agency and the draft, I want to introduce you to a list I keep from day one of pre-season. It is my list of “Offseason Priorities.”
This list is often modified over the course of a season, but it provides a good sounding board for deciding what the Vikings may do in the offseason.
Here are my top 10 Priorities for the Vikings offseason:
- QUARTERBACK: Even if Brett Favre comes back, it seems almost a guarantee that the Vikings take a step back when it comes to quarterback production. I don’t think Favre, Sage Rosenfels, or Tarvaris Jackson would be able to do what Favre did this season. Favre could retire and Tarvaris Jackson is a restricted free agent. The free agency pool at quarterback is almost non-existent and the Vikings probably won’t get their hands on an instant-starter rookie with their draft position of #30. Solidifying the quarterback position will not be easy this offseason, but it still has to be the top priority.
- FUMBLES: I’ll admit, I have no freaking idea how one coaches a running back to not fumble the football beyond the basic “keep it high and tight” stuff that Peterson has been told a zillion times. However, the Vikings need to find somebody that can rid Peterson of this curse. The brightest spot on this team turned into a black eye with his fumbling habits.
- OFFENSIVE LINE: I will bunch every position along the offensive line into this spot. John Sullivan was a weak link for much of the season. Bryant McKinnie was a revolving door in the second half of this season. Phil Loadholt had a decent rookie campaign, but needs to be pushed. Anthony Herrera seemed to lose the fight he had in 2008. Even Steve Hutchinson is now a question mark, as he will be 32 years old. All of these guys struggled at points during the year, which resulted in a stagnant running game and Favre taking too many hits. Competition for starting spots has to be brought in.
- CORNERBACK: Cedric Griffin has a torn ACL and may need extra time to rehab. Antoine Winfield took leaps backwards this year, and re-injured his foot for like the fourth time of the season in the Championship loss. Benny Sapp is an unrestricted free agent and Karl Paymah is a restricted free agent.
- SAFETY: I think most fans would agree that Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson were the least effective part of the Vikings season. They both improved towards the end of the season, however, and Jamarca Sanford could be great competition during training camp. If the Vikings have a chance to get a true playmaker at the position, though, then they have to pounce.
- SECURE THE FUTURE: I think the Vikings will be able to remain competitive for many years to come if they can keep a core group of players intact. Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, and Sidney Rice have developed into young stars. Each of them are still playing under rookie contracts. Rewarding their success and securing their future with the Vikings will be something that should be carefully weighed this offseason.
- MIDDLE LINEBACKER: With E.J. Henderson out of action for an undetermined length of time, the Vikings need to find a middle linebacker whether or not they think Jasper Brinkley is their guy. Brinkley could develop into a solid starter, despite his rookie struggles, but he needs to have some competition. The backup middle linebacker in 2010 can be no slouch.
- DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Pat Williams said that he was 50-50 on whether or not he’d retire this offseason. Even if he doesn’t, he and Kevin Williams could still be suspended for four games depending on the outcome of the StarCaps case. The Vikings have some decent depth at defensive tackle, but nobody that can be considered a consistent run stopper like Pat Williams has been.
- RUNNING BACK: Whether or not this issue is solved by re-signing Chester Taylor, it is an issue. With the arrival of Percy Harvin as an option as a speed back, I would love to see the Vikings pick up a bruiser to fill the backup position. Someone that can bring the wood when it comes to pass protection would help this team greatly.
- FULLBACK: This is a position that is generally thought to be of little impact. A fullback in the huddle when he shouldn’t be can cost a team their Super Bowl berth, however, as we all found out the hard way. I don’t know if the blame for that mistake is on Tahi or not, but I do think he is an atrocious blocker (for a fullback) and offers very little when he has the ball in his hands. An upgrade should be easy to find and fairly cheap.