We're getting closer to the start of free agency, and with that it comes time to examine the needs for our favorite football team. Now, a lot of these are going to be pretty obvious, but everyone else is doing it, so why not us?
Going into this free agency season, these are the biggest needs that I think are facing the Minnesota Vikings, as well as what they could potentially do about it in free agency.
1) Quarterback - Surprised? Yeah. . .probably shouldn't be. We know that this team has issues at quarterback, and has had issues at quarterback since Daunte Culpepper got his knee liquified back in 2005. Save for the one Brett Favre renaissance season, this team has gotten fair-to-middling quarterback play from a number of different characters. As it stands now, the only quarterback currently on the roster is Christian Ponder. . .a man who, in addition to not playing well at the quarterback position, is somehow responsible for the defense giving up 30 points a game (even the games he didn't play in). The Vikings have to do something at the quarterback position if they want to take another step forward.
Free agent solution - Well, here's the rub, Watson. . .there's not a whole lot going on at the quarterback position in free agency. The "big names" are guys like Michael Vick (dear lord, no), Tarvaris Jackson (surprisingly, we could do worse), and Josh McCown. Matt Cassel is out there as well, but seriously. . .if he wanted to be in Minnesota, he'd still be under contract. Besides, who leaves nearly $4 million sitting on the table without thinking they have something lined up somewhere else? This is probably going to get solved through the draft, though there might be a "mentor" type brought in.
2) Cornerback - It appears that the Vikings have a good one in Xavier Rhodes, who showed some real promise last season, despite seemingly managing to get injured at least once a game. Apart from him? Yikes. Josh Robinson was a disaster in the slot before moving outside and, ultimately, getting injured. Chris Cook was. . .well, not good. Shawn Prater showed flashes now and then, but come on. . .we're waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down on the depth chart at this point. If the NFL's worst secondary from 2013 is going to improve, they need a guy on the other side of Rhodes that can hang with big-time wide receivers.
Free agent solution - Alterraun Verner, Tennessee. Verner, aside from having what might be the coolest name in football, put together a very solid season for the Titans in 2013. He and Rhodes would be your starters from Day 1 in 2014, and the pairing could give the team a pair of dynamic, talented young corners for the first time in a long time.
3) Nose Tackle - We know that the Vikings are high on Sharrif Floyd, despite his freakishly short arms. (You didn't know Sharrif Floyd has short arms? Where have you been?) What they've been lacking for a long time, however, is a big guy in the middle of the line that can clog up running lanes. The Vikings' defense had been solid against the run for a long time, but that fell apart in 2013 along with everything else. Mike Zimmer has said that he expects his defense to have more variety in 2014, but he still needs the proverbial "big fatty" to come in and defend the run.
Free agent solution - Linval Joseph. The Giants' second-round pick in 2010 out of East Carolina is what we might call a large man. At 6'4" and 325 pounds. . .and that 325 might be almost as humorous as when Pat Williams used to be listed at 315. . .he can be the big run-plugger that the team has missed since Phat Pat rode off into the sunset.
4) Guard - Outside of quarterback, the only position on a very young and talented Vikings' offense that needs to be addressed is the left guard position. Charlie Johnson hasn't been that good, but the other four primary offensive linemen are all above average, in my opinion. If the Vikings could shore up the hole at left guard, they could build a unit that could be a real cornerstone for them going forward.
5) Linebacker - As we've documented in this space numerous times, the Vikings' linebacker corps was a disaster in 2013. Chad Greenway appears to be declining right before our eyes, Erin Henderson is gone, and Marvin Mitchell wouldn't start at linebacker for any other team in the NFL. The only reason that I don't have this higher is because the Vikings do have some promising young options at the position, such as OMG AUDIE COLE, Michael Mauti, and Gerald Hodges.
Free agent solution - Karlos Dansby. I believe that, if he were to sign with the Vikings, Dansby would be the oldest player on the roster. The Vikings were apparently interested in him last year, but he signed with the Arizona Cardinals instead. I'm not sure if he'd command a huge price or anything, but having him in the middle for a season or two would be a huge boon to the linebacker corps, and to the defense as a whole.
Now, am I saying the Vikings should sign all these guys? Of course not. . .that would be dumb and unrealistic. However, getting one (and maybe two) of them in the fold would make an instant impact for this football team, I think.
What do you think the Vikings' free agent priorites and team needs should be?