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Where Do We Go From Here?

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The combine is well underway (and the fact that NFL Network televises this stuff now is awesome), and free agency gets underway this Friday at midnight.  So, exactly what are our beloved Vikings going to do this off-season?

Well, the first problem is the matter of exactly how much salary cap space we've got.  Different sources are reporting different amounts.

John Clayton of ESPN.com says that the Vikings have $12.2 million in cap room.
AskTheCommish.com has us with $31.5 million.
Ian Whetstone has the Vikings about $37 million under, but doesn't appear to have the E.J. Henderson extension figured in.

So, I'm not sure where any of these folks are getting their numbers. . .but Clayton's number seems a bit low.  I don't know if we're up in the $30 million range, but I don't think we're down at $12 million, either.

Do I expect the Vikings to be active players in FA this year?  Surprisingly, no. . .not as compared to the last couple of years.  Why do I say this?  Look at what the Vikings' biggest needs are as of today:

Wide Receiver
Defensive End
Offensive Line (right side only)

Here are the biggest names in the FA WR class this year:

  1. Donte Stallworth - 38 catches, 725 yards, 5 TD
  2. Drew Bennett - 46 catches, 737 yards, 3 TD
  3. Kevin Curtis - 40 catches, 479 yards, 4 TD
  4. D.J. Hackett - 45 catches, 610 yards, 4 TD (RFA)
Yeah. . .it doesn't get a whole lot better after that, either.  Drew Bennett would be a good guy to bring in as a "move the chains" possession-type receiver, but the answer to the Vikings' WR problems doesn't lie in FA this season, it doesn't appear.

As far as DE goes, pretty much every DE that's worth their salt got franchised this season.

Dwight Freeney?  Franchised.
Justin Smith?  Franchised.  (Incidentally, Smith was my pick for the guy the Vikes should pursue in FA.)
Charles Grant?  Franchised.
Cory Redding?  Franchised.

Jared Allen of Kansas City is out there as a restricted FA, but I'm sure KC will put the 1st and 3rd tender on him. . .he's not worth that, IMO.

On the offensive line front, the two top available guards are Eric Steinbach and Kris Dielman.  They both, apparently, already have deals in place with new teams (according to Pro Football Talk), both for contracts in the neighborhood of what we gave Steve Hutchinson last year.

Are either of those guys as good as Steve Hutchinson?  Nope.  Not close, either.  But the Vikings set the market with Hutch's deal last year.  In another season or two, the deal we gave big ol' #76 is going to look like a steal.

But there are a couple of lesser-known players that could help the Vikings at RG, where we can't possibly get rid of Artis "Red Zone Death" Hicks fast enough for my tastes.  Shaun O'Hara of the New York Football Giants and Derrick Dockery of the Washington Redskins would be big upgrades at that spot, from where I sit.

Fortunately for the Vikings, the 2 spots where the Vikings need the most help are the 2 positions where the 2007 NFL draft is the deepest.  This year's WR class is insanely deep. . .so much so that there are even whispers of a player as talented as Dwayne Jarrett falling to the early part of Round 2.  Hell, I'd take him there. . .there was a guy named Anquan Boldin that fell into Round 2 a couple of years ago because of his 40-yard dash time.  Last I heard, he was a pretty good WR.

We'll take more of a look at things as this week continues and free agency draws nearer.  Have a good end of the weekend, everybody!