Wait till next year
...could be free agent help out there
Well fans, the first weekend of the playoffs is behind us, and after watching Vikings victims, both the Giants and Chargers, defeat their opponents with relative ease, it certainly makes you wistful for what might have been had the Purple held on to the ball and gotten beyond the regular season.
So what's it going to take? It would appear from the remarkable winning run the the Vikes mounted in the latter part of the season that perhaps the coaching staff in place can actually do the job. Brad Childress' vision of the team actually began to materialize for a period of time, and for the second year in a row, his defensive coordinator is a viable candidate for a head coaching job. (And never mind that, like Mike Tomlin's last year, Frazier's unit is a work in progress.)
The biggest question mark, of course, is Tarvaris Jackson, whose burst of progress fizzled out in the last two games of the season with rookie errors and turnovers. Can he improve enough in 2008 to make opponents pay for overloading against the run, or should the Vikes look for a proven QB. It has been suggested that Donovan McNabb could be acquired for a first round pick, which will be somewhere in the range of 16-19 this year. I do not favor that move, since much of McNabb's value has been his mobility, while the knock on him has been inconsistency as a passer. Why not hope for Tarvaris in his prime rather than an expensive version of him already over-the-hill?
Better to find him some veteran talent at wideout, a certain necessity with the obvious, flaming bust of Troy Williamson. (I hope it comes out why he was chosen over Shawne Merriman, supposedly Mike Tice's choice.) There are better possibilities in free agency this year than last, among them Chicago's Bernard Berrian, Carolina's Drew Carter, and the Cardinals' Bryant Johnson.
On defense, there is the perennial question of the pass rush. After spending so many first round picks on defensive linemen, why do the Vikes not generate more consistent pressure? It seems that they need a proven pass rusher at defensive end that they can only get through free agency, unless Erasmus James should suddenly experience some sort of magic reincarnation. As it is, he seems destined to have a place in the manual on why injury prone players should not be drafted in the first round. Available in free agency at defensive end are the Titans' Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy or Justin Smith of the Bengals.
Finally there is the question of the defensive backfield, where the best player, Antoine Winfield was hurt and is now in his thirties, as is Darren Sharper. Did I mention that Dwight Smith has...issues? And there is the question of how much upside exists with the CB pair of Griffin and McCauley, both of whom seem to lack an instinct for the ball at this point. (Think of the great catches made by opposing receivers this year who Griffin had step-for-step coverage on.) A great catch for the Vikes would be the Cowboys' Ken Hamlin who made the Pro Bowl as a safety this year. Unfortunately, it is going to be hard to lure players from Dallas.
How aggressive the Wilfs will be in pursuing free agents with the stadium question in limbo, is a good question.