The Minnesota Vikings' offseason got off to a rollicking start the day before the Super Bowl when former Vikings star Cris Carter was elected to the Hall of Fame and then Adrian Peterson became the third Vikings player to win the league MVP award.
After the appropriate amount of back-slapping and congratulating, the team is back to the business at hand, trying to improve the ballclub heading into the 2013 season.
The Vikings proved that the NFL is indeed a business with their first move on Wednesday night, choosing to pick up a previously undisclosed option year on head coach Leslie Frazier's contract, according to the Star-Tribune, rather than signing him to an extension that most observers thought they would.
In a nutshell, the Vikings' owners have basically said they're not completely sold on the uptick the team showed in 2012 and that they're not ready to go all in on Frazier. It was a smart move, Frazier isn't going anywhere and the Vikings' owners were burned the last time they handed out a contract extension to Brad Childress.
Next on the Vikings' agenda has to be the future of Percy Harvin. Every other move the Vikings make this offseason will be predicated on whether or not Harvin is in their plans for the future.
Harvin's future is being bandied about by every media outlet that follows the Vikings, but nobody really has a handle on it one way or another. It's perfectly legitimate to say that the odds of Harvin being in purple next season are 50/50.
The Vikings brass may know otherwise, but they're playing it close to the vest as of yet.
With Harvin's future hanging over everything else, here is a breakdown of the Vikings salary cap by position.
2013 Cap Hits (per Spotrac): Christian Ponder $2.8 million. Joe Webb $653,131. McLeod Bethel-Thompson $482,500.
The Vikings have made no bones about it: They're tying their immediate future to quarterback Christian Ponder. Both general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier may ultimately be putting their jobs on the line with their steadfast backing of Ponder.
When the Vikings selected Ponder with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft, many called it a reach and Ponder has done nothing to prove them wrong to this point. To his credit, Ponder was steady down the stretch when the Vikings won four games they had to have to make the playoffs, but he still hasn't proved he has what it takes to be a successful quarterback in the NFL.
The Vikings are in a precarious spot with their backups at quarterback. The Joe Webb experiment likely came to an end with his playoff performance and unless the Vikings are convinced Bethel-Thompson is ready to take NFL snaps, they'll need to go find a legitimate backup quarterback.
2013 Cap Hits: (per Spotrac) Adrian Peterson, $13,900,00. Toby Gerhart, $1,013,150, Rhett Ellison, $555,146, Matt Asiata, $480,000.
Peterson is locked in to be a Viking for life, which is good news for everyone who follows and roots for the Minnesota Vikings. Well, almost everyone.
2013 will more than likely be the last season in a Minnesota uniform for Toby Gerhart. Gerhart is a competitor and has shown enough in flashes that he has the talent to be the lead running back for an NFL team. He owes himself the opportunity anyway, and that chance isn't coming in Minnesota.
Fullback Jerome Felton is an unrestricted free agent and re-signing him will be high on the Vikings' to-do list. Felton earned himself a healthy raise from the $700,000 he made last year, making the Pro Bowl while blocking for Peterson's historic season.
Asiata proved to be a very valuable special teams player for Minnesota and his spot in 2013 is probably secure. The Vikings have to make plans to replace Gerhart at some point, and if they see somebody out there in the draft or free agency, they might jump, which would certainly jeopardize Asiata's roster spot.
Ellison proved to be a valuable utility player who will only get better with a year under his belt.
2013 Cap Hits: (per Spotrac) Percy Harvin, $4,028,200. Michael Jenkins, $3,916,666. Jarius Wright, $585,027. Stephen Burton, $555,000. Greg Childs, $480,146.
Once again, everything the Vikings do this offseason will be predicated on what happens with Harvin. The Vikings' options are to re-sign Harvin to a big-money deal or trade him away for the best offer. If Harvin is not back with the team in 2013, the Vikings will have to sign a top-tier, free-agent wide receiver like Dwayne Bowe or Greg Jennings to be their No. 1 receiver.
Michael Jenkins is clearly not worth the money the Vikings owe him, but they may keep him around depending on what else they can bring in.
Wright, Burton and Childs will all be in camp trying to establish themselves as NFL regulars.
The Vikings more than likely won't bring Devin Aromashodu back and Jerome Simpson will only be back if he agrees to another "prove it" contract in the million dollar range.
The Percy Harvin watch is officially on in Minnesota, and the Vikings' free-agency and draft plans will hinge dramatically on what happens with Harvin. Without Harvin, the Vikings might be forced to use two of their top three picks on receivers.
2013 Cap Hits: (per Spotrac), Kyle Rudolph, $1,262,687. John Carlson, $4,000,000.
Minnesota native John Carlson was a huge flop after signing a five-year, $25 million deal last offseason. Carlson got hurt early in the year and never seemed to get his feet under him. If he doesn't prove he can improve dramatically on his 2012 season in the offseason and in training camp, he'll be gone.
Kyle Rudolph had a very good season capped off by winning the MVP of the touch football game they play in Hawaii. Rudolph has become Christian Ponder's security blanket and should have a huge year in 2013.
2013 Cap Hits: (per Spotrac), Matt Kalil, $4,993,318. Charlie Johnson, $4,350,000. John Sullivan, $4,250,000. DeMarcus Love, $590,581. Brandon Fusco, $588,917.
Right tackle Phil Loadholt is priority No. 1 when it comes to the Vikings keeping their own in house this offseason. Loadholt had a nice bounce-back season and is a nice bookend with Kalil to an offensive line that should have those two and center John Sullivan for years. Loadholt made just under $1 million last season and is due a big raise. He's earned it.
The number above that stands out is the over $4 million the Vikings are paying Charlie Johnson. He's a veteran and has earned his due, but it wouldn't be surprising at all if the Vikings brought in someone who could battle Johnson for the starting spot.
2013 Cap Hit: (per Spotrac), Jared Allen, $17,063,956. Kevin Williams, $7,500,000. Brian Robison, $6,666,667. Letroy Guion, $3,000,000. Fred Evans, $1,750,000. Everson Griffen, $765,000. Christian Ballard, $687,666. D'Aundre Reed, $570,672.
The Vikings won't bring Kevin Williams back on his current option—he's just not nearly worth that kind of money at this point in his career. They'd love to have him back, but it will be up to Williams if he'll take a big pay cut to remain a Viking.
The Vikings were very pleased with the 2012 seasons of both Griffen and Ballard and each of them will be vying for a lot more playing time in 2013.
The Vikings will be looking to solidify things in the middle of the line in the draft; it would be a surprise if they didn't select an interior defender in the first three rounds.
2013 Cap Hit: (per Spotrac), Chad Greenway, $8,700,000. Tyrone McKenzie, $555,000. Larry Dean, $555,000. Audie Cole, $496,895.
After wide receiver, linebacker is the most interesting position to watch this offseason for the Vikings. Starters Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson are both free agents and neither one of them are coming off of fantastic seasons.
The Vikings will be looking to upgrade at linebacker in the draft and may wait on making offers to those two until they see how that shakes out. There is no doubt that both Brinkley and Henderson may be back in purple in 2013, but neither one of them earned themselves the huge pay day they were probably hoping for.
Chad Greenway had another great year for the Vikings, but they were soft at the other two linebacker spots.
2013 Cap Hits, (per Spotrec), Antoine Winfield, $7,250,000. Chris Cook, $1,305,000. Josh Robinson, $689,250. Brandon Burton, $612,937. Bobby Felder, $405,000.
The Vikings are in great shape both financially and personnel wise at cornerback. Veteran Antoine Winfield had another fantastic season and earned every penny the Vikings pay him. Youngsters Chris Cook and Josh Robinson both look to have bright futures.
The Vikings' question marks will come down to free agents A.J. Jefferson and Marcus Sherels. Jefferson got plenty of time with Cook injured and was decent but not great. Sherels proved to be a fine punt returner but is a liability in pass coverage.
Every NFL team is always looking for depth in their secondary and the Vikings are no different. If they see someone in the draft that they think can make them a better football team, they won't hesitate to add them to the roster.
2013 Cap Hit: (per Spotrec), Harrison Smith, $1,622,397. Mistral Raymond, $589,612. Robert Blanton, $532,763.
The Vikings made a brilliant move to trade up to take safety Harrison Smith in the 2012 draft. Smith was everything he was advertised to be and will anchor the Vikings secondary for the next decade.
Mistral Raymond won the strong safety job in training camp, but eventually lost it to Jarmarca Sanford after getting injured. Both were much improved in 2012 and it would be shocking if the Vikings didn't re-sign free agent Sanford, who is one of the vocal leaders and most-liked players on the team.
Blanton has had a year to adjust to playing safety after spending four years at corner in college. 2013 will be a year in which he has to prove he can play in the NFL.
Like at corner, the Vikings will have their eye out for safeties in the draft. Neither Raymond or Sanford is a rock-solid starter, so it wouldn't be a shock if Minnesota drafted some competition for the spot.
2013 Cap Hit: (per Spotrec), Chris Kluwe, $1,450,000. Blair Walsh, $509,483. Cullen Loeffler, $1,050,000.
The Vikings are coming off of perhaps their best year of special teams in team history. Rookie Blair Walsh was the steal of the draft and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Punter Chris Kluwe had one of the best social media seasons of anyone in the league, but he was very good on the field as well.
There will be no changes in the Vikings key special teams positions, but the return jobs could be up for grabs depending on what Minnesota decides to do with both Percy Harvin and Marcus Sherels.