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The single biggest problem area on the Vikings roster heading into the 2013 season is at middle linebacker. Minnesota lacks depth at some positions (defensive line and wide receiver) and proven performers at others (cornerback and quarterback), but it has an even bigger problem at middle linebacker.
The problem is that the Vikings don't have a player on the roster to fill the position. Last year's starter, Jasper Brinkley, signed a free-agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals in the offseason, leaving a void on the roster that must be filled before the 2013 season starts.
Minnesota is exploring several options to meet its needs at this key defensive position.
According to ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert, the Vikings might use Erin Henderson in the middle. Henderson, who started on the weak side last year, has reportedly added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame and will be the default choice when organized team activities begin later this month. If Henderson is the choice, fourth-round draft choice Gerald Hodges would be the likely starter on the outside.
According to Tom Pelissero at 1500 ESPN, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier isn't ready to hand the position to Henderson just yet. If Henderson doesn't make the move, Minnesota could look to second-year man Audie Cole or Tyrone McKenzie to fill the bill.
Seventh-round draft pick Michael Mauti of Penn State is also a possibility, but the rookie has undergone three reconstructive knee surgeries in the past four years and won't be able to practice with the team until training camp, at the earliest.
Minnesota's other option is to pick up a veteran free agent to fill the middle. Judd Zulgad and Tom Pelissero of ESPNTwinCities.com reported that the Vikings might be interested in Brian Urlacher, who was released by the Chicago Bears. However, Urlacher's injury history and salary demands have cooled the speculation.
Karlos Dansby, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, is also available. Minnesota hasn't expressed any interest in Dansby, who recently visited the Arizona Cardinals, where he played until signing with the Dolphins in 2010.
In the Vikings Tampa 2 defensive system, the middle linebacker is akin to the quarterback on offense. He calls the defensive signals, sets the coverages and needs to be strong against both the run and in coverage. Right now, the team doesn't have a proven player in place.