8 Moves the Minnesota Vikings Must Make This Offseason
The fat lady has already sung the meat and potatoes of her performance. All that is left in the Vikings' season is the final number.
And that is why it's important for Minnesota to have one foot in the 2014 door as it plays out the final three games of 2013. The only reason 2013 matters is to build for a stronger 2014, which brings us to this slideshow.
As the Vikings have displayed over the past five games, in which they have gone 2-2-1, there is talent on their roster.
This isn't the deadbeat team it portrayed itself as throughout the early portion of this season, which leaves hope that the 2014 campaign can be more like 2012 than 2011. And with the right moves, it can.
Inside are eight moves the Vikings should execute to give themselves a better chance at success in 2014. Moves include changes to the coaching staff, re-positioning players on the roster or the depth chart, trades, free-agent acquisitions, releasing personnel or draft-day decisions.
Please comment and let me know where I went wrong.
Target a Quarterback Early in the 2014 NFL Draft
Notice the wording in the headline of this slide.
It reads, "Early in the 2014 NFL draft," not "In the first round of the 2014 NFL draft."
Selecting a quarterback early in the first round is not a guarantee that the player will develop into the face of a franchise.
Minnesota knows from experience. Christian Ponder hasn't developed into that guy, and he was a high-end first-round pick.
Players like Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Tony Romo weren't selected in the first round (or at all in Romo's case) and solidified a team's quarterback position.
But quarterback is such a dire need for this franchise that it shouldn't wait until the sixth round like the Patriots did with Brady or dealing with undrafted free agents like the Cowboys did with Romo to address the position.
The Vikings should at least approach it like the Chargers did with Brees in 2001 and snag a quarterback by at least the second round.
Minnesota has enough needs that it could address the defensive secondary, offensive line or linebacking corps with its first-round pick if it doesn't like any of the quarterbacks on the board at the time of its pick.
Re-Sign Everson Griffen
The starters and the No. 1 backup at the defensive end position were pending free agents in 2014 at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Minnesota has locked up Brian Robison and had reported negotiations with Everson Griffen.
Those negotiations should reconvene and end with the Vikings locking up the fourth-year pro.
Griffen notched eight sacks in limited time last season but just three this season through 13 games. The 25-year-old (who turns 26 Dec. 22) has demonstrated himself to be an up-and-coming pass rusher.
And considering what the Vikings' other option is (to be addressed on this next slide), Griffen's age and up-and-coming status fits in perfectly with the Vikings' plans.
Allow Jared Allen to Leave ... Depending on Contractual Demands
Jared Allen is the third defensive end who was a pending free agent at the beginning of this season. And he appears to be the only one Minnesota has little intention of re-signing.
Allen is the only defensive end who the Vikings haven't engaged in contract discussions with and, according to USA TODAY's Tom Pelissero, Allen may not be interested in returning to the Vikings for 2014.
"To be real honest, I'm going to have to look at the situation of the team," Allen told USA TODAY. "If I continue to play, you want to try to win a championship at some point. Personal accolades can only go so far."
Allen is expected to command the most salary of the three defensive ends (Brian Robison, Everson Griffen), as he's coming off a six-year, $73.26-million contract and he made $14.28 million this season.
The former Idaho State standout is on pace for his worst statistical season as a Viking (41 tackles and seven sacks in 13 games) and is 31 years old, which should mean he's in for a salary reduction.
But how large of a reduction will he accept?
It's tough to say.
He may not even take a reduction.
Only he knows.
If Minnesota has to pay him more than $7 million per season, the Vikings should walk away, especially when they have a cheaper option in Griffen.
Don't Bring Back Head Coach Leslie Frazier ... or His Staff
In 51 games as a head coach, Leslie Frazier boasts a 19-31-1 mark (.382 winning percentage).
He has one winning season that came during the second-best single-season performance by a running back in NFL history.
When Adrian Peterson isn't using the NFL record book as toilet paper, Frazier is 9-25-1 (.271).
That doesn't exactly scream credibility.
Now, the Vikings are having a midseason "resurgence" of sorts and have gone 2-2-1 in their last five games and have been competitive in all but one.
But if this team has the talent that Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune proclaims it to have and that we all have seen these past five weeks, why has it taken so long to come to the surface?
Part of that, is that some of the rookies are finally finding their stride. OK. Fine. That's acceptable.
But then you look at the across-the-board regression of players on both sides of the ball.
Josh Robinson. Chris Cook. Jared Allen. Jamarca Sanford. Matt Kalil. Phil Loadholt.
There are more.
But that's on Frazier. And his coaching staff, which he picked.
Bill Musgrave doesn't understand how to catch defenses off guard.
Alan Williams doesn't know how to manage a game.
Frazier put these two men in charge. Can his judgment be trusted?
Frazier is a fine defensive coordinator. He will find work. But it shouldn't be in Minnesota.
And in order to generate a thorough cleaning, his staff should follow him out the door.
Leave Erin Henderson at Outside Linebacker
In what was a tumultuous offseason at the middle linebacker position, it looks like the Minnesota Vikings may be in for another one as they moved Erin Henderson back to outside linebacker from the middle.
ESPN reported Dec. 4 that Leslie Frazier said Henderson wasn't the first plan at middle linebacker for 2013.
As Ben Goessling wrote in that piece:
"Henderson had played respectably in the middle, but still seemed to struggle in pass coverage at times. Moreover, his departure from the weakside linebacker spot left a hole the Vikings had never really filled; (Desmond) Bishop tore his ACL in October, and Marvin Mitchell did little to distinguish himself after getting the starting spot back following Bishop's injury."
Henderson has recorded 94 tackles and two interceptions in 11 games. He has a future with the Vikings, but it shouldn't be at his unnatural position (middle linebacker).
Audie Cole may not be the long-term solution at the position but he should have the opportunity to showcase his abilities the rest of the season. And maybe he'll play his way into the position in 2014.
Henderson should stay outside. And the middle will have to settle itself.
Allow Kevin Williams to Walk ... Barring Contractual Demands
Much like Jared Allen, but at a MUCH faster rate, Kevin Williams is regressing.
The 2003 first-round pick is playing like a 33-year-old defensive tackle.
He's recorded 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 12 games, which would give him 32 and about 3.5 in a 16-game season.
It wouldn't be his worst statistical season for either category, but it would be toward the bottom.
Williams shouldn't be a full-time starter anymore. He doesn't hold up like he used to.
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy will make $4.9 million this season. He'll have to agree to much less than that, $2 million feels right.
If Minnesota can negotiate with him on a cheaper contract with a reduced/backup role, then he's worth retaining.
Otherwise, it's time for the two sides to part ways.
Williams' presence is inhibiting the growth of Sharrif Floyd, who plays the exact same position as Williams. It's time to let Floyd spread his wings and fly.
If Williams can't get behind that, then his behind should be done as a Viking.
Start Xavier Rhodes at Cornerback
It's been a decision many of us have been wondering about for most of the season.
Why is Leslie Frazier starting Josh Robinson over Xavier Rhodes?
Rhodes, Minnesota's second first round pick of 2013 (25th overall), has the size (6'1" and 210 pounds) and the physicality to be a true No. 1 cornerback.
Yes, early in the season he looked lost. But this became a lost season very early, which meant the former Florida State Seminole should have gotten more reps earlier.
Instead, it took a Josh Robinson injury to thrust him into the starting role.
And since he's taken over, he's begun to develop into a future No. 1 cornerback.
As 1500 ESPN's Judd Zulgad writes, "With Robinson sidelined, Rhodes has moved into the starting role on the left side the past two weeks against Green Bay and Chicago. He hasn't disappointed and, in fact, those who questioned why he wasn't starting weeks ago have been proven to be 100 percent correct to have wondered about this."
We don't know who else will return to Minnesota in 2014 at the cornerback position. But we know Rhodes should be a starter.
Sign Eric Decker
Minnesota made a big splash in the wide receiver pond last offseason with the signing of former Green Bay Packer Greg Jennings.
The Vikings should dip their toe back into that pond and see if they can get Eric Decker to bite.
The Denver Broncos receiver is having a career year with 71 receptions, 1,088 yards and eight touchdown catches through 13 games.
Decker is a free agent this offseason who has ties to Minnesota. He is a native of Cold Spring and played college football at the University of Minnesota.
It's not known if Decker desires a return to his home state or if he wants to leave a Denver team that could have a two-year window after 2013 in which to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning at the helm.
But Minnesota does have the hometown allure and the opportunity to become a No. 1 receiver.
At 26 years old (Decker turns 27 on March 15), Decker's best years are right in front of him. Minnesota would be wise to put a call in and see if it can lure him back to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Decker, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jennings and Jarius Wright would make a top-end receiving corps on top of Kyle Rudolph and Adrian Peterson.