Minnesota Vikings: Destinations for Tarvaris Jackson and 4 Other Free Agents

Bryan HighfillCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2011

Minnesota Vikings: Destinations for Tarvaris Jackson and 4 Other Free Agents

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    With the back and forth bickering between the NFL and its players, the fans are the real victims in all of this. All we can do as fans, is sit...and wait for a new CBA to be ratified.

    They made significant progress yesterday, with the owners agreeing to a new CBA, leaving the ball in the players' court now.

    Whenever the new season does start, though, teams will only have a short time to build their rosters for training camp. 2011 Free Agency is expected (and I use that term loosely) to begin on Wednesday, July 27 at 2:00 p.m. E.T. Teams will jump at the opportunity to sign big-name free agents.

    The Minnesota Vikings have roughly 20 pending free agents on their roster. Of those 20 free agents, about five are considered "starters." Most notably, Wide Receiver Sidney Rice and Defensive End Ray Edwards, are two players who could strike it rich this offseason.

    Minnesota will try to retain a few of them, but it looks like the 2011 Vikings will look significantly different than the 2010 Vikings. 

    Let's take a look at where those Minnesota's top five free agents will end up this offseason.

5. DT Pat Williams

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    As a Vikings fan, it's hard to imagine the Williams Wall coming to an end. Both Pat and Kevin Williams were a huge (literally and figuratively) part of Minnesota's dominating run defense from 2006-2009. But Pat Williams is the oldest defensive player in the NFL, and last year, it showed. 

    Ever since about 2009, Pat hasn't been an every-down player for the Vikings, needing to be rotated a few times a game so that he could catch his breath. Not only that, he suffered an elbow injury in 2009 and it lingered around in 2010, enough to need offseason surgery. 

    Williams said after the season "Everything is fine. I'm not coming back [to Minnesota]. Going to finish up somewhere else..." I would imagine the Vikings agree. He's been a big help in the past, but he likely will end his career on another team and would most likely demand too much money to stay in Minnesota. 

    After passing on Alabama DT Marcell Dareus in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos have a serious need at defensive tackle. Even though Williams played in a 4-3 system in Minnesota, he would fill an immediate need on their defensive line. 

    The Denver Broncos ranked dead last in NFL defense. Pat Williams could most definitely help them out somehow. Taking up the interior, Williams would allow both rookie Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil to rush the passer. 

    2011 TeamDenver Broncos

    Contract1 year, $3.25 million

4. OLB Ben Leber

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    Since joining the Vikings in 2006, Ben Leber has been very productive for the Purple and Gold defense. For a time, Minnesota had one of the most underrated linebacking corps with Leber, E.J. Henderson, and Chad Greenway.

    Unfortunately for Leber, he most likely won't be back in Minnesota. Last season, Leber didn't see the field nearly as much as he did when he first arrived.

    He's still a productive player, but at age 32, the Vikings have too many other holes that need to be filled and the front office feels like Erin Henderson (24) will be able to step up in a starting role. 

    The Buffalo Bills have a need at Outside Linebacker, Shawne Merriman was re-signed to a deal, but the former Charger has literally been, well, lights out. It's hard to see him returning to his San Diego form due to his injury concerns, and Aaron Maybin has been nothing more than a bust. 

    Perhaps another former Charger in Ben Leber can provide solid play for the linebacker-needy Bills. If Buffalo can re-sign their Middle Linebacker Paul Posluzny, continue to groom Arthur Moats, and grab Leber during Free Agency, the Bills could have a solid linebacking corps. 

    2011 TeamBuffalo Bills

    Contract3 years, $12.5 million

3. QB Tarvaris Jackson

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    Since being drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft... Jackson never really seemed to catch on as the "Franchise Quarterback" for the Minnesota Vikings.

    Opinions vary on why Tarvaris never became the Vikings full-time starter, from Jackson's inconsistent play to Brad Childress' incompetent quarterback grooming.

    Nevertheless, the Vikings moved past the Jackson experiment when they drafted Florida State signal-caller Christian Ponder with the 12th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. Ponder has already taken Jackson's old number... 

    With the lockout still looming, some could make the argument the Vikings should re-sign Jackson, to start the first few weeks before handing the reins over to Ponder once he's ready. Whether the Vikings would consider that option or not, Jackson won't expect it.

    And he shouldn't. I'll be quite honest, I think the kid has talent. 

    Tarvaris will most certainly be looked at by a few teams this offseason, but one team has been connected to him more than any other: the Seattle Seahawks.

    With the uncertainty surrounding Matt Hasselbeck, the inconsistency of Charlie Whitehurst, and the recent hiring of former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell, Jackson looks poised to end up in Seattle.

    Only 28, he is a much better quarterback then Whitehurst and most likely could give Hasselbeck a run for the starting job even if the Seahawks do resign him. Jackson could once again be given the chance to lead a franchise, I wish him all the best. 

    2011 TeamSeattle Seahawks

    Contract3 years, $15 million

4. DE Ray Edwards

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    Although he never broke the single-season sack record like he had hoped, Ray Edwards has certainly emerged as a game changing defensive end in the NFL. How much of that is due to having one-on-one match ups thanks to teammates Jared Allen and Kevin Williams? We'll know soon enough.

    Edwards has done everything but clear out his locker in Minnesota. Even going as far as calling himself a "former Viking." The Minnesota front office has prepared for Ray's departure by resigning his [former] backup to a three-year contract extension and drafted a couple defensive ends the past two drafts. 

    Ray Edwards has produced solid numbers the past two seasons, posting 8.5 sacks in both 2009 and 2010 - not to mention exploding in the playoffs in 2009. 

    Edwards seems to know that he can strike it rich once Free Agency begins, and there will be plenty of teams interested in his services. 

    Although the Atlanta Falcons have been linked to Ray Edwards all offseason, I don't see it that way. I think the Cleveland Browns will land the 6'5" lineman and pair him with rookies Phil Taylor (first round) and Jabaal Sheard (second round) to form a fierce defensive front. 

    Ray Edwards is young, physical, and has shown he can be an above-average player in the NFL. He'll be a nice pickup for the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

    2011 Team: Cleveland Browns

    Contract: 5 years, $45 million

5. WR Sidney Rice

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    After being drafted 44th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007, Wide Receiver Sidney Rice had a solid rookie season. His next season wasn't as pretty. After injuring his knee in the preseason, Rice never got back on track that season catching just 15 passes for 141 yards and four touchdowns.

    In his third season, however, Rice's career exploded after becoming Brett Favre's favorite target in 2009. Hauling in 83 passes for 1312 yards and eight touchdowns, Sidney Rice earned his first Pro Bowl invitation. 

    In 2010 Rice underwent hip surgery before the start of the season, making him miss 10 games. And although he did show flashes of his 2009 form, he also showed he still may be a tad fragile after he suffered a concussion in Week 16 against the Eagles.

    Even with his apparent injury concerns, he is only 25 years old and has proven he can be an elite Wide Receiver. Unfortunately for Minnesota, he'll most likely demand too much money.

    The Vikings attempted to sign the young wideout to a contract extension before the lockout, but Rice decided he wanted to "test free agency..." 

    It will be very hard for Minnesota to compete with other teams for Rice's services and he will most likely be gone.

    One team I see dropping serious cash to grab him...the St.Louis Rams. Let's face it with a Wide Receiving corp consisting of Mark Clayton, Laurent Robinson, Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola, and Austin Pettis...opposing defenses aren't too worried. 

    Sam Bradford is going to be a very successful NFL Quarterback but he needs a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, a game-changer, someone who can take pressure off star Running Back Steven Jackson.

    Enter Sidney Rice. Pairing a young stud Quarterback with a Pro Bowl Wide Receiver, not to mention a creative Offensive Coordinator (Josh McDaniels) and you could have a very dangerous offense. 

    2011 Team: St. Louis Rams

    Contract: 6 years, $55 million