Will Minnesota Seek an "Edge?"

With Vikings running back Onterrio Smith excused from offseason workouts and "out indefinitely" according to head coach Mike Tice, the Viking's run at a Super Bowl looks cloudier. Could Smith's "Whizzinator" incident result in a trade offer for the Colts' Edgerrin James?

Vikings head coach Mike Tice stated that he would sign a free-agent running back before training camp if RB Onterrio Smith was suspended for the season by the league. It was an odd statement for a head coach who has Michael Bennett next in line, unless Tice is not certain of Bennett's ability to step in and be a Super Bowl-caliber running back this season.

And that raises the question of whether the Vikings -- a team who knows they are knocking on the door of a Super Bowl berth -- might go one better than simply seeking a "free-agent running back" and make a play for the Colts' Edgerrin James.

Bennett's a capable back with plenty of upside, but he couldn't unseat Smith after missing the first five games of last year with a knee injury. The year prior to that, he missed 8 games due to an offseason foot injury. And yet, it's hard to overlook how great he was in 2002 when he rushed for 1,296 yards and added another 351 receiving, resulting in a Pro Bowl appearance. If he stays healthy, he has gamebreaker speed and is a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.

The big queation will be whether the Vikings' aniticipated new owner -- Zymunt Wilf, who is expected to be formally approved by the NFL in the next couple of days -- would do his best Al Davis impression and send a clear "Just Win, NOW, Baby" by trying to sign James. He takes over a team with a clear shot to land in the big game this year. Will he be satisfied to simply hope that Michael Bennett is truly back to form or will he want a formidable back like James? It's no secret that James would be more than happy to sign a longtime deal with anyone rather than play out his one-year franchise tag deal with the Colts. He's made it clear through his agent and the media that his top priority is the right multi-year contract -- with anyone.

The Vikings have adequate talent behind Bennett such as Moe Williams and unproven Mewelde Moore. They also added rookie Ciatrick Fason. But none of them are ready to step into Smith's shoes and lead the Vikings deep into the playoffs.

Sure, Minnesota could opt to pursue Buffalo's Travis Henry instead of James. But logic says that grabbing Henry might not be any better from a durability perspective than just taking a chance on Bennett this year. Henry posted two spectacular years, but lost his starting position last year to Willis McGahee and finished the year with just 326 yards.

Is that the guy you want if you can make a play for Edgerrin James?

But would the Colts part with James at this point? Well, the Vikings' timing couldn't be better as long as they move as quickly as they can. With Dominic Rhodes looking impressive at the Colts' summer school workouts and James snubbing mandatory minicamp, the Colts might be more receptive than they would have been two weeks ago.

The Colts couldn't get a team to part with a 2nd-round pick in this year's draft, so if the Vikings come up with the right player -- perhaps a straight-up trade for Michael Bennett who has a career rushing average of 4.6 yards per carry -- they'd be crazy not to at least consider it. Bennett hasn't taken the banging that James has over the years, and only one of the two injuries over the past two seasons was football related. He could certainly rebound to his Pro Bowl form. If the Colts have any plans that might require freeing up more cap space this year, they might be willing to risk losing James and his $8 million cap hit in exchange for Bennett who is in the final year of a deal that was worth a total of $6.2 million over 5 years.

Will it happen? If the Colts were truly willing to give up James for a second-round pick and if they are unhappy enough over his no-show routine this past weekend, don't be surprised. A tandem of Bennett and Rhodes can certainly provide the offense with enough punch, and it would free up some cap money for the Colts.

And by the way, Bennett's alma mater is Wisconsin, which certainly doesn't hurt his cause with the way the Colts have shown a propensity towards Big Ten players in the draft as of late.

But don't expect anything too soon. Even though the owners should approve Wilf as the new owner of the Vikings this week, it could be a few weeks before the new ownership is finalized by the league.

And while the Colts could free up some cap space to sign a player or two for the defense with this trade, they may not see anyone of value out there in free agency at this stage in the game. As a result, they may figure their best chance for a Super Bowl berth this season is to stick with James for another year and hope for the best with their defense as is.

But it does make you stop and say, "Hmmmmmm..." doesn't it?

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