One of the annual points of interest for football fans is when national publications, in their haste to be on the magazine racks as early as possible, come out with NFL previews in June. If you can believe it, there are already a few on the shelves and they have one thing in common — they once again are picking the Vikings at or near the bottom of the NFC Central. It must be noted, however, that many of these same publications said the same thing last year — remember all that "6-10 at best" and "Daunte who?" chatter? The Vikings have conceded that they have deficiencies on defense, but, if you look at the team's recent history, it has been to admit that failing, but continue to keep the offense intact and as potent as any in the NFL. A look at the offseason signings bears this out. Re-signing Chris Walsh and Corbin Lacina was done at the expense of signing defensive players who could make an impact because both are known commodities to the coaching staff. The only major outside signings were DE Lance Johnstone (who could be a steal that will show fans of the Vikings that the Raiders should have kept him) and Jake Reed, who has the experience with the team and again is a known commodity to the staff and players. The Michael Bennett selection was forced in part by the Robert Smith retirement, but Bennett is the ideal player for the Vikings offense. With the Vikings able to stretch defenses with the threat of Cris Carter and Randy Moss roaming deep in the secondary, a player with Bennett's speed can break off 80-yard runs if he gets a shot at hitting the line of scrimmage untouched. Smith's biggest contribution was that he was able to make big, knockout plays. Bennett has many of those same qualities. Let the doomsayers come back with their stale 6-10 predictions. Take it to the bank. The Vikings will be back in the playoffs, even if the defense isn't among the league's best. FRIDAY NOTES
* With the signing of Lacina, the Vikings are likely looking for just one more signing and it is expected to come at cornerback, but may have to wait until mid-July.
* While many fans were stunned to hear Randy Moss say he wanted $100 million and almost $20 million of that up front to stay with the Vikings, VU has learned that one person who wasn't shocked was Red McCombs. While he likely won't hand out that kind of cash, it is believed that he will likely part with $80 million over nine years to keep Moss — including $15 million up front and likely have to follow that up with a similar deal for Daunte Culpepper.
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