The continuous improvement process has begun in Minnesota. "In with the new," is a statement that the team believes will be a major change of face for the organization and the expectations heading towards the 2003 season will be high.
In recent weeks, the Vikings made a rash of signings in free agency. They sought help in the defensive backfield -- they signed cornerback Denard Walker and Ken Irvin. The Vikings needed improved play at the linebacker spot -- they reeled in Chris Claiborne. Wanting to solidify the offensive right tackle spot, they were able to sign Mike Rosenthal, which strengthens the line, so now Chris Liwienski can move to the guard position.
Let's not forget that tight end Jim Kleinsasser had the franchise tag placed on him and he signed a one-year qualifying offer. Also, other signings are viewed as important to the long-term plans of the organization. Defensive tackle Billy Lyon left Green Bay and signed with the Vikings, quarterback Gus Frerotte has been summoned to Minnesota to back up Daunte Culpepper.
Bringing back some of their own, resigned was running back Moe Williams, defensive end Lance Johnstone, offensive tackle Lewis Kelly and the tendered offers to offensive lineman Corey Withrow and running back Doug Chapman.
Serious activity for a team serious to prove they are headed in the right direction.
Today we continue our talks with a well-known talent evaluator within the NFL about the Minnesota Vikings and the direction this team is taking with their signings in the 2003 free agency signing period.
"The Minnesota defense showed some signs of life over the last quarter of the season. They had some issues defensively that the team could not correct overnight, but they have made a concerted effort over the past month to get that group on track," the evaluator said. "The Vikings may not have signed the best players on the market, what they have dome is signed players that appear to fit within the structure and scheme of the overall plan. We are talking about players that are much more than your ordinary, average players."
Being so, what can we expect from the recently signed players and how do they fit with the plan in Minnesota?
"The (Chris) Claiborne signing is a big deal for the Vikings, though there hasn't been much said or made of the deal. Being a high first-round draft selection of the Detroit Lions, Claiborne never lived up to the hype unduly placed upon him. What you get with Claiborne is a linebacker that can play inside or outside," the evaluator continued. "He has the speed and quickness, which all plays into the issue of range that a linebacker in the game must possess in today's NFL. He has all that and more, also possessing a toughness that should benefit the Vikings. Make no bones about it, Claiborne can play the game on a high level and he is expected to be a very solid acquisition, if not a spectacular one."
The defensive backfield was as inconsistent as any in the league in the 2002 season. There wasn't a doubt that this area would be a focal point this off-season, snf signing Walker and Irvin should help the situation.
"Getting Walker and Irvin will help the Vikings. These two guys should help with the issue of consistency in the defensive backfield. We are talking about a couple of veteran players that can still play the game on a relatively high level, which should provide relief for the Vikings and their fans," the evaluator said. "Neither player at this stage of their career are the dead-on, shutdown cornerback that every team in the league wants, but they will be a steadying influence on the field and help make the Vikings competitive defensively. Walker has the ability to start in this league and is in the top half of the league at his position. Irvin looks to be more of a nickel back, but he is going to be noticed in Minnesota."
Throughout the free agency signing period, the Vikings courted offensive line prospects to enhance the abilities of the players already slated to play along the offensive line in 2003. From Jerry Wunsch to Orlando Brown to Mike Rosenthal, the Vikings have a plan this off season, and the players that spurned offers from the Vikings actually have made them a better team.
"Adding Mike Rosenthal to play right tackle was a move that shows what this team is thinking. The offensive line in Minnesota was banged up last season. The Bryant McKinnie holdout did not help matters. There was a shuffling process that the team did not want to endure again in 2003, if necessary," the evaluator said. "Rosenthal is a solid, steady player that pass-protects well and can run-block. The New York Giants wanted to retain him, but salary-cap issues again reared its head, like most teams in the league. Now, the Vikings have one of the most formidable offensive lines in the game and they are young.
"In my opinion, I like what the Vikings have done, all the signings should or could have an impact. This is a team on the rise."
Evaluator: Each Signing Filled A Need
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