Vikings Missed Only One Objective

The Vikings are satisfied with their progress in free agency, but they weren't able to fill one position of need, according to their pro personnel director, who offers his in-depth assessment of the quality additions that were made.

The Vikings' lack of activity early in free agency caused some to wonder what the team was waiting for — especially with how far under the salary cap the franchise was — but Paul Wiggin said he is pleased with how things have turned out.

"I think we could walk away from free agency right now and feel pretty good about it," said Wiggin, the Vikings' director of pro scouting.

The team's free-agent pickups include cornerbacks Denard Walker (Denver) and Ken Irvin (New Orleans), linebacker Chris Claiborne, right tackle Mike Rosenthal (Giants), versatile defensive lineman Billy Lyon (Green Bay), and quarterback Gus Frerotte (Cincinnati).

The Vikings were able to upgrade at their weakest spot (cornerback), and Wiggin said there was only one spot the organization was unable to address.

"We would have liked to have gotten a loaded gun right end, but to be honest there were none out there," he said. "Of course, we would have liked to have gotten a top guy at every position. But when we went into it, I think our attitude was to solve our priority areas and certainly that included the cornerback spot."

There also was a pleasant surprise with the signing of Claiborne.

"That popped out of the blue," Wiggin said. "I was out of town when it happened. When I left, I knew Mike Tice was considering Claiborne.

"When we put down our game plan on the board after the season (of players to pursue), we knew we would have to contend with the linebacker position in the future. (Greg) Biekert is getting up in years (34) and in a year or so we will have to replace him. But we weren't planning at looking at linebackers for this season."

Wiggin offered further assessments of some of the Vikings' acquisitions:

Walker: "We knew going in we were not going to get a top-10 cornerback. No one lets those go. You're not going to get (Chris) McAlister, so we knew the level of player we were going to get. For the level of who was out there and the availability of corners — with the exception of McAlister, who was franchised by Baltimore — we got the guy who probably best fits what we are trying to do. That's a win for us.

"We had made up our mind that we were trying to take care of (the corner position), and I felt it was a bonus when we got Irvin. I think we did a good job of attacking a clear-cut need.

Irvin: "He brings leadership and skill and is a guy you have to pencil in as part of this football team. At worst he's a nickel guy, which he is very good at. One of the axioms in pro football is you can't go to camp with enough corners. It's an axiom the Vikings have not lived by in my years in personnel. We have always left ourselves short, and I don't know the reason why. This year we are trying not to do that.

Claiborne: "He has been a great player in this league and he's only 25 (Claiborne turns 25 in July). He had an elite couple of years. He dropped off a little last year, but there is nothing wrong with him. I feel with the coaching here, he will be an elite player at his position. We will put him at the Sam (strong side), but he can play Will (weak side) or Mike (middle) like he did last year.

"One of the limitations a year ago was he played Mike. Before that he was a Will and Stephen Boyd was the Lions' middle linebacker. But Boyd retired (last June) and they had to put him there out of need. Right now, we don't see him as a Mike. Clearly, he is an outside type of linebacker and has good coverage skills."

Rosenthal: "If you look at what we were trying to get done at offensive tackle, we probably would have wanted to get Orlando Brown. But he went to Baltimore for reasons other than what we could control (Brown has family in Baltimore). We ended up at the next echelon and got Rosenthal. He started for New York and is a pure right tackle. He plays the position pretty well.

"He's an ascending player and we felt with the job Steve Loney does for us with the offensive line that we will have a player who will continue to ascend. The move will give us a little flexibility with the offensive line because we can take Chris Liwienski and move him to guard, where we feel he can do an equally good job for us. In a sense, we have upgraded our line considerably from a year ago."

Frerotte: "When anybody comes here and you have Daunte Culpepper they know their role is going to be a lot of clipboard time unless he gets hurt. What Mike wanted was a guy who had a little command and leadership and understood his role. You have to know Culpepper is our guy. It's an unusual role in the sense that most teams graduate their third-string quarterback to second string and so forth. We picked our second out (Todd Bouman) and he has been traded and we are putting a new guy in at second."

Lyon: "I, for one, think he's really going to help us. He's a complete player at four positions on the line. He's not an elite player, but he's very good."



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