Acting as if free agency is in the rear-view mirror, the Minnesota Vikings are in a position of confidence and are looking ahead to the NFL draft. Satisfied that they have retained financial responsibility while signing numerous free agents, the Vikings are pleased with the direction the off-season has taken.
Vikings head coach Mike Tice and Minnesota's director of pro scouting Paul Wiggin clearly described the direction of the team, the anticipation for the upcoming season, and what the latest additions to the team mean to the plan laid out. From the signing of linebacker Chris Claiborne to the sudden overhaul and depth at the cornerback positions and onto the draft, the path and plan of the Vikings is to be competitive now.
"We have worked hard this off-season to get players in here that want to play for the Vikings -- that buy into out scheme and plan, and players that want to play and have the opportunity to grow and win with us," Tice said. "With the players that we have brought in, we believe that we have improved the team from where we were when the season ended. Defensively we have added experience in critical areas and have added impact-type players close to the line of scrimmage.
"A player the caliber of Chris Claiborne doesn't come along every day. He will have the opportunity to play here in a system that may be better suited for his multitude of physical skills."
Looking to improve upon a defense that at times appeared out of sync, a step behind in the game and basically out-gunned, the Vikings went into free agency with a plan to acquire at least quality defensive backs. Now that the smoke has cleared, that plan was executed, but not with the names that many wanted or expected.
"You have to look at the quality of players available at a specific position. Take the cornerbacks. There was not a top-notch guy out there to be had and as you saw, players were commanding and receiving contracts that may have been inflated due to the need," Wiggin said. "In the case of the two players that we got, Denard Walker and Ken Irvin, we got two players that are pretty well suited for what we are doing here. Watching our team, this was a need and we believe that we have filled that need well."
Another area that the Vikings wanted to improve upon was the offensive right tackle position. Feeling that the offensive line needed improved depth and consistency, the plan was to add a tackle and move Chris Liwienski inside to the right guard position. Throughout the free agency period the Vikings were a player for Orlando Brown, the massive offensive lineman that had been out of football since suffering an eye injury during the 2000 season while a member of the Cleveland Browns.
This column has been told that the Vikings had a multi-year offer on the table for Brown, but the player scorned the Vikings and elected to sign a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens.
"We do not talk about details and negotiations, but we had an interest in Brown and he chose to go in another direction. That is something that we could do nothing about. We put our best foot forward," Wiggin said. "With that, we were able to sign Mike Rosenthal, he is a natural right tackle and plays the position well. Our feeling is that we have succeeded with our objective of improving the offensive line. We feel good about that."
Tice, Wiggin Like The Acquisitions
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