While NFL players and their union appear to be fretting about their future paychecks, pensions and health care because of the potential for a lockout of players by the owners – or any other way to characterize a work stoppage – some fans are looking for any bright spots at the end of a dreary winter.
Vikings fans can take some solace because there is one way to spin the potential delay of the nation's favorite sport into a possible positive for the Purple. Normally, any delay in NFL business is met with the same reaction: "billionaires fighting with millionaires." That's true, but what can that do for the Vikings?
Free agency is supposed to being on March 4, but if there is a delay until May it might actually benefit the Vikings where they need it most – at the quarterback position.
The team appears focused on finding a quarterback in the draft, but head coach Leslie Frazier has been around the NFL long enough to know the batting percentage on rookie quarterbacks isn't always good. There are busts at every position in every draft, but finding a quarterback that can contribute effectively from the outset is even more challenging.
Frazier has also been around the best. When he was in Indianapolis, he had Peyton Manning operating on the other side of the ball from Frazier's players on defense. Frazier admits that having Manning's abilities on offense can affect the strategy of defensive coaches, giving coordinators hope that just keeping the team within one score in the fourth quarter gives them a good chance to win.
But will the Vikings really be able to find a quarterback with the 12th overall pick – or even a second-round pick – that can operate efficiently in his initial pro season? The Vikings' confidence in that player will have a lot to do with their acquisitions the rest of the draft and even in free agency.
"You almost have to wait and see who that No. 12 pick is," Frazier said. "Is it a quarterback who is a sleeper that somebody overlooked for one intangible reason and we see something that this guy could be the guy – we can plug him in and get going. That's hard to predict."
So hard that the Vikings might be better off if free agency doesn't start until after the draft so they would have some time to get to know their QB hope for the future better before deciding if they need to find a free agent to "bridge the gap" – play for a year or two until coaches thought their draft star was ready to lead. The Vikings, or any other team, won't be able to conduct any practices with their draft picks until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached and organized team activities and minicamps can resume. But they can at least know who they were able to select and what skills and decision-making abilities he has.
Back at the Senior Bowl in January, Frazier said he has only had general talks with owner Zygi Wilf about the level of aggressiveness the team might have in free agency. Any aggression, however, will be delayed until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place.
"We talked some and we're going to talk more," Frazier said last month. "There are so many unknowns regarding the future to get to March. You can only just touch on some things. You can't get into a lot of detail because you don't know what's going to happen. But we'll continue to have dialogue as we learn more. We'll continue to learn things as well. It's hard to make decisions right now."
Despite mediated talks between the NFL Players Association and the NFL, the reality is that negotiations could break down at any point and not resume for weeks, maybe months. Normally, that's a bad thing. When it comes to the Vikings' quarterback situation, it could be just the delay of game they need to figure out the most important position for both the coming year or two and the long-term.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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