There is a seriously divided opinion coming from the national media concerning the current makeup of the Vikings – now and in the future.
The debate – which VU has been made privy to – centers on three people. Who? Red McCombs, Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper.
The argument comes in three parts. First is McCombs. Some are convinced he will sell the team soon. Others aren't. Either way, McCombs has made his team attractive offensively – Culpepper, Moss, Michael Bennett, Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie are all signed long-term. If he keeps the team and gets the stadium deal he wants, he wins. If not, he has a team that any prospective owner would assume should be 8-8 at a minimum even with an awful defense.
Second is Moss. This is, without question, the most laughable of the concerns. From what VU has been told – and returned correspondence in hopes of shaping opinion otherwise – the prevailing opinion is that Moss is satisfied with his guaranteed money and has peaked. Guess what? Word will change. VU has been strong in refuting those initial comments. Moss is working as hard as ever and, with the Randy Ratio bile dead and gone, he's ready to be the impact player he was in his first three seasons. Make bank on it – HUGE year for Moss, as long as he has running mates at the WR position.
Third is Culpepper. The initial reaction dealt with numbers -- $102 million – but reality sits about two chairs down. Realistically, the contract is about $40 million in "real" money. Even under a "best case" scenario, the deal is worth about $60 million before being "Montana'd" and re-worked.
As the next few weeks progress, expect to hear bad smack on the Vikings. However, when the preseason publication of note comes out, look for the "sleeper" tag to get slapped on the Vikings. Why? They've asked for an honest opinion from those who know. They've got it – from the same peeps who said "8-8 at best, 4-12 at worst" at this time last year. Now the same word is "8-8 is a disappointment." Take that for what it's worth.
* On the subject of Moss, consider this – he's working overtime to bulk up and work on front-end speed drills. The only other WR in his class – no offense to Marvin Harrison, the best "one-man WR" show in the NFL – is Terrell Owens. Moss and Owens bring the rare combination of size, speed and explosiveness that make them franchise players. While Moss is working out harder than ever, Owens – who will lose running mate J.J. Stokes Monday – blew off the voluntary portion of Niners camps. Who wants it more? Let actions speak to it.
* A player who will be discussed at length in the coming days is safety Lee Flowers. With teams working under a new salary cap as of Sunday (June 1), several teams will likely roll the dice on Flowers. But, one thing to keep in mind. The Tice-led Vikings have been big on taking players they know – either though alma mater/personal history ties like Tice or players an assistant has coached or seen personally. How does this tie in? Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary was Flowers' defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech. Flowers has gained a reputation for more mouth than game, but, if O'Leary is convinced he can help his defense, expect the Vikes to as competitive as anyone to sign him.
* The Packers invested a lot of money in former Saints DE Joe Johnson, but, to date, the investment has been a dud. Johnson, who was recently busted in possession of marijuana, is now viewed by the NFL as a "Stage II" drug offender – admitting he has already been cited by the league. For those who don't know, the NFL drug policy and procedures are as tightly a kept secret as who "really" killed JFK. Johnson may face a league suspension and, seeing as the Vikes play the Pack in Week 1, all we can say is "Aw."
Randy Ratio II
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