Everybody wants something.
Rick Spielman wants his roster rebuild to work. Mike Zimmer wants to lead a winning team with his type of players. Norv Turner wants to get his offense successfully installed with a new quarterback.
They can all get their way, although it might take more than one offseason to get there. Thanks to the team being in a solid salary-cap position that got better with expiring big contracts and choosing to part ways with others, the Vikings were in a great position to add players in free agency and now, finally, the focus turns to Spielman's big passion – the draft.
It's how he wants to primarily build his team and eventually complete the overhaul that started with the departure of Brett Favre and the realization that the roster had to get younger … and better overall. In reality, the trip to the 2009 NFC Championship Game was all about Favre. When he was on, they were a legitimate threat to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Minnesota. When Favre was off, the Vikings lost.
Five years later, even Favre has realized it's over and the Vikings might have the rest of their roster rounding into shape. The secondary, the biggest issue with the defense for years, got a boost with a combination of the draft (Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes) and free agency (Captain Munnerlyn). The defensive line was overhauled with a combination of the draft (Sharrif Floyd) and free agency (Linval Joseph).
But the long-term quarterback solution remains a priority, along with the linebacker corps. Those are the top two options for the Vikings, especially since the other "value picks" in the top 10 are dominated by offensive tackles, where the Vikings have their established starters in place for several years.
But the idea of value is what could ultimately steer the Vikings away from a quarterback in the first round and toward a linebacker. First, the value placed on the top three quarterbacks has dropped significantly in the past couple months, at least among media analysts. Teddy Bridgewater didn't have a great pro day. Blake Bortles never was considered to be ready for starting duty as a rookie, and Johnny Manziel's style of play has raised all kinds of questions about whether he can experience success in the NFL the way he did in college.
Even the names of the top three quarterbacks don't seem as rigid as they once were. While Manziel and Bridgewater apparently – we write "apparently" because at this time of year the media analysts rule the perception, not the teams – are seeing their stock sink, even to the point of some wondering if Bridgewater will be a first-round pick, Derek Carr is gaining momentum to move into the top three.
It all adds up to make us believe that the Vikings will likely pass on a quarterback early, unless Bortles might still be there at No. 8, and go defense – likely linebacker but possibly also cornerback, with their curiosity being caught by Darqueze Dennard. The sense now is that there isn't anyone that can definitively say one of the first-round quarterbacks would be better than someone they might be able to get in the second round, possibly Carr, Zach Mettenberger or Jimmy Garoppolo. The Vikings' interest has been attached to each of them at different stages of the offseason.
Meanwhile, linebackers like Khalil Mack, who is expected be taken before the Vikings' No. 8 pick, and Anthony Barr are clearly the top two outside linebacker options. Passing on them for a probable project at quarterback only delays the solidification/transformation of the roster. And the idea of playing a rookie quarterback, even if it is Bridgewater, who at one point was considered the most NFL-ready, over Matt Cassel seems like a formula to have the fan base turn on yet another failed quarterback thrown to the fire too early.
Still, that doesn't mean the Vikings won't go quarterback in the first round. It just means it's unlikely it happens at No. 8 (barring Bortles). They have had success trading back into the end of the first round to secure Smith and Cordarrelle Patterson. Doing that again to get Carr wouldn't be the least bit surprising.
There is no doubt Spielman wants to get the team's quarterback situation solved, but "reaching" and missing again would do more damage to his reputation and the team's roster.
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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