What's Greenway's future?

Chad Greenway has been a staple of the Vikings defense since recovering from a rookie-season knee injury, but how long will he remain with the team? His position title is likely to change this year and his employer could change in the coming years, too.

With much more of the hoopla surrounding the 2014 draft directed at quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, there hasn't been much discussion about how Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway will coexist at linebacker.

Greenway has been the strongside outside linebacker for the Vikings since Leslie Frazier took over the defense in 2007, one year after Greenway was a first-round draft pick himself. But it's the same title Barr had the last two seasons at UCLA and, from the look of things, strongside linebacker where the Vikings intend to play him.

Asked directly during his press conference following the Barr selection if he envisions Barr and Greenway on the field at the same time, head coach Mike Zimmer said yes, but declined to elaborate how the roles in the defense will be divided up.

Will Greenway move to the weak side? Is there the potential that he will play middle linebacker? Both are options, but Zimmer did shed some light on the subject, explaining that the way Frazier labeled his strongside and weakside linebackers isn't typical. In reality, Greenway was initially slated for the weakside linebacker spot his rookie season before tearing an ACL in the preseason. When Frazier was hired, Greenway was essentially playing the same position but his title changed to strongside linebacker.

That means Greenway could still have the same alignment as he did in previous seasons but would be renamed as the weakside linebacker. Barr would then be the strongside linebacker, but for the time being, the Vikings aren't talking about the plan for the most vested veteran of the Vikings defense.

During the Rick Spielman era as general manager, the Vikings have had a history of letting aging defenders hit the free agent market and leave. It's a pretty impressive list that includes Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen. The history has been to sign or draft replacement type players and let the veteran walk. Might Greenway be the next on that growing list of former Pro Bowl defenders?

It didn't get a lot of notice at the time, but, much like Kevin Williams re-worked his deal to open up the potential of free agency, Greenway's contract was modified so that he could potentially become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014 season. The recent history under Spielman would say that it might be the precursor to 2014 being Greenway's last season with the Vikings.

If Zimmer's characterization of the weakside and strongside linebackers holds true, it would be easy to see how both Greenway and Barr could be on the field and playing familiar roles without one of them having to be displaced. How that will play itself out is yet to be seen, but that seems to be the game plan moving forward.

Greenway has been a faceplate of the Vikings defense for almost a decade. Then again, so were the Williamses, Antoine Winfield and Allen. None of them is still with the Vikings. Is Greenway going to be the next veteran to follow them out of town? At the moment, the Vikings aren't saying what their plans are – short-term or long-term – but if you read the tea leaves that have been part of the team's recent philosophy in dealing with veterans, there is reason to believe 2014 might be Greenway's last season as a member of the Vikings – especially drawing the salary he has in recent years. Whether it happens or not, only time will tell.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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