Free-Agent Changes Expected

The Vikings have evaluated their own free agents and their needs, and much of the talk surrounds one position, according to a team source. As the team searches for a defensive coordinator, it is also finalizing plans for free agency and looking at potential cuts.

Improving from being a 9-7 team to an 11-5 or better team will be the latest challenge to face the Minnesota Vikings and head coach Mike Tice. The early 2003 season was a surprise to everyone on the league, even to many members of the organization. This recent winning experience will ensure the coaching staff will not be caught off guard with any success the team achieves.

As is the norm in professional sports of this day, a team is unable to keep all the pieces that make it successful. In this era of free agency, players are more apt to exercise their right to free choice; others claim money talks and the players walk. Call free agency what you will but the system works both ways, and rarely are there are losers in the long run.

For the Vikings, the time for offseason evaluation is upon them and breaking down the roster has commenced. From evaluating players on the roster, to determining strengths and weaknesses within this team, the Vikings have a long offseason ahead of them, with much to improve upon.

Focusing on the defense is the motto for the continued growth and improvement of the Minnesota Vikings. From determining the new defensive coordinator to discussing the free-agent eligible defensive players on the team roster, critical decisions are going to be made and in short order.

"Getting a defensive coordinator in place has been on ongoing search. There are many extremely qualified candidates, many of which we have had come in to interview and visit with," a team source said. "With the enormous amount of turnover in the league, many coaches that generally would not be available are looking for jobs and this comes at a good time for us, if there is ever such a thing.

"We are aware, very aware of all the solid coaches out there and we have gone to great lengths to find a fit with what we want to do here. In short order, we believe we will name a defensive coordinator and if all goes as planned, he will not be a surprise hire."

As important as getting a defensive coordinator in place is to the Vikings, almost of equal importance is the direction the team will take with their own free agents and potential replacements, coming through the draft, free agency, or from the depths of the current roster.

It shouldn't come as a surprise if the Vikings are active in free agency this offseason. The organization appears to be committed to improve on the defensive side of the ball, and roster moves of impact could be in the making.

"During the season we do a good amount of scouting the college kids and plenty of film work on the NFL guys. We break down every play of every game and look at what we can do better as a player, as a defense, as a team," the team source said. "Many of the issues we see with our current roster is we need to improve our speed, athleticism and dedication to detail of the scheme.

"We have defensive linemen here that we are looking at, and while we would like to retain the services of some of the players, we know this is unlikely for whatever reason. An example being Fred Robbins. He is going to be an unrestricted free agent and will garner some attention on the open market. A players like Lance Johnstone may be too one dimensional for our overall needs."

Improving the pass rush, stopping the interior run, and finding a way to maintain the corner all were issues the 2003 Vikings faced. Many of these issues are directly attributed to the play of the defensive line and unqualified improvement is warranted and expected.

"We brought in free agent players over the past couple seasons to help shore up our problems against the run. Kenny Mixon and Lorenzo Bromell were brought in from Miami and haven't had the impact we expected. In the case of Bromell, he just didn't want it enough here, so we moved him out," the team source said. "Chris Hovan is one player we thought would benefit from the addition of rookie Kevin Williams this season, but for some reason he didn't get off, he wasn't the disruptive player as we seen in past seasons, but we expect him to bounce back.

"We have moderately experienced players along the defensive line and we are going to take a long look at adding some athletic type players to complement the core we have here. We intent to build our defensive line around Hovan and Williams, as well as get some guys on the ends that have the ability to contain and drop into coverage schemes, if and when necessary."

If I were someone named other than Hovan and Williams, I may spend a good portion of the offseason working out with the team. All signs are pointing to the organization partaking on a revamping of the defensive line personnel.

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