Free-Agent Names Surfacing

The Vikings have identified their needs on the defensive side of the ball, and at least three free agents keeping popping up as targets along the defensive line.

Just around the corner is the free-agent signing period. Such a time provides excitement to NFL front offices, players, agents and fans alike. With numerous periods of preparation under their belts, the Minnesota Vikings expect to make an impact during this free-for-all time.

The clock is ticking, and the Vikings are on the clock. Expected to be major players this offseason, Minnesota is in a precarious position, one that they can least afford to come up short in.

Throughout the past few weeks, the player personnel department and coaching staff have identified areas of weakness within the roster and have begun the ranking stage of the league's free-agent players and players the team anticipates may become free agents.

Spending a significant amount of time in recent weeks scouting college talent, the Vikings front office has held lengthy meetings recently discussing the available options at positions the team would like to improve upon.

Among these positions are the defensive line, defensive backs, depth at linebacker, and wide receiver.

The Vikings are seeking a defensive lineman to add to the corps of defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Kevin Williams. If the Vikings can secure the services of a standout tackle, the team has considered rotating Williams between the tackle and end positions.

Williams, coming off a solid rookie season, is believed to have the talent and physical ability to play the defensive end position. But the Vikings are going to be careful and may ultimately decide to keep the gifted Williams on the inside for yet another season.

Rumors have swirled the Vikings have an interest in Tennessee defensive end Jevon Kearse. To the contrary, a Minnesota team source has informed us the team has reservations about the state of Kearse's surgically repaired foot and the team has a much higher interest in St. Louis Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom and New Orleans defensive end Darren Howard.

If the Vikings intend to improve the defensive tackle position, the name that keeps popping up in discussions is the New York Giants' Cornelius Griffin. Griffin is a solid and formidable tackle that should immediately improve the Minnesota defense being organized by long-time coordinator Ted Cottrell, in his first season with the Vikings.

While a shutdown cornerback is on the wish list of many teams, the Vikings are one of the few teams that can afford to make a major acquisition without restructuring numerous contracts to complete a deal. According to our team source, the team will not enter into a bidding contest for a defensive back, mainly due to the negotiating philosophy of the team and the vast number of quality of players available at the position.

"It is our expectation we will obtain a quality starting cornerback this offseason," the source said. "This position is deep in talent, which should lower the overall dollars these players will receive. With as many as seven or eight high-quality players on the open market, teams and agents will play teams against one another, which is a typical negotiating ploy. There will be a handful of these players that will sign early to ensure they do not receive the short end of a contract deal. And we expect to be there, as we look to improve the Minnesota Vikings."

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