What If Mixon Isn't Available?

If Kenny Mixon does receive a suspension for his alcohol-related offenses in the coming month, the Vikings will be dangerously short at defensive. What then?

It's possible that the Vikings' starting defensive ends on opening day 2004 will be Chuck Wiley and Nick Rogers.

Ouch.

What about Kenny Mixon, you ask?

Mixon's status became cloudy this week when a jury found him guilty of drunken-driving, possessing an open container of alcohol and driving without a license. It was Mixon's second DUI conviction and third alcohol-related incident in 16 months.

Mixon faces up to a year in jail and a possible four-game suspension from the NFL. His sentencing is April 1. The league won't take any action until after Mixon is sentenced.

Mixon probably won't have to serve a year. If he doesn't appeal, he is expected to conclude his jail time — possibly 90 days — before the start of training camp.

Mixon was solid at left end last season. Wiley was the primary starter at right end, while undersized Lance Johnstone was a situational pass rusher.

Rogers will be moved from linebacker to right end, where he played in college. Wiley and Billy Lyon are backups, although the Vikings will look for defensive ends in the draft and during the second wave of free agency following the June 1 roster cuts.

NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: The Vikings addressed two of their biggest needs in free agency by signing Antoine Winfield as a shutdown left cornerback and Marcus Robinson as a No. 2 receiver. Here are their new needs for the draft: Right defensive end: The Vikings don't bring enough pressure off the edge. DT Kevin Williams (10.5 sacks) had an outstanding rookie season and needs help from the outside. A dominant RDE is needed; Outside linebacker: The Vikings would like to find a fast, athletic weakside linebacker. That would allow them to move Chris Claiborne to the strong side. Nick Rogers, who finished last season as a starting outside linebacker, has been moved back to his more natural position at right defensive end. Defensive tackle: The Vikings could use more depth here; Offensive line: They also need more depth here.



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