What's Next? Free Agency, Coaching Moves

The Vikings season is over, so what's next? Ahead of Mike Tice and the team are many unanswered questions — from Scott Linehan to Randy Moss to the running backs to what the team needs in free agency. Tice addressed those last night.

Vikings coach Mike Tice has been open in letting fans know what direction he wants to bring the team, and after his season-ending loss in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs, he answered questions about the future on KSTP's "Sports Wrap."

Here is what Tice had to say on a number of interesting topics

  • Randy Moss: With all the negative exposure Moss created for the Vikings during the last three weeks, when healthy, he still remains one of the league's top threats.

    It might take a king's ransom to pry Moss from the Vikings, but that doesn't mean the team won't listen to trade offers.

    "Nobody is untouchable. Mike Tice isn't untouchable and neither are any of the players," Tice said when asked about the possibility of trading Moss.

  • Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan: Linehan has directed one of the league's top offenses each of the last three years, but his contract expires at the end of January. The Vikings would like to keep him, but other teams may be willing to offer him more money and more security.

    Currently, the rest of the coaching staff is under contract for only one more season. Linehan told VU he didn't sign the extension that the other assistants signed last spring because he wasn't certain of Mike Tice's future. While Tice is signed through 2005, a one-year contract for Linehan isn't much security. To further inflame the situation, owner Red McCombs has had the team up for sale for the last two years, and his tight grip on finances probably won't have him offering much to Linehan.

    "Based on the fact that our coaching staff, and myself included, are on one-year contracts, if a team comes up with a three-year deal for Scott, I find it very hard to believe that we'll be able to keep him," Tice said. "He's a hot commodity because we've had success here.

    "I'd love to keep Scott. But to be able to sit here as a head coach and ownership and offer him a one-year deal when there are three-year deals out there for a guy with three young boys, I find it hard to believe we'll keep Scott. Hopefully we will. I know that he wants to stay, but it's not up to me. It's up to ownership to step up to the plate."

    Linehan has drawn interest from Miami, Baltimore and Jacksonville — and now that the Vikings' season is over they can start acting on their interest.

  • Trading a running back: Without question, the Vikings have tremendous depth at running back with Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith and rookie Mewelde Moore. They could each be starters, but having all three of them on the same team for another year probably isn't realistic. A trade could be in the offing.

    "It's probably something we'll look at," Tice said. "We have a lot of running backs, and at a certain point too many is probably too many. We have to decide on a guy and see who is the horse we're going to ride."

  • Roster personnel: The Vikings have upgraded their roster in each of Tice's offseasons as head coach. They are in a wonderful salary-cap situation, and may have close to $30 million in available cap space during the offseason.

    Last year, the Vikings passed on linebacker Jeremiah Trotter because of McCombs' budget, not because of salary-cap space. Trotter proved to still be a playmaker yesterday when his team knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs. There are sure to be more opportunities to sign players of his caliber this offseason, but it will be up to ownership to allow the front office to spend money on key additions.

    "It is a tough situation to not know who the owner is, what the ownership situation is, what the coaching situation is," Tice said. "We wished we lived in a perfect world and had some definitive answers."

    Last year, Minnesota rolled out the bank for Antoine Winfield and added complementary players Marcus Robinson, Keith Newman and Steve Martin. If ownership would allow them to add two playmakers of Winfield's level, this team could be dangerous on both offense and defense. If ownership doesn't allow that, then the improvement will have to come from injured players like Ken Irvin, Jim Kleinsasser and Mike Rosenthal returning and younger talent improving.

    "We need to address our defense. We need more playmakers on the defensive side. I still think we need more corners. I think we need to look at our safety situation," Tice said.

    He said Willie Offord could get another look at safety too.

    "Defensive line, I think we another inside player. And I think we need another fast linebacker," Tice said.

    The Vikings could get by with Kevin Williams and Spencer Johnson, but they would like to add at least a rotational guy with the expected loss of Chris Hovan. Coaches said Steve Martin was inconsistent in 2004.

    The offense should look solid with the return of Rosenthal and Kleinsasser, and they built depth on the offensive line with rookie Nat Dorsey and Adam Goldberg getting extensive playing time in the wake of injuries.

    "Offensively, I think we have what we need on the offensive line in the building. And we need Jimmy back. We need one more wide receiver," Tice said.

    As always, VikingUpdate.com will cover free agency, combine, draft and minicamps all offseason.

  • Viking Update Top Stories