VU: The Miami Herald was reporting that the Dolphins are in trade talks with the Vikings for Daunte Culpepper and the Baltimore Sun was reporting that the Ravens might be interested in him. With all of the trade talks, do you think there is really any turning back or do you think Culpepper is as good as gone?
BL: I would suspect that Daunte is probably gone for many reasons. Sometimes the coaches like a certain system and the coach won't change his system. Don Shula was once asked if he was a running coach or a passing coach. He said, ‘I am what my players make me.' I think if you look at that and what Brad Childress is coming in with, with his system, I think he wants players that will fit his system, rather than adjust the way Shula would. He obviously hasn't been around as long as Don was, and you're comparing a Hall of Fame head coach to a first-year coach.
VU: Do think if Daunte would have been satisfied with what his contract called for now and tried to prove himself whenever he can come back from his injury, there would be any talk of a trade?
BL: It would lessen the opportunity, but then I haven't been in a conversation with (head coach Brad) Childress yet. What (Culpepper) did was he gave them an opportunity to revisit his worth to Childress, and I think upon revisiting his worth, that opened up the doors for a possible trade. If he would have just kept his attitude that he's had ever since he's got here, I don't think they would have addressed it. There are just too many variables. Too many things have changed. The change in philosophy to a new head coach to the entire coaching staff, everything has changed. That's the sad part when you have switched coaches, you sometimes start over like an expansion team. I just hope that the defense is playing solid. I'm not worried about Brad Johnson—even at his age he'll have a great year next year. I just hope they don't (get rid of) a lot of the defensive players that improved the last nine games.
VU: Michael Bennett has been told he will not come back, so now my question is: What do you think the highest position of need is, whether that's through free agency or the draft?
BL: I think it's got to be on the offensive line. Matt Birk has got to come back. They need him for his blocking, and Michael Bennett definitely doesn't go with a patient blocking-scheme offense—he's more a quick hitter. If you have a fullback, and now the Vikings signed Joey Goodspeed, Bennett is going to have to sit and wait, kind of plot your way along. Mewelde Moore is more that style that would work better with a fullback.
VU: One of the scenarios thrown out there is that the Ravens were thinking of franchising Jamal Lewis and then trying to trade him for Culpepper. Now Lewis is expected to be a free agent. Do you see Lewis as being a running back that could fit into Childress' West Coast system?
BL: Boy, that's a good question. The way he pounds it hard, actually I could. He's a pounder, he's a hard runner. I think Michael, he isn't a hard runner. Michael you can grab with one hand and throw him down, grab him by his britches. You couldn't do that with Jamal. I see they might let Drew Brees go (via free agency in San Diego), and I was all excited about that. That would be a great fit to play behind Brad Johnson for a year, but with that shoulder you're getting another injured quarterback. You've got to bring another quarterback in if you let Daunte go. You've got to have somebody that's going to learn from Brad because Brad is a very, very bright quarterback. I just think Drew Brees fits Brad Childress' offense better (than Daunte).
VU: Under that scenario, in your mind would it be an open competition between Brees and Johnson?
BL: You could have the competition, but you'd have Drew learning from Brad to start with. Brad just knows the game so well, every system so well. He's like the professor. That's the big difference. They could fight for it, but Drew Bress, I've always said he's better than Michael Vick and I'll probably go to my grave on that one. Watching him at Purdue and how he handled that offense and the things he did, I think he'd be an excellent student for the professor.
VU: Defensively, what do you think is the priority. Is it linebacker or is it safety, or do they still need to find a real strong pass-rushing defensive end. What's the highest priority?
BL: If they're going to go with that Tampa-2, you've got to get some speed and go linebacker. Linebackers make that defense go. I think we've got the defensive line to do it as long as they get in shape from Day One and don't get in shape in the fourth or fifth game of the season like some of the guys did last year. That's almost embarrassing.
VU: Do you think Keith Newman or Sam Cowart has a chance to re-sign with the team or do you think they'll both be left to go to free agency?
BL: I think Newman would be more apt to be kept than Sam. Newman brings enough of the packages. From defensive line to pass rushing, I just think he's a stronger force in there. Even though I mentioned speed earlier, you can't just be speed and be one-dimensional. I think you get more versatility from Keith and I think he'd be the one you'd be most likely to keep with the possibility of using him as a pass-rushing defensive end.
Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.
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