The NFL owners approval of a Collective Bargaining Agreement meant the Vikings did not begin free agency way above the majority of NFL teams when it came to salary-cap room. That would have been the case if the cap had been set at $94.5 million, instead of the new $102 million that resulted from the last-second agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players' Association.
Still, the Vikings enter the delayed period in very good shape. It's just that now they are facing a bit more competition for players. Under the old system, the Vikings were set to be an NFL-best $24.1 million under the cap and would have had the ability to outbid the majority of teams for any free agent.
The new agreement left the Vikings an incredibly comfortable $31.5 million under the figure but faced with the fact that several teams had gotten much-needed relief by the increased room created by the higher figure. The deal also meant that fewer players hit the market because teams suddenly did not have to purge their rosters to get under the cap.
Owner Zygi Wilf has given his management team the go-ahead to spend up to the cap, meaning the Vikings will look to fill their most pressing needs (running back, offensive guard, linebacker) in free agency. But assuming they make a couple of big-name signings that still will mean there is plenty of work to do in the draft.
Fran Foley, the Vikings' new vice president of player personnel, had made it clear that he is more than willing to supplement talent by dipping into free agency but believes a team must be built through the April selection process.
Foley, along with coach Brad Childress and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski, already have begun mapping out a draft strategy. Scott Studwell, the Vikings' director of college scouting, also is playing a key role in the process.
It's likely the Vikings' draft list includes a quarterback, tight ends and defensive backs, as well as the three positions mentioned above.
The expected trade of the disgruntled and injured Daunte Culpepper means the Vikings will have to add depth at quarterback either through free agency or the draft. Brad Johnson, the probable starter if Culpepper is gone, will turn 38 in September.
Addressing the position in free agency or in the draft won't be easy. The top three young quarterbacks - USC's Matt Leinart, Texas' Vince Young and Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler - are all expected to be gone in the first 10 picks. The free agency pool at quarterback also isn't very deep; the Vikings could make a run at Arizona's Josh McNown.
Defensively, the Vikings switch to the Cover-2 style played by Chicago, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay will mean the team needs to add depth at linebacker. Even if the Vikings sign a free agent linebacker or two, they almost certainly will attempt to find athletic players at that position in the draft so they can be groomed.
With the expected departure of free agent strong safety Corey Chavous, Childress and Co., likely will be looking for depth at that spot.
Vikings Personnel Plan
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