Team Makeover: Special Edition

The changes around the Vikings organization began less than three months ago with the hiring of Brad Childress. But, just three weeks into free agency, the Vikings have a vastly different look than the team that closed out the 2005 season with a win over Chicago.

The Vikings have been an organization in flux for the last 13 months. Aside from a change in ownership, the coaching staff and the player personnel have both changed dramatically. Just three weeks into free agency, where some teams have added just a single player or maybe a couple, the Vikings have added 10 new players and re-signed another key contributor.

The changeover began last season. After the trade of Randy Moss, the Vikings got busy in free agency. On offense, they added quarterback Brad Johnson and wide receivers Koren Robinson and Travis Taylor. Defensively, the team added DT Pat Williams, linebackers Sam Cowart and Napoleon Harris (both via trades), cornerback Fred Smoot and safety Darren Sharper. Even the special teams got a boost with the signing of kicker Paul Edinger.

Not to be outdone, the 2006 signing period has been yielding many more potential starters -- this time with an emphasis on offense. After re-signing K-Rob prior to the start of free agency, in the three weeks since, the team has added QB Mike McMahon, running back Chester Taylor, fullbacks Tony Richardson and Joey Goodspeed and guards Steve Hutchinson and Jason Whittle. On the defensive side of the ball, the team has added DE DeQuincy Scott, linebacker Ben Leber and safety Tank Williams. And, once again, the team has upped the ante at kicker, signing longtime Packer Ryan Longwell.

While the Vikings still have room to add a couple of more players if they choose to and still have several million in cap space remaining, the belief is that they have added a minimum of five new starters at their respective positions and as many as seven or eight when all is said and done. There is still some gnashing of teeth among Vikings fans that, like in the Moss deal, the team didn't get enough in return for Daunte Culpepper, but the focus on 2006 is clear. The coaching staff has been given the authority to bring in the players they want and need to be successful and that success will translate on the field. For a team that has been close to the playoffs each of the last three years, they're convinced at Winter Park that they've made the moves necessary to put the Vikings over the top this year.

SUNDAY NOTES
* With the owners meetings set to get underway, instant replay will again be a front-burner issue. With all the flaws that have been apparent in the system, if replay reverses one call that was made incorrectly, it technically is a system that works and should be retained.
* Another issue at the owners meetings will be discussion of who will be the next commissioner and it seems that the political arena is getting much of the rumor-mongering. Aside from the Bush Administration's Condoleeza Rice being mentioned, the name of former President Bill Clinton has also surfaced as a possible candidate. It's turning more into Decision '06 than a hunt for a new commish.
* Vikings free agent linebacker Raonall Smith is in Green Bay this weekend to talk contract with the Packers.
* Word out of St. Louis is that the Rams are expecting Corey Chavous to be the leader of their defense. Nobody has ever questioned Chavous' football knowledge, but for an outsider to be asked to be the face of the defense and a leader in the locker room is a lot to expect from someone new to the team. But knowing Scott Linehan better than most is a step in the right direction.

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