Vikings coach Brad Childress talked about the importance of having quality linemen nearly from the moment he arrived in Minnesota last January. Childress didn't waste much time helping the Vikings put their money where his mouth was when it came to this topic -- especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The Vikings, who had a league-high $31 million in salary-cap space entering free agency, moved fast by signing Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson away from Seattle to play alongside center Matt Birk and left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
The 28-year-old Hutchinson, who received a controversial seven-year, $49 million deal that includes a record (for a guard) $16 million in guaranteed money, will be counted on to help solidify a line that didn't have the injured Birk in 2005 and was shaky for much of the season.
The line must protect veteran quarterback Brad Johnson and also open holes for another key free-agent acquisition, running back Chester Taylor.
While the Vikings are confident in what they will get from Hutchinson, Taylor might be another story. There already have been rumblings that the 5-foot-11, 213-pound Taylor isn't in the best of shape and the Vikings aren't thrilled by his work ethic.
Remember, Taylor was a backup to Jamal Lewis in Baltimore and the most carries he has had in a season is 160. He only has four career touchdowns in four seasons. Taylor, though, is guaranteed $5.6 million in the four-year, $14.1 million deal he received from the Vikings.
That certainly isn't backup money and the Vikings will be looking for some big things from him come September.
The Vikings also used some of their money to get help on the defensive side of the ball, signing linebacker Ben Leber, defensive end DeQuincy Scott and safety Tank Williams. But with plenty of questions remaining at linebacker, the key might be the development of first-round pick Chad Greenway out of Iowa.
Greenway has been used exclusively at weak-side linebacker during the team's minicamps and Organized Team Activities. He has seen action mainly with the second team but there is little question the Vikings would like to see him win a starting role as soon as possible.
If the Vikings linebacker corps remains the same, and Greenway develops quickly, they could have Leber and Greenway on the outside and E.J. Henderson in the middle.
Is the Money in the Right Places?
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