Timing Is Everything

A year ago, NFL teams were eyeing the draft to help fill voids at linebacker and found five players in the top 33 picks to fill that need. This year, the top-end linebackers are almost non-existent, which could mean a financial harvest for free agents like Napoleon Harris.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, as NFL teams prepared for the start of free agency, the linebacker position was one that some teams put on the back burner during free agency because of the depth at linebacker in the draft. When the draft came, five linebackers went in the first 33 picks – A.J. Hawk (5th overall to Green Bay), Ernie Sims (9th, Detroit), Chad Greenway (17th, Minnesota), Bobby Carpenter (18th, Dallas) and DeMeco Ryans (33rd, Houston). This year, it might by be a much different story.

Some early mock drafts have as few as no linebackers coming off the board in the first round, while others have just one or two. Draft guru Mel Kiper, for example, had just one linebacker going in the first round (Lawrence Timmons of Florida State going to the Giants with the 20th pick).

This could be good news for potential free agents like Napoleon Harris. With teams in need of a potential starting linebacker, they may be much less inclined to take their chances getting help from the draft because the linebacker crop isn't strong and isn't deep. Unlike last year, if a team needs an impact linebacker, it will almost have to come from free agency because the draft doesn't look to have a harvest of players to choose from.

While many associated with the Vikings would like to see Harris stay, the truth is that, with the depleted linebacker crop available in the draft, a premium will be put on the unrestricted free agent linebackers and, in the process, Harris could priced out of the Vikings' range and be allowed to leave and seek his fortune (literally) elsewhere.

THURSDAY NOTES
* The Bears may have their coaching staff pilfered after Sunday's game. Rumors continue to circulate that the Vikings are interested filling their defensive coordinator position with someone from the Bears staff (linebackers coach Bob Babich) and now it appears that the Cowboys might be waiting to announce their new head coach after the Super Bowl so they can try to lure Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
* A couple of Colts assistants also appear to be on the Vikings coaching radar – special assistant Leslie Frazier and defensive backs coach Alan Williams. Both are versed in the Cover-2 defense used by Tony Dungy and brought to the Vikings last year by Mike Tomlin.
* Twelve-year veteran official Tony Corrente and his crew were selected to be the officials for Super Bowl XXXLI. For Corrente, it will be his first Super Bowl as head referee.

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