Let's Make A Deal

The news in Vikingland has been extremely limited since the end of the 2006 season. With no stadium talk and questions abounding, the Vikings could create a monstrous splash by giving up a king's ransom to potentially crown a new face of the franchise. Someone will do it on draft day. The Vikings could be that team. The only question is will they?

The jockeying for position in the first round of this year's draft is going to make the 2007 draft one that veteran draft observers will relish and newbies to the draft experience will get hooked with. In 1998, the big question was Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf? But, the real puzzler of the draft was when would Randy Moss get drafted?

As someone who asked the right questions to elicit a response from Moss, he held a grudge against every team that passed on him. He held in particularly low regard the Cowboys, Saints and Bengals – the former two because they assured him pre-draft that, if he was still on the board they would take him, and the latter because they were the only morons who passed on him twice.

The 2007 draft is going to hold similar drama because, unlike the last several drafts, there is no clear-cut No. 1 pick. While veteran draftniks have swallowed hard as guys like Matt Leinart, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers sat for hours in the green room waiting to hear their name called, the NFL has a troubling conundrum facing itself in less than two weeks. Who do we invite to the draft party in the N.Y.C.?

This year, that's going to be a problem. The best player in the draft – much like Moss was the best player in the 1998 draft (Manning didn't achieve his Hall of Fame bust until less than three months ago) – is Calvin Johnson, who by most guesses won't go until the fourth pick. Does he get invited? How about Brady Quinn? He could go anywhere from No. 2 to the middle of the first round. Does the NFL want ESPN potentially showing Quinn still in the green room while chairs are being put on top of adjoining tables because the green room staff wasn't expecting to get national face time four hours after the draft began? No.

This problem will be debated in the hallowed halls of the NFL league offices. Who gets invited? Who doesn't? That same problem will play itself out on draft day. There is little chance that the Buccaneers can sit at No. 4 and believe Johnson will fall to them. Some team will work a deal with the Lions or Browns if they're convinced Johnson can be the man. Zygi Wilf should be that guy.

This is turning into a draft where the Vikings have three options – move up to draft the face of the franchise, stand pat and hope someone they have above No. 7 on their war room draft board is still there or trade down with a team like the Patriots that could take LaRon Landry away from the Falcons for the 24th and 28th picks in the first round and future considerations.

It might be time for the Vikings to say "all in" and go for the gold with Johnson. As it currently stands, with Moss and Daunte Culpepper gone, you're not seeing the "new look" Vikings jerseys at the area sports bars. For those who did throw down the cash to buy them, whose jersey are they buying? The poor saps who bought Brad Johnson colors should have known better. But other than that, you see as many Matt Birk and Steve Hutchinson jerseys as anyone. Come again? Two offensive linemen? Please!

The Vikings could go a long way in keeping their consecutive home sellout record intact by doing what it takes to move up and draft Johnson. If he's on the board at No. 3 and the Browns have their sights set on Adrian Peterson, are the Bucs going to take Peterson two years after taking Cadillac Williams with the fifth pick? Are the Cards going to take him one year into a huge contract with Edgerrin James? Are the Redskins going to take him with Clinton Portis in the heavy-lifting portion of his contract? Not likely.

While a check of the draft value chart would say that the Vikings would have to give up too much to make a deal from No. 7 to No. 3 work, there would be every reason to believe that, if Peterson is the player the Browns want anyway, he would still be available with the Vikings' pick – and for much less money.

The Vikings need a face. Johnson could be that guy. The team is looking for a new stadium. They don't have a Kevin Garnett or a Joe Mauer to be the face of the franchise. Whether he will make an impact like Moss did is far from certain, but two things are. If the Vikings have the organizational stones to roll the dice and move up to get Johnson, by the time training camp opens, they will have the Metrodome sold out and by Christmas there will be 250,000 Johnson jerseys – Calvin, not Brad – sold. That builds a lot of goodwill toward a franchise looking for a little somethin'-somethin' from the state coffers as it pertains to new digs.

The opportunity might be there. If it is, the Vikings should jump at the chance. Moss spoiled Vikings fans as to what a difference-maker can do for a franchise. Johnson could breathe life back into an organization that needs a face. Big risks are cause for big rewards and, at this point at this time, Johnson could get all of Minnesota talking Vikings. That would be a good thing and a refreshing change of pace.

NOTE * Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin was arrested for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, outside the Spin nightclub in Minneapolis early Sunday morning. According to published reports, he got into a scuffle with nightclub staff who said his baggy pants didn't meet the standards of the dress code. Griffin, a second-round draft pick last year who earned his way into the starting lineup, was released on bail at 4:45 a.m. and is scheduled for a court appearance on Friday.

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