Offseason Overview of Decisions Ahead

The Vikings are going into personnel evaluation and planning mode this week. Here are some of the things they will be considering.

The key decision for the Vikings this offseason will be whether Tarvaris Jackson remains the starting quarterback, but there will be plenty of other decisions for vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, coach Brad Childress and others in the front office.

Included will be the call on the fate of wide receiver Troy Williamson. The seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft, Williamson has been a bust and had only 18 receptions and one touchdown this season. Plagued by drops during his time with the Vikings, he had two key ones in the regular-season finale at Denver.

Other offseason items of interest:

COACHING CAROUSEL: With the Vikings sitting at 3-6 after an embarrassing 34-0 loss at Green Bay on Nov. 11, it looked as if Brad Childress might be done after two years. But a 5-2 finish means Childress is safe for 2008.

His coaching staff also will be expected to return intact. Unlike last year when defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers after only one season, it's expected that coordinators Leslie Frazier (defense) and Darrell Bevell (offense) will be sticking around. Frazier did have at least one interview scheduled this week, but he isn't considered the front-runner for that position.

FREE AGENT UPDATE: The Vikings have nine players set to become unrestricted free agents, including safeties Mike Doss and Tank Williams, WR Robert Ferguson, DT Spencer Johnson, RB Mewelde Moore, FB Tony Richardson, DE Darrion Scott and LB Dontarrious Thomas. Linebacker and special teams ace Heath Farwell is a restricted free agent and CB Ronyell Whitaker is an unrestricted free agent to whom the Vikings hold the right of first refusal. None of the unrestricted players would be considered a major loss, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Vikings attempt to keep Williams, Ferguson, and Johnson. Doss, Scott and Thomas are likely to move on, and Moore almost certainly will depart for a situation that will get him more playing time.

FEELING A DRAFT: The Vikings hold the 17th pick in the first round and certainly could be looking at a few areas for upgrades. Among them will be a pass-rushing right end. Kenechi Udeze, a first-round pick in 2004, is a solid starter at left end but isn't comfortable on the right side. Erasmus James, a first-rounder in 2005, has battled knee problems the past two seasons, and it's risky to rely on him.

TEAM NEEDS

Defensive end: The Vikings still need to improve the rush, especially from the right side, and while Ray Edwards and Brian Robison show promise, the Vikings are in desperate need of immediate results.

Wide receiver: Rookie Sidney Rice showed flashes of being able to stretch the field at times, but the Vikings still need someone who can do that on a consistent basis. Otherwise, a standout running game is far less effective.

Safety: Starters Darren Sharper (32) and Dwight Smith (29) aren't getting any younger, and neither are backups and pending free agents Mike Doss and Tank Williams. Adding some youth at this position might be a good idea.

MEDICAL WATCH: Sixth-round LB Rufus Alexander (knee) expects to be full go by the end of this month.

DE Erasmus James (knee) will continue to rehab his injury this offseason and might be ready for training camp.

DE Darrion Scott (foot) has been doing some running but could leave via free agency.

NT Pat Williams has said he will have his knee ‘scoped following the Pro Bowl.


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