Q. Was Gus Frerotte really the best the Vikings could do at QB?
A. I think he was, from the moment he was released by the Rams I felt he would be the perfect fit back in Minnesota. I remember watching Frerotte play in the preseason against the Vikings last summer and he can still throw the ball just fine. He's been very effective in a No. 2 role and has always been a good mentor or sounding board to a younger starter.
Q. Who's dissing who in the Birk situation?
A. Birk is scheduled to make $5.32 million, plus a $400,000 roster bonus, so he's making good money in 2008. He went to the Pro Bowl last season and even Brad Childress concedes, "he's been a loyal guy." The reality is that Birk showed signs of slipping last season, something Childress cannot come right out and say. The Vikings entered last season in the same situation with Pat Williams, and they ended up re-signing him, so it could still play out that way. But there are signs that Birk could be nearing the end. Now maybe he rebounds and earns another three-year deal in Minnesota. We'll see.
Q. Is Tarvaris Jackson the long-term answer?
A. This will be his make-or-break opportunity. Childress has shown patience with him, and Jackson has shown flashes. With the anticipation of an improved supporting cast around him, I think he'll turn the corner.
Q. How do you think the Bryant McKinnie situation will play out?
A. Short of him being acquitted or settling his current case out of court, a suspension from the NFL is likely. McKinnie is a likeable guy, but he's too old to be getting into the kind of trouble he keeps getting into. And despite his hefty contract, he is not a premier left tackle. Speed rushers give him trouble. Still, he's the best option they have right now. However, he won't be able to take his job for granted any longer in Minnesota. The team will move on any legitimate opportunity to upgrade at his position now. But they do not really have any short-term solutions.
Q. Harvey or Merling?
A. Derrick Harvey (Florida) might be worth trading up for. He's such a premier pass-rush possibility off the edge. With that extra third-round pick from Denver, the Vikings are equipped to strike if they choose. Phillip Merling (Clemson) figures to be there at No. 17. He is a high-motor guy in the John Randle mold and a very good all-around player who would upgrade them at left end as a rookie. But he might not ever be the premier outside pass rusher the Vikings have longed for since the days of Chris Doleman. I'm not sure where the team's doctors have him on their board, either. He's a good solid player, though. Interestingly, Denver picking at No. 12 has a value of 1,200 points on the trade value chart. The Vikings' pick at No. 17 (975) and the third-round pick they have from Denver at No. 73 (230) combine for a total of 1,205.
Q. What position is most likely for the Vikings to take at No. 17?
A. As tempting as it is to reach for a defensive end, they need to stick to their guns and draft the best player available. They could land a real bargain if they stay put. If Harvey is not targeted, or someone else they like doesn't slide, an offensive lineman seems most likely.
Q. What's your take on the free agent signings?
A. They overpaid for Bernard Berrian, but they needed a reliable veteran who offered some vertical threat. Madieu Williams is an upgrade over Dwight Smith; he can actually cover receivers and is a solid citizen. Frerotte is an upgrade over Kelly Holcomb. Maurice Hicks is essentially a swap for Mewelde Moore. Hicks can return kickoffs; Moore could return punts. Both are solid No. 3 running backs and capable third-down backs. Tony Richardson went to the Pro Bowl at fullback, but he's on his last wheels. Thomas Tapeh isn't a sure thing to play out the life of his contract, but he's much younger and also a good team player - a wash. Insiders seem to like the Ellis Wyms signing more than most. He's a slight upgrade over Spencer Johnson, only in that he can play outside more effectively. Derrick Pope for Dontarrious Thomas could be a slight upgrade. Thomas has more natural ability, but Pope appears to be much more instinctive and productive. Michael Boulware is a low-risk, high-reward addition who should help on special teams more than Mike Doss did. Kenderick Allen and Dallas Sartz were solid street free agents who could legitimately compete for a roster spot.
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