2003 Schedule Could Affect Free Agency

Red McCombs is talking tough about exploring free agency, but, with the release of the 2003 schedule, he may want to reconsider and spend some of the available money to get defensive help.

One of the good things about the realignment of the NFL last season was that, for the long-term future, teams know who they will play years in advance.

So it was that, when the NFL released the 2003 opponents, it came as no surprise to the Vikings. However, that schedule may be reason enough for Mike Tice to emplore Red McCombs to look at being aggressive in free agency to improve the defense -- specifically the secondary.

In 2003, the Vikings will play both the NFC and AFC West -- meaning the Vikes will have to meet the passing attacks of the Rams, 49ers, Raiders and Broncos.

For the record, the Vikings schedule is as follows:

HOME: Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Kansas City, New York Giants.

ROAD: Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Arizona, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta.

Although Red McCombs is talking tough about not going nuts in free agency, the Vikings will need to improve their pass defense to face the likes of Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick -- not to mention a pair of games vs. Brett Favre.

Hopefully, when Tice heads to San Antonio later this week, he'll come back with approval to spend money close to the cap limit to get some veterans on defense -- even if a little spendy -- to make the Vikings a legitimate contender.

* From the "We Told You So, Morons" Department comes this: When the Packers met the Buccaneers in Week 12, both national and local media made a point to say the teams wouldn't meet again until 2005. Unfortunately, they had little to no comprehension of the schedule. Each year, teams face one division from their own conference and two games vs. the team that finished in the same position as they did from the other two divisions from the same conference. For example, the Vikings finished second in the NFC North. They'll play six games in the division, all four teams from the AFC and NFC West and two games against the other two second-place teams in the NFC not in the West Division -- the playoff-bound Giants and Falcons. The Packers, on the other hand, will play the first-place teams from the NFC East and South -- meaning they will play the Bucs at Tampa and get a chance to hurt Warren Sapp. After that game, VU said Sapp should beware since the teams would meet in 2003, not 2005. Now we guess everyone understands how the new schedules work. Enjoy Warren. Odds are you get the Packers in two weeks anyway. Get ready, big boy.
* VU has been told by a Cowboys source that, although Jerry Jones made overtures to Dennis Green, the Cowboys are going to announce the signing of coach Bill Parcells to a four-year, $18 million contract today. Dave Campo, as expected, was fired Monday.
* Speaking of Green, Monday's episode of "Monday Afternoon Quarterback" on ESPN2 was little more than Denny presenting his resume and demands. Typically, Green provides sharp analysis of who won and lost and why. Monday, he was grilled about what it would take to make him a coach again -- whether for Dallas, Jacksonville or Detroit. Green was clear he wasn't interested in the vacant Cincinnati job, but added that he didn't think he was the prime candidate for the Dallas job, since Jones is involved in all personnel decisions. It will be interesting to see how Jones and the power-hungry Parcells will coexist. Green stated he is "very interested" in the Jacksonville opening, since former coach Tom Coughlin also served in the general manager capacity.
* Vikings quarterback coach Alex Wood may have coached his last game with the Vikings. In what is expected to be explained as a cost-cutting move, the Vikings are expected not to renew his contract and eliminate the position. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is expected to add the job of QB coach to his list of duties.
* Although nothing has been said publicly by the Vikings, VU has been told that special teams coach Jay Hayes is likely not to return. McCombs is said to be very upset with the problems the special teams have had this year and, like what happened to Hayes in Pittsburgh a year ago, someone has to pay for the problems.
* An MRI on Randy Moss' left knee showed a strained medial collateral ligament. Moss is expected to undergo treatment at Winter Park and his status for the Pro Bowl is up in the air.
* Safety Ronnie Bradford is considering retirement. He is scheduled to meet with Tice and the coaching staff this week to see if he is going to be asked to return next season as a player.

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