Sunday Morning Massacre

The Vikings are forming their free-agent plan, and a few NFL defenders are surfacing as realistic targets of that plan, according to league sources.

Heading into the off-season the Minnesota Vikings have targeted numerous areas on the team that they need to improve upon. The improvements that we are talking about are believed to in the making, according to those close to the organization.

From improved play and depth on the defensive line, to increased speed and athleticism at the linebacker positions, the Vikings will be active in free agency.

The options and possibilities are endless for the Vikings. Team sources indicate to this column that the club has in excess of 15 million dollars to ‘play with' in free agency. While refraining to supply us with the exact numbers, the Vikings are in an enviable position.

Additionally, the Vikings are believed to plan on making an impact signing early in the free agency period. Indications coming from the men that run the show in the Twin Cities are that the immediate target area on the roster will be in the defensive backfield and linebacker areas.

Two names that have started garnering interest around the league when the Vikings are discussed are safeties Kwamie Lassiter and Donovan Darius. Believed to be the best safeties available on the open market, Lassiter or Darius could step in and team with former Arizona Cardinals defensive back Corey Chavous to help stabilize the defensive backfield. Adding a player of the quality and experience of Lassiter or Darius would immediately improve the status of the defensive backfield, as well as taking pressure off of Jack Brewer.

Improving the cornerback position through free agency will be a much tougher task for the Vikings. The position is not deep in quality players and indications coming from the Baltimore area are that Chris McAlister, the Ravens shutdown cornerback, wants to remain with the team. Some other early possibilities in free agency at the cornerback position that we are hearing are Kevin Mathis from Atlanta and Duane Hawthorne from Dallas. In all likelihood, the NFL draft is the likely means for the Vikings to realistically improve the position, from what we have been told. Sitting with the seventh selection in the draft, the Vikings have a keen interest in cornerback Terence Newman from Kansas State University, who is widely regarded as the best cornerback available in the 2003 NFL draft.

Since we have been told by a team source that it is highly unlikely that the team will switch to the 3-4 defense as its base defense, the athletic ability at the linebacker positions are a necessity.

"One area that we have to improve in is at linebacker. Greg Biekert stepped in and provided this team with solid play and leadership. He has some gas left in his tank, but we need help," the source said. "There are a couple guys in free agency that are impact-type players and that is what we are looking for. We desperately want to improve the ability to get to the quarterback from the linebacker spots, as well as playing solid, fundamental defense."

It just happens that our league source tells this column that the Vikings have targeted Roosevelt Colvin from the Chicago Bears, Anthony Simmons from Seattle, and Chris Claiborne from Detroit as players that would upgrade and fit within the defensive scheme of defensive coordinator George O'Leary.

It's early in the game, when the Super Bowl concludes and roster movement begins we will get a better feel for what will happen and those player agents that like to talk will once again rise to the occasion and feed our need to know everything during the off-season.

We may not know all the who's, what's, and where's, but we do know that the Vikings have a plan — and it includes help in the defensive backfield and linebacker positions.

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