Five Needs To Fill

The Vikings have been talking personnel since front-office staff members and coaches returned from the Senior Bowl, and head coach Mike Tice laid out his thoughts on the draft and free agency.

Mike Tice came out of meetings this week with the personnel department, and the Vikings now have a plan in place that Tice believes can get them to the playoffs next year.

Tice outlined five needs that the Vikings have to fill, either through free agency or the draft.

1. At least one addition to the defensive line.

2. A cornerback and/or nickel back.

3. A middle linebacker to develop behind veteran free-agent steal Greg Biekert.

4. A short-yardage fullback so the Vikings don't have to continue to use Jim Kleinsasser as their utility man in that role.

5. A free safety.

Tice continued his stance in an interview on KFAN radio that he believes the Vikings would be able to more quickly fill their needs if they got a cornerback in free agency and a defensive lineman in the draft, saying it takes cornerbacks longer to learn the nuances of the NFL game.

He confirmed what many NFL draftniks have been saying this month: There are really only two true "impact" players at cornerback in this year's draft — Terence Newman and Marcus Trufant — and he seemed to be leaning toward a defensive lineman with the seventh pick if things fall their way in the draft. "If you pick that high, you've got to get a big player," he said.

The Vikings would like to get three starters out of the 2003 draft, but Tice says that is the ideal wish and realistically they need to have two of their top three picks this season starting "by opening day."

* Last year at this time Tice thought the Vikings had so many holes to fill that almost any position player could come in and compete for a starting job, saying they believed they only had seven or eight players who they could win with and depend on week in and week out. That number has doubled after the 2002 draft and free agency, he said.
* Tice on the Vikings' top free-agent priority, tight end Jim Kleinsasser: "Jimmy Kleinsasser will be a Minnesota Viking next year. I can guarantee you that."
* Tice on picking seventh in the draft: "I'm really excited about our draft status, where we pick. This will be the last time we pick this high in my tenure."

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