Defensive Linemen On Wish List

The Vikings are talking publicly about adding an outside pass rusher and a defensive tackle, and this column has heard two free-agent names at each position that are coming up at Winter Park as the team strives to build a better defense.

Defense wins championships. That is the old adage that has been proven numerous times in the National Football League, and it was the story in 2002 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl.

Let us remember that Tampa Bay did not win a Super Bowl with defense alone this past season. Until the threat of an offensive attack was constructed, the Buccaneers had been a team that was good enough to make the playoffs, but just could not muster enough firepower against middle of the road teams.

What does this have anything to do with the Minnesota Vikings? Actually, there are some common thoughts between the two teams that haven't been realized at this time.

Heading into the final weeks leading up to the player free agency period, the Vikings have taken a serious look at the roster and have come up with a theory to help them reclaim some of the glory of years gone by. Strong defensive teams with a better than average offense won in the Bud Grant era. Some tremendous offensive efforts were wasted in the Dennis Green era, when the Vikings were always a step short from winning a Super Bowl. Now, indications are that the Vikings have a plan and the financial ability to execute it.

According to a team source, the Vikings intend to build a defense predicated on a strong defensive line and improved team speed. Achieving that goal will not be an easy task, but a task that the organization is committed to nonetheless.

"Minnesota is going to be active in free agency and will very thorough in the process. There is an element of excitement within the organization, due to the strong showing the team had over the past seven weeks of the season," the source said. "Talking with a few people within the front office structure over the past two weeks, a concerted effort is underway to vastly improve the defense. The front office and coaching staff have evaluated the roster and now determining what players ‘fit' the scheme in free agency is well into the process."

"Personnel changes are going to occur, with some quality players on the open market at the end of the month, a team like the Vikings can quickly become a competitor in the NFC North Division."

To build a strong defensive line, the Vikings have a long way to complete the undertaking that is presenting itself. The signings of defensive ends Lorenzo Bromell and Kenny Mixon didn't produce nearly the results the Vikings expected, basically Bromell was a disappointment last season. Starting defensive end Lance Johnstone is a free agent and would like to return to Minnesota. He has shown some ability to rush the quarterback, which alone will draw him some attention in the free-agent market.

A factor in the progress of the Vikings heading into the 2003 season will be determined by what can be accomplished during the off-season. The organization is looking for a defensive lineman that consistently pressures the quarterback and additional help at the defensive tackle position. A few names that this column has heard as possible free agent contacts are defensive ends Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Vonnie Holliday of the Green Bay Packers. At the defensive tackle position, John Thornton from the Tennessee Titans and Russell Davis from the Arizona Cardinals are players that the Vikings will have some initial interest in to team with standout defensive lineman Chris Hovan.

Stay tuned, this upcoming week we will look into the linebacker positions and have additional comments from a league player personnel assistant on the state of the Vikings defense.

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