The Minnesota Vikings embark on the 2008 free-agency period with a range of needs. At the top of the team's wish list is right offensive tackle, followed closely by right offensive tackle and defensive end, and then wide receiver, safety and cornerback. The only positions at which the Vikings appear to be set for the 2008 season, in other words, are on special teams, and at running back, defensive tackle and guard, center, and linebacker.
Identifying the Vikings' needs is the easy part. Filling the needs through free agency could prove more than daunting.
Last season, the Vikings had approximately $34 million to work with in free agency. With a thin free-agency crop, the Vikings came up small, landing only two marginal starters in wide receiver Bobby Wade and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and some other near-role players.
Unfortunately for Vikings' fans, 2008 could well prove to be for Minnesota a repeat of the 2007 free-agency period, or worse. Despite having slightly over $20 million in cap money to spend this off-season, the Vikings probably will fall victim to the same two entities that most hurt their chances of landing talented free agents last year--the larger salary cap picture and the unwillingness of high-end free agents to sign with a team that failed to make the playoffs.
Two years ago, we noted the looming free agency dilemna facing teams not both flush with free-agent dollars and primed for a playoff push. That dilemna began following the implementation of the recent collective bargaining agreement and the subsequent spike in team salary caps. The considerable increase in salary caps over the past two seasons, and the expected increase to $116 million this season, has allowed teams already loaded with talent to resign that talent for at least another season, thus keeping several would-be free agents off of the free-agent market.
Free agents who do reach the open market this season will once again have the upper hand, being able to play teams off of one another to improve their individual asking price. That's bad news for a Vikings' team that currently has few advantages over its NFL brethren.
Complicating matters even further is the fact that, though the Vikings have a considerable amount of salary cap room and, in fact, will need to spend approximately $8 million to reach the salary cap floor, the Vikings are merely in the middle of the NFL pack with respect to cap space.
At the top of the list of teams with available cap space are the San Diego Chargers with a staggering $43 million in unspent cap dollars before unearned bonuses are even attributed. Twenty-three other teams, including every other member of the NFC North Division, can expect to have more cap space than the Vikings expect to have in 2008. Add to that the fact that New England and Indianapolis, two perennial favorites to reach the Super Bowl, are two of the eight teams with less cap space than the Vikings and the Vikings face a difficult free agency period, even if the players that they covet are available in the free-agency pool.
Up Next: Potential Free Agents that Might Fit the Vikings' Needs. Plus, should he stay or should he go--the Troy Williamson saga.