With the NFL and the NFLPA appeared headed for an imminent labor accord, the Minnesota Vikings soon will be in a position to weigh their options for proceeding with the 2011 NFL season. Unlike most other teams, and certainly more so than any other team in their division, the Vikings are at a crossroad that might be irresolvable in the short term. But with the near certainty of money to spend and free-agents to lure, the future might be less dire than it currently appears.
As yet, there is no clear picture of what the new collective-bargaining agreement between the NFL and the soon-to-be-resurrected NFLPA will look like. While it is possible that the agreement will significantly curtail what otherwise would have been a banner year for free agency, that seems unlikely given what the lockout was all about--gaining for the NFL a greater percentage of the league's profits in exchange for something for the players. Conceding both gross/net profits and permitting curtailment of free-agency likely would not fit that bill.
That suggests that the NFL will experience the most bountiful free-agency period in league history when the labor dispute is resolved, leaving the most paramount question for teams in need of free agents what the salary cap will be in 2011.
With only a handful of free agents worth resigning and a healthy salary cap situation (assuming certain personnel decisions and CBA terms), the Vikings could be in strong position to sign numerous high-end free agents, particularly if they eschew any temptation to secure a high-end free-agent quarterback.
Among the Vikings' primary free-agent targets ought to be offensive linemen. Numerous linemen should be available in the draft, including New England Patriot Logan Mankins. The key for the Vikings will be to sort through the options and to sign two or three established linemen with significant years left in them. That will shore up the team's greatest weakness from the past two seasons and allow the team to focus on building around a young quarterback without having that quarterback--Joe Webb or Christian Ponder--suffer the mechanical lapses frequently associated with a collapsing or sieve pocket.
In addition to the offensive line, the Vikings are in need of a wide-receiver--either Sidney Rice or a capable replacement, a sure-handed, quick running back, yet another cornerback, a defensive end, a safety, and a linebacker. In short, the team is in need of most everything outside of a tight end. By late Thursday, they might already be on the road to addressing these needs.
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