Day two of the Vikings' off-season plan is far more complex than was day one and is clouded by the Vikings' decision to retain Rick Spielman as General Manager. Spielman is driven by two forces. The first is to prove that he can make the right choice at quarterback. The second, and probably less imperative to Spielman, is to show that he can make the right choice at head coach.
The Vikings' retention of Spielman will only feed Spielman's sense that he is a guy who mostly gets things right and reinforce his investment in his own decision-making. This likely means two things--that Spielman is intent on hiring someone to whom he will concede zero personnel authority and that Spielman will continue to search for a quarterback.
The latter would mean that the Vikings have already answered a day two or day three question--whether they should draft a quarterback in this year's draft. The answer to that question almost certainly is "yes." What is left unknown, however, is whether that pick will be in round one or two. The answer to that question will be determined by who the Vikings select as their next head coach.
Earlier this week, Spielman gave a hint as to the direction that the Vikings currently are leaning in the draft, when he noted that the Vikings will have "a lot of cap space" this year. That means several things. First, it means that Jared Allen and Kevin Williams almost certainly are gone. Second, it means that, given the loss of Allen, the Vikings either will sign an expensive end or consider a shift to a 3-4 defense. Third, and depending on the previous, it means that the Vikings are leaning toward hiring a defensive specialist, possibly with experience running the 3-4 defense, as head coach. Finally, it means that the Vikings probably will rely on a short-term measure at quarterback in 2014 and draft a "diamond-in-the-rough" in the second round of this year's draft, focusing on defense in round one.
So many uncertainties as the clock winds down.
The most certain of these uncertainties, however, is that Allen is gone. The Vikings can do far more with $17 million than hire a single-digit-sack specialist. With Allen's $17 million, the team could find two starting linebackers and retain Toby Gerhart. Throw in Williams' 2013 salary and the team could retain Everson Griffin, as well.
Likely to join Allen and Williams as former Vikings in 2014 are Chris Cook, Fred Evans, Desmond Bishop, and, quite possibly, Erin Henderson. The exodus of these players still would leave only one glaring unfilled hole--that at defensive end--with Audie Cole likely tabbed to succeed Henderson. But the transformation of the Vikings' defense would be an opportune time for someone with experience shaping a defense to enter the picture. That would not require a defensive-minded head coach, but the Vikings are likely to view defense as a priority and lean in that direction with the head coach.
Up Next: The Vikings' Coaching Candidates--and Those Who Make Sense.