It took about a whole two, maybe three, hours before the disappointment from getting our butts handed to us via the Green Bay Packers vanished and the excitement for the offseason completely consumed me. Free agents? The draft?! Possible trades? Veterans leaving? New talent?
I love it.
Don’t get me wrong, I was as bummed about the loss as the next hardcore Vikings fan (well, maybe not as much as this guy…) but the postseason letdown didn’t feel as bad this time. Maybe it was because deep down I knew once it was announced Christian Ponder wouldn’t be starting that we would lose the game and then the next three to four hours was just a realization of that fact. Maybe it’s because nothing could have happened in the playoffs that would take away from what an amazing season 2012 was. (And, folks, it was an amazing football season.) Who knows, really.
What I do know is that I was, and am, at peace with what the Vikings did this year and what I think they’ll do in the near future.
There’s a lot to be excited about with this team. There’s a ton to look forward to this offseason and some great stories to look out for.
Here are five of the biggest stories headed into the offseason. Stories that we will be covering in [exhausting] detail here at Vikings Territory, I’m sure. Of course, there will always be a few (maybe more) developments that catch us all by surprise. You can be sure we’ll have those, too.
(Note: These do not include general things like “the draft” or “free agency.” It’s a given those will be huge. I tried to think of specific storylines that will provide intrigue, mystery and excitement.)
5. The New Stadium
I almost didn’t include the stadium on the list because it seems that, now that we’ve got our stadium, it’s more of a “I don’t care how it happens, just get it here” type thing. But, after Adam mentioned it to me when I queried the inner-workings of his very knowledgeable Vikings mind, I started to see why it could become something we talk about frequently during the offseason.
It shouldn’t be long until we start seeing a real design for this thing. And that will be pretty dang cool. We’ll finally get to see what this thing will look like. What features it will have. Does it have a retractable roof? Seat warmers? Does it have a mammoth monitor floating eerily above the ant-sized players a hundred or so feet below? Who knows.
It will be something tangible at that point. Something we can look at and say, “Okay. So that’s going to be where I take my children to watch my Minnesota Vikings a few years from now.” (Maybe more if you’re me).
It’s been an idea up until this point. A finalized design that we can see is a big step to it becoming a real, real reality. (A real one.)
4. Backup Quarterback Backup Plan
Christian Ponder’s late season surge (and potentially even his absence from the playoff game at Lambeau) solidified his role as the Vikings starter at quarterback next season. Head coach Leslie Frazier has even already made it public. That’s all good and fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings still need to figure some things out at the quarterback position during the offseason.
I’m not going to torch Joe Webb too much because I honestly feel like he’s better than what he showed Saturday in Green Bay. The guy was thrown into an incredibly difficult situation under an offensive coordinator who remained steadfast in his stubborn ways and refused to adjust his game plan to increase the likelihood of success for Webb. Nevertheless, I don’t think Joe Webb is somebody who can really threaten Ponder for the starting position and light a fire under his butt, so to speak.
I think Ponder is going to be a good quarterback with a little more development. I take a lot of heat for that position but I’ve held it since he was drafted and I still hold it today. But I’ll be the first one to tell you that it is not a sure thing. He is not a sure thing. And the Vikings need to have a Plan B just in case it doesn’t pan out with #7.
Personally, I’d like Spielman and Co. to do some superb scouting and find a quarterback in the middle rounds who has a lot of upside. It’s also possible the team could just to go the free agent route. (Also, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s entirely possible the Vikings could not address it at all…)
Nevertheless, I think how the roster shapes up behind Ponder is something to keep an eye on.
3. Wide Receivers, Please.
I’ll be honest with you. I think the Vikings wide receiver corps in 2013 is going to look very, very different. And if it doesn’t, I think there’s something wrong here.
When I look at the Vikings receivers, I think there are three guys that are worth retaining. Maybe four. Percy Harvin, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs (if he’s healthy) and maaaaybe Jerome Simpson. It’s nothing personal against the other guys. I just think that this team needs to get younger at the position and find some guys out there who have some high upside and can provide some excitement at the position.
So, that begs the question, who do the Vikings bring in? Make no doubt about it, that will be one of the biggest stories this offseason. Will the Vikings finally spend some money (we have more cap space than all our NFC rivals) in free agency to bring in a #1 receiver? Will they use the first pick of the 2013 draft to find someone who can stretch the field? Will they trade for someone?
There’s a lot that could happen here. But I have to believe that what happens at the wide receiver position will be something of particular interest through the down months.
2. The Defensive End Situation
Towards the end of the year, defensive end Brian Robison suffered an injury that allowed backup Everson Griffen to start. In his place, Everson Griffen was a monster. He wreaked havoc in the backfield, played with a ton of intensity and finished the season with the same amount of sacks as Brian Robison and only four less than Jared Allen (8).
I think the Vikings are again in a position where they need to figure out what they are going to do with Griffen because he’s shown he has too much talent to be warming up the bench. They’ve already (unsuccessfully) experimented with moving him to outside linebacker to get him on the field more. And with two other solid defensive ends in Jared Allen and Brian Robison, it isn’t clear what the best course of action is. Should the Vikings trade Jared Allen to make room for Griffen? Allen is nearing the end of his contract, is getting older, his sack numbers dropped significantly this year and he is scheduled to have the first surgery of his career during the offseason. Would it be smart to part ways while he still has a good amount of value and may be worth something in a trade?
To be honest, I don’t know the best answer at this point. I know that it would be difficult to trade Allen who has become the gritty face of this franchise away.
But the fact remains, Griffen needs to find his way onto the field. How the Vikings do that before next August will be something to watch.
1. The Percy Harvin Story
Finally, we end with what will undoubtedly be the most talked about (forseen) Vikings storyline of the offseason. Will the Vikings hold on to one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL? Will they trade Harvin for draft picks or another receiver? Will he hold out for a new contract?
There’s a lot of drama and intrigue here which will make this a great story throughout the next eight months or so. Percy Harvin is a valuable offensive playmaker. But will the Vikings ultimately decide that he isn’t worth the drama he can sometimes cause? Will they want to pick up the large bill Harvin is going to expect to remain on the team?
Only time will tell. And, as it is now the offseason, we have all the time in the world.
Stick around for an exciting offseason, folks.