With a head coach hired, and both coordinator positions filled, we have as clear of an indication as to what direction this team is headed as we will get for quite some time.
On offense, the hiring of Norv Turner suggests that the development of a quarterback and bulking up of the O-line are going to be top priorities, as he will likely want to feature power running and deep routes throughout 2014 and beyond. The defense will likely be a less-bland version of the 4-3 than what we have seen in Minnesota of late and talent is needed pretty much across the board.
The Vikings have a number of larger contracts set to expire this offseason which frees up a bunch of cap space and will allow them to make some moves. The first wave of roster movement comes in the form of re-signings as teams try to lock up their own players, at least the ones they want. The releasing of some some players (like, perhaps, Erin Henderson) might make this list grow, but here is an attempt to prioritize targets within the Vikings own roster.
THE TOP TIER
MATT CASSEL, QB: Technically, Cassel is not a free agent… yet. He has the ability to opt out of the second year of his contract which pays him $3.15 million with the Vikings. Jay Cutler has already been retained by Chicago and this year’s free agent quarterback class leaves a ton to be desired. It could be really tempting for Cassel to shoot for bluer (more lucrative) waters this offseason and the Vikings really need to convince him to stick around. Without Cassel on the roster this team appears stuck without a plan A, B, or even plan C.
EVERSON GRIFFEN, DE: Everson Griffen didn’t impress in 2013 the way he did in 2012, but then again either did just about anyone on this roster. It remains to be seen how he can hold up playing full games over a full season, but the young, athletic defensive end has shown his ability to be disruptive in the backfield. It would really be disappointing to see the Vikings let him leave without a fight as they are headed for great transition along the defensive line.
TOBY GERHART, RB: Gerhart is most likely heading for a team willing to pay him to be a starter, or at least a key part of a rotation, instead of staying with the Vikings where Adrian Peterson is cemented as the top running back. Running backs are no longer “a dime a dozen” as they were a few years back, so Gerhart actually stands to sign a decent sized contract as an unrestricted free agent. The Vikings would probably love to sign him back, but logic indicates it is a long shot.
JARED ALLEN, DE: It would be nice to see the Vikings get creative and structure a deal with Allen that sees him play out his career with the Vikings like they did with Antoine Winfield. The problem with that is that the Vikings didn’t honor their end of the bargain and jettisoned Winfield after he earned incentives the hard way, thus burning up any goodwill they might have had with their veteran leaders. Allen has noted how much Minnesota means to him, and maybe bringing Mike Zimmer to town changes things, but it seems unlikely that Minnesota will be the top bidder for his services at this point in his career.