The linebacker is largely considered to be the most glaring need for the Minnesota Vikings as April’s Draft edges closer, but their decision to bring back veteran Marvin Mitchell on Tuesday helps provide them with an insurance plan in case the instant-starter they surely covet in the first two rounds next month doesn’t pan out.
Mitchell signed a one year deal with the Vikings after spending 2012 with the team as a special teams contributor and a two-week starter in place of the injured Erin Henderson. In those two weeks Mitchell made four tackles, and added five tackles plus a forced fumble on special teams over the course of the year.
Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are expected to return as starters at their respective outside linebacker spots, but the drama lies in the middle after previous starter Jasper Brinkley was allowed to leave via free agency this offseason. Mitchell joins a depth chart that includes Audie Cole, Tyrone McKenzie, and Larry Dean.
According to Dan Wiederer of Access Vikings, the team “has not closed the door” on the possibility of Cole competing for the remaining starting spot. Cole, a seventh round selection last year out of North Carolina State, made his biggest splash last season when he returned interceptions for touchdowns on back-to-back plays against the Buffalo Bills. He was inactive for 11 games in 2012 and registered no stats, but you have to remember that receiver Jarius Wright was also kept inactive as a rookie until Percy Harvin’s injury forced the Vikings to play him, and he now figures to be a key part of the offense.
The Vikings have reportedly flirted with the idea of bring in Brian Urlacher, which I thought made no sense, but have otherwise not let word leak about any interest in other possible linebackers. Larry Grant and Karlos Dansby are a few free agents still available that might make sense, but it otherwise looks like the Vikings will be looking to the Draft for that guy capable of leading their defense.
I currently have the Vikings drafting Manti Te’o in the first round of my Mock Draft.