Vikings Go From Contenders To Team In Transition

Funny how a disappointing season like this past one can make a team go from seasoned to old. Or from “team to beat” to rebuilding.

After a 6-10 campaign that – through tiebreakers – left the Minnesota Vikings in last place in the NFC North for the first time in 20 years, there’s no telling how far the franchise might go to change up the current mix of players and coaches.

If you buy the Minneapolis Star Tribune report from yesterday, then Leslie Frazier will get the “interim” tag removed and become the head coach next season. So it appears the Vikings will opt for some stability with the coaching staff.

But they have 18 players eligible to become free agents this offseason. Among the key players are LBs Chad Greenway and Ben Leber, DL Pat Williams, K Ryan Longwell, WR Sidney Rice and, of course, QBs Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Vikings would like to keep their young free agents, meaning they’ll push to retain Rice and Greenway. It should be an interesting offseason for Rice, who showed some flashes of brilliance this past season. How much will he get this offseason? And with the Vikings’ QB position in flux, will that hamper their ability to keep him? Rice might not want to become Larry Fitzgerald (who went from Kurt Warner to John Skelton/Derek Anderson/Max Hall throwing to him) next year.

Speaking of the QB spot, I really think Favre is done this time. Don’t put that in stone just yet, but I really believe he’s done. And I really think he would have been done prior to last season if three Vikings hadn’t gone down to Mississippi to retrieve him.

And I have no doubt the Vikings won’t keep Jackson too. They’ll start fresh at QB. I think that would be best for both sides.

My guess is the Vikings will look at QB – and offensive line, too – pretty hard in this draft. They’ll find a spot-filler to take the starting job for 2011 until that QB is ready.

I know there’s a few fans out there who think Joe Webb is the QB of the future. That may be. But I don’t think they’re going to put all of their eggs in that basket. Let’s remember that Webb saw significant action in the team’s final three games – starting two of them – and has yet to throw his first NFL touchdown. So temper your expectations. Actually, that might be a good motto for the whole team next season.

Finally, if you didn’t notice, I opted not to make NFL picks this past week. Too messy when so many teams are playing for nothing. I went 4-1 in Week 16 to finish the year 43-27. That’s much better than I would have hoped.