For months now, there’s been speculation that the Minnesota Vikings would sign veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher, whose market has been cold since the Chicago Bears let him walk. Every couple of weeks, rumors materialize with word of the two parties closing in on a deal.
Enough is enough.
Plain and simple, the Vikings don’t need Urlacher. Considering his age, ineffectiveness in coverage and recent decline in production, Minnesota is better off focusing on their in-house options to fill the void at middle linebacker rather than wasting a couple million dollars on a has-been linebacker.
While the starting gig might not have a clear-cut frontrunner, there are several options available to the Vikings. The first, and arguably the most likely, is moving current weakside linebacker Erin Henderson inside and replacing him on the outside with 2013 fourth-round pick Gerald Hodges. The rookie linebacker was impressive during the Vikings rookie minicamp and could earn a starting spot if he continues to turn heads during OTAs.
Another option is allowing the plethora of unproven talents to battle for the open middle linebacker spot while keeping Henderson outside. Among the candidates are 2013 draft picks Hodges and Michael Mauti, 2012 seventh-round pick Audie Cole and backup/special teamer Tyrone McKenzie. What happens, however, will depend on where certain players are throughout offseason workouts.
Mauti is currently battling back from a knee injury and might not be ready to contribute right away. If he is available, though, there’s a good chance that he could make a strong push for the starting spot. Before the knee injury ended his senior season at Penn State, many considered him a Day 2 talent with the polish to play immediately.
It’ll also be interesting to see where Cole’s development is when OTAs begin. Drafted as a project last year, Cole brings a lot of intrigue to the table with his outstanding instincts and football IQ. Although he’s a bit lacking in the way of physical tools, his production during college leaves the door open for him to ripen into a starter.
Regardless of which direction the Vikings end up going in, one thing is certain. They don’t need Urlacher right now, and unless injuries start to deplete the Minnesota linebacking unit, they never will.
Let’s cease and desist with the Urlacher-to-Vikings rumors already.