NFL Minnesota Vikings

5 Minnesota Vikings Storylines To Follow Leading Up To Free Agency

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5 Storylines To Follow Leading Up To Free Agency

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With NFL Free Agency starting in a week, the Minnesota Vikings have a lot of questions to answer. They are coming off a disappointing 5-10-1 campaign, but are only a season removed from a playoff appearance and a 10-6 record.

They now have a new head coach, former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Will their recent failure, along with a new coaching staff, lead to a roster overhaul, or will incumbent general manager Rick Spielman just look to supplement the current roster?

Either way, Spielman will have a lot of cap room to play with. Over The Cap projects they will have a little more than $35 million to spend, and that is before the expected release of tight end John Carlson. But even if Spielman is just looking to supplement the roster, there are several holes he has to look to fill.

For starters, the secondary was one of the worst in the league. Then there is the defensive line that has three significant contributors who are unrestricted free agents, and a linebacker corp that was a question before the release of starter Erin Henderson.

And of course there is the biggest question of the offseason -- what to do at the quarterback position? The quarterback position has been the Vikings' biggest question mark since Brett Favre retired… again.

Basically, this should be a very interesting offseason for the Vikings. The moves they make can help determine if last season was merely a fluke, or the start of a longer rebuilding process.

Evan Slavit is a New York Giants writer for Follow him on twitter @EvanSlavit, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Will The Vikings Be Big Spenders?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Since Spielman has assumed the title of general manager, the Vikings have avoided spending big money in free agency. This isn’t due to cheap ownership – owner Zygi Wilf has been more than willing to spend big in the past – but rather an attempt to build through the draft.

This offseason though, the Vikings have a ton of cap room and not a ton of players deserving of big-money extensions. Coupled with how poorly this past season went, it might be the perfect time to infuse some high-end talent to this roster.

And let’s not forget that Adrian Peterson is nearing 30, which is usually the twilight of the career for running backs. Peterson probably doesn’t want to wait through a rebuild, and any immediate help free agency can offer will surely be greatly appreciated.

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4. Is Charlie Johnson A Goner?

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Johnson was easily the worst offensive lineman for the Vikings; he also happens to be the only free agent of the starting five. It would certainly be easy to let him go and replace him with another option available in free agency.

However, Johnson is likely to be a cheap option, and the Vikings have enough other needs to worry about. Plus, it was only two seasons ago that the Vikings had one of the best lines in the league. Offensive lines improve the more time they spend together. It wouldn’t be shocking if the line bounced back this season, even if Johnson is brought back.

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3. Will The Vikings Be Able To Bring Back Matt Cassel?

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Both Spielman and Zimmer have talked in terms of when, not if, in discussions about Matt Cassel. It is clear that even though the signal caller opted out of the remainder of his contract, the team is still interested in bringing him back.

The team performed much better with Cassel under center, and he built a strong rapport with big free agent acquisition Greg Jennings.

But how much are the Vikings willing to spend to bring him back?

Cassel voided a contract that would’ve paid him $3.7 million this season, so it stands to reason that he is looking for a bigger payday. It’s also a safe bet that he’d like to sign for more than the two-years he would’ve had.

There might be a team more willing to reach those numbers than the Vikings, who will be looking for a more long-term option at some point this offseason.

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2. What Are The Vikings' Plans At Corner?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings' secondary was one of the worst in the league. Last offseason, they released their one established corner, Antoine Winfield, and that certainly hurt them. They were relying on Chris Cook, Josh Robinson and first-rounder Xavier Rhodes.

Rhodes caught on as the season went along, but Cook and Robinson struggled. Cook is now a free agent, and if Frazier stayed as coach, he would almost definitely be gone. But Zimmer has a reputation for helping talented players find their way, so he might be interested in holding on to the former early second-rounder.

Even if Cook stays, the Vikings are clearly in the market for an upgrade. They are in good position to draft a top corner, but with youth being part of the problem last season, they will probably look for a veteran presence to team with Rhodes.

Of the available corners, the one that has been linked most to Minnesota is Alterraun Verner. The former Tennessee Titan had a breakout year and is only 25. More importantly, Verner’s defensive coordinator in Tennessee, Jerry Gray, came over to Minnesota with Zimmer after the Titans fired their entire coaching staff.

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1. Will The Viking Have Everson Griffen Locked Up?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The defensive line has been a strength for the Vikings, but now three of the line’s main contributors are heading to free agency. While there is a good chance Kevin Williams and Jared Allen won’t return, the Vikings have made Everson Griffen a top priority.

Griffen was a third-round pick who slipped because of character concerns and poor workout numbers. But with the Vikings Griffen has shown flashes, and had a strong season back in 2012 when they earned a playoff berth.

They want to lock him up before free agency starts. At the same time, the Vikings have been linked to Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, and they haven’t ruled out re-signing Allen if the price is right.

Basically, there are a lot of options for the Vikings at defensive end, so it’ll be interesting to see if they are able to sign Griffen before the start of free agency, and how big the contract is.