The first major event of the NFL offseason arrived Wednesday with the start of the Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer and many other coaches, scouts and personnel will be in attendance trying to identify the players that best fit into their system.
Spielman and Zimmer have had success finding quality talent since joining forces. They drafted linebacker Anthony Barr, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Jerick McKinnon in 2014. Last year, they added linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive end Danielle Hunter, cornerback Trae Waynes and wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
The young talent helped lead the Vikings to a NFC North championship.
Spielman could fill these holes through free agency instead of the draft. The Vikings have roughly $20 million in salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, and could create even more. Here's what the Vikings will be considering this offseason and a list of who might be cut to create more cap space.
Vikings beat writer Matt Vensel goes a step further and tells you who is in and who is out.
Free agency begins March 9 on the first official day of the 2016 league year. The Vikings have until March 1 to designate players with the franchise or transition tag, but are expected to use neither.
Spielman prefers to build a team through the draft, not free agency, and plans to stick to his core philosophy this offseason, but may “dabble” in free agency if there are players the team really covets. The GM met with the media last week and addressed a handful of highlights and concerns about his roster.
The Vikings leadership will have two months to sort through the talent they see this week at the combine. The NFL draft is April 28-30 in Chicago and the Vikings have the 23rd pick in the first round. They also own picks No. 54 and 86 in the second and third rounds. Here's a look at who the Vikings might pick in a very early mock draft.
Other important offseason dates.
Teams are allowed to hold rookie minicamps May 6-9. The Vikings will likely host OTAs in late May and early June followed by a mandatory minicamp. Training camp will begin late July in Mankato.
The NFL will release its 2016 regular season schedule in late April and put a date on the first official game at the Vikings new stadium. Their home opponents — Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Arizona and the New York Giants — have already been determined. A high-profile opponent is expected for the home opener to help attract a national TV spot. The Packers, Cardinals, Cowboys or Giants would be good candidates.
Finally, make sure you read through the complete offseason primer, a position-by-position rundown of the changes the Vikings are considering and the fine tuning that needs to be done.
Quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater was far from spectacular in his second NFL season.
Defensive linemen: This was a position of strength in 2015.
Wide receivers: The passing attack didn't pan out as expected.
Linebackers: High draft picks helped this position thrive.
Running backs: Adrian Peterson returned and re-established himself as one of the best in the game.
Offensive linemen: The biggest area of concern for the Vikings.
Defensive backs: Top pick Trae Waynes grew under the guidance of veterans.