Vikings coach Leslie Frazier told reporters last week at the NFL scouting combine that the team was going to try to upgrade its defensive line, either through the draft or free agency. Frazier was not happy that the Vikings' four-year streak of finishing first or second in the NFL against the run ended last season as the team fell to ninth.
"That's a scenario where we want to do some things that can really help our defensive line," said Frazier, who started last season as defensive coordinator and ended as head coach. "We're aging at one of the spots, we need to do some things to improve. One of the mantras has been being good against the run, stopping the run. We've kind of slipped a little bit, so we have to take a look at some things and see what we have to do to improve in that area."
Although Frazier never said Pat Williams' name when he broached the subject of an aging player, he clearly was talking about the 38-year-old nose tackle. Williams is likely to depart in free agency whenever that period begins. The Vikings also could lose starting left end Ray Edwards and his backup, Brian Robison, as free agents depending on what happens with the labor situation.
The good news is that this draft class of defensive linemen is considered to be extremely deep. While the Vikings could be in the market for an end, Frazier focused his comments on the tackle spot, mentioning Fred Evans, Letroy Guion and Jimmy Kennedy. Evans, however, also could end up a free agent.
"Some day, Pat is going to retire, and somebody's got to be able to step into that role," Frazier said. "He's been a great, great player for us for a number of years. But we need a young guy to step up, and we've got to determine whether that's Letroy or whether that's Fred or whether we've got to draft someone."
• Linebacker Chad Greenway signed his franchise tender with the Vikings on Tuesday, meaning he could stand to make around $10 million on a one-year deal in 2011. The question is whether the franchise tag will hold up under the terms of the yet-to-be negotiated collective bargaining agreement. The Vikings would like to sign Greenway long-term once a new CBA is in place.