he Vikings, after a somewhat surprising 10-6 regular season and a playoff berth, now look ahead to the offseason. Here are seven topics to keep your eye on:
Harvin hasn't spoken publicly since November, before he was moved to injured reserve because of a sprained left ankle. He then quickly vanished from Winter Park. So it's hard to know exactly what the receiver is thinking about his future in Minnesota. And despite coach Leslie Frazier's assertions Tuesday that Harvin is co-existing peacefully within the team, there are still few details on what caused the receiver to angrily request a trade last June. The Vikings also have been vague explaining the full story behind the decision to end Harvin's season Dec. 5 -- with four regular-season games left and no medical information indicating his ankle injury would require surgery. To be clear, Harvin is not considered a divisive force by teammates. He's just a moody guy whom the Vikings have learned to give space to when needed. Now the receiver, the coaching staff and the front office must try to get on the same page with what they want. Best-case scenario: Harvin is awarded a long-term contract extension and all is hunky-dory. But if a serious disconnect remains, don't be surprised if the Vikings are receptive to trade talks.
Eight players now under contract for next season will be 30 or older, including soon-to-turn 30-year-olds Chad Greenway, Brian Robison and Fred Evans. The two oldest players -- cornerback Antoine Winfield and defensive tackle Kevin Williams -- will be 36 and 33, respectively. Winfield is scheduled to make $7.2 million in Year 15, while Williams is due $8 million in his 11th season. And although the Vikings are in the midst of a youth movement, Frazier wants both graybeards back because of their level of play and their leadership. "The intangible in this is a big deal when you're trying to get the locker room the way you want it," Frazier said. "To have star players with the demeanor and the leadership qualities that they both possess helped our football team in 2012. ... That's something that we're going to talk about when we have our personnel meetings with [General Manager] Rick [Spielman]. ... I want them to remain Minnesota Vikings. They are great, great players and great people as well."
The Vikings own the No. 23 pick in the first round and should have seven other selections, but are unlikely to pick up any compensatory picks in March. The needs are obvious. A playmaking outside receiver is a must. And if the Vikings don't go the free agency route, here are a few intriguing possibilities in Round 1: Baylor's Terrance Williams, Southern Cal's Robert Woods, Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins and Tennessee's Justin Hunter. The Vikings also will aim to bolster their depth in the linebacking corps, search for additional help at defensive tackle and continue to stockpile quality secondary players.
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The most notable names on the list: fullback Jerome Felton, right tackle Phil Loadholt, middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, safety Jamarca Sanford, outside linebacker Erin Henderson and receiver Jerome Simpson. Felton, a surprise Pro Bowler this season, has made it clear he doesn't want to test the open market, 100 percent happy here and wants to stick around. The Vikings should get something done there before March. Loadholt is the next most likely player to be locked up before free agency begins. Sanford is also a favorite among teammates and coaches. The other three might be allowed to at least hit the market in March. Other unrestricted free agents are receiver Devin Aromashodu, linebacker Marvin Mitchell, and offensive linemen Joe Berger and Geoff Schwartz.
Christian Ponder's role will not change. Period. "He's our starter [for 2013]," Frazier said Tuesday while praising the way Ponder helped the Vikings finish 4-0 to reach 10 wins and the playoffs. Ironically, the arm injury that kept Ponder out of Saturday night's playoff loss at Green Bay could very well cost backup Joe Webb his job. Thrust into an incredibly difficult test on the road, Webb failed miserably. Three days later, Frazier sympathized with Webb but clearly left the door ajar to make changes behind Ponder. "[Webb will] be a guy that will compete for the No. 2 spot again next year, barring something that we may end up doing in our personnel meetings," Frazier said. "But we'll discuss Joe's position and everyone's position in our personnel meetings and then we'll make a decision what's best." It sure sounds like a change is coming behind Ponder.
After facing an endless line of questioning last week about finishing 9 yards shy of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record, Peterson has set a new goal. He plans to obliterate Eric Dickerson's record in 2013, now aiming for -- wait for it -- 2,500 rushing yards. It's an outlandish goal. But only if you're thinking logically without understanding the mental powers of Adrian Peterson. Which is why teammates hear the 2,500-yard target and nod. "I think it's doable," Felton said. At this point, if Peterson said he could fix the budget deficit or repair the ozone, he'd have an undoubting legion of followers. In truth, chasing 1,800 yards next fall might be a more reasonable objective. Most importantly, those questions from 365 days ago on whether Peterson would ever be the same after major knee surgery have been answered.
Coaching staffs rarely stay completely intact from year to year, but Frazier said his hope is to keep this group together for 2013. That's understandable considering the seven-win improvement from 2011 to 2012. "Our coaches did a great job," Frazier said. "Barring someone getting a promotion, I'm hoping all our guys are back. They did a terrific job." Meanwhile, Frazier confirmed that two of his assistants -- linebackers coach and special assistant to the head coach Mike Singletary and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer -- will interview for the Bears' vacant head coaching position. Singletary played his Hall of Fame career in Chicago and was San Francisco's head coach from the final nine games of 2008 to the 15th game in 2010. Priefer, whose NFL coaching career began in 2002 in Jacksonville, coordinated one of the league's best special teams units this season.