Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings brass continues to consider its options for replacing Brett Favre and finding a potential long-term solution at quarterback. During an appearance on Mark Rosen's "Sports Sunday" show, Frazier made it clear that it hasn't been decided whether that might include looking to the free-agent market or the April draft.
"We have some time between now and the draft to kind of look at some things from a free-agent standpoint and then we'll look at some college players as well to try to make a determination: Is it better to draft a guy or is it better to maybe bring in a veteran guy to compete in training camp?" Frazier said. " ... We do not have our mind made up at all."
Frazier also indicated that Joe Webb could get a chance to compete for the job.
The QB situation was one of a variety of topics Frazier discussed with Rosen during his appearance that came on the same night Green Bay won the Super Bowl. "You have to take your hat off to them," Frazier said of the Packers. "They did a great job, had a terrific season, overcame a lot of adversity with injuries and now they are world champions."
Here are some more questions and answers from the interview.
Q. How are you and the Vikings front office approaching the offseason with so many unknowns, including the lack of a collective bargaining agreement?
Frazier: "We're trying to approach it as if things are going to get worked out. We'll find out on March 4 if that's going to be the case. [That's the day the CBA is set to expire and a lockout could begin.] If it turns out that we're able to continue on because there is an agreement in place, then we are ready to go. If that's not the case, then we'll have to be able to deal with whatever the circumstances say they are."
Q. You have a number of free agents that are going to be out there, including Chad Greenway, Ben Leber and Sidney Rice. Do you prioritize those things?
Frazier: "With our own free agents, we're able to sign our free agents [right now]. ... With our guys we're trying to put together a plan for some of them. The hard part is, without there being a CBA, you really don't know what you can talk about from a dollars and cents standpoint, so you have to be very careful."
Q. Is Joe Webb's future clearly at quarterback or is there a possibility you could move him to wide receiver?
Frazier: "Joe did some very good things for us down the stretch. Was pressed into a position of having to start in some key games. The Philadelphia game was a big game for him and for our team. We want to give him a chance to play quarterback and let him prove that he's not a quarterback. He showed some things in those two starts at the end of the season that he's capable of being a quarterback."
Q. How do you know as a coach how much time and money you want to invest in a young guy like Webb at the quarterback position? Because there are a lot of guys in the same boat around the NFL.
Frazier: "There are a lot of guys similar to Joe. But Joe has a unique skill set. The things he's able to do out of the pocket and the poise that he showed down the stretch ... you don't always see that. Especially in a rookie quarterback. So there's something there. We've just got to determine: Is it enough to help us to be in the hunt next season?"
Q. The NFC North is loaded with top quarterbacks and you are the only team that has uncertainty at the position.
Frazier: "That's one of the issues that we're dealing with. Our division is arguably now the toughest division in the league. The NFC North. When you're talking about Chicago and Green Bay playing for the NFC Championship, that tells you how tough are division is. We've got our work cut out for us and we're the one team in our division that has an unsettled quarterback situation. So we want to be able to get that fixed."
Q. Does Adrian Peterson fit the offensive philosophy that you and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave want to install for this team as you put your stamp on this offense?
Frazier: "Without question. I think every team in our league would love to have an Adrian Peterson in their backfield. We're fortunate. We feel like he's the best running back in the National Football League. There's no greater place to start your offense than with an Adrian Peterson."
Q. Are the top flight running backs getting devalued by everyone except the coaches because this has turned into such a passing league?
Frazier: "In our situation, it's unique. I don't think there's another Adrian Peterson in the league. If Green Bay or Pittsburgh had an Adrian Peterson I'm sure they would try to feature him. But it just so happens a lot more wide receivers are available and it's tougher to find enough defensive backs sometimes to cover these wide receivers. The rules being so liberal the way they are now it kind of favors the passing game. It has made it a lot tougher to defend the pass."
Q. Is it the intention of the Vikings management to have Adrian Peterson retire as a Minnesota Viking and sign a long-term contract? Peterson's deal will void after the 2011 season.
Frazier: "I think everybody in the organization would love to see Adrian retire a Minnesota Viking. That would be ideal."
Q. How about the offensive line?
Frazier: "That's an area we'll need to address, as well as what we're doing at quarterback. We want to take a look at our offensive line as well. We had some injuries, we're getting a little bit older. That's an area we'll want to take a look at also."
Q. What's on your agenda right now? Are you meeting with the scouting department, are you looking at draft choices, are you forming the board?
Frazier: "Yeah, we're actually meeting with Rick Spielman [the Vikings' vice president of player personnel] and Scott Studwell [the Vikings' director of college scouting] and their staff and just being able to get a good handle on the college players. Most recently at the Senior Bowl, being able to watch the college players and get a feel for them and start the evaluation process. As coaches we've been kind of out of the loop on that because of what we had to do in our season. So now we get a chance to prepare for the combine [later this month in Indianapolis]. We've got to go there and be able to scout players. Eventually we'll be going to college campuses to prepare for the draft and then try to identify the guys that can help us next season."
Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel, did an in-studio interview with KFAN's Paul Allen on Thursday morning and touched on a number of subjects.
Spielman said the personnel department and coaching staff conducted 93 interviews at the Senior Bowl recently as part of their evaluation process in preparation for the draft. Here are some of the highlights from Spielman's interview.
The Vikings have interest in signing CFL sacks leader Phillip Hunt but that doesn't mean a deal is going to get done.
Among the factors for the defensive end is the threat of an NFL work stoppage. Hunt led the CFL with 16 sacks this past season and does not want to put himself in a position where he signs a deal but then doesn't get paid when the season begins because of a lockout. At this point, a lockout stands to start in early March.
"I want a signing bonus worth enough that me and my family could live off it for the season just in case the NFL goes into a lockout or if things don't pan out and I come back to the CFL during the season," Hunt told the Winnipeg Free Press. "I want to have enough so that my family has some stability. The Bombers are a great safety net for me right now but I can't see myself putting that in jeopardy for an NFL tryout without a signing bonus.
He drew interest from many teams but signed a four-year, $4.9 million deal that included a $1 million signing bonus with the Dolphins in January 2009. Wake, who has moved to outside linebacker in the NFL, had 5.5 sacks in 2009 with the Dolphins but finished third in the NFL this season with 14.
The Vikings likely will need to add depth at defensive end with Ray Edwards and Brian Robison potentially headed for unrestricted free agency, depending on what happens with the collective bargaining agreement.
Asked about the 6-foot-1, 248-pound Hunt at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Vikings coach Leslie Frazier told Viking Update: “We liked his burst and the way he gets off the football. As you know, one of the things that we’re trying to find all the time is pass rushers. He showed a propensity to be able to do that. Not that he’ll be – everybody wants to compare the Canadian guys to Cameron Wake -- but he has some qualities that we think really fit our scheme."
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