When the Vikings have made major splashes in free agency in recent years, they have done it early on in the process. We're thinking specifically here of Steve Hutchinson, Ryan Longwell, Antoine Winfield and Bernard Berrian -- all of them were locked down in March during their respective free agent years. (Brett Favre? Not so much. But he's the exception to many rules).

The convenience, of course, of getting the bulk of your free agency shopping done early is that you then can fill around that via the draft.

This is not a new concept. But as we've been thinking about and as was noted by our Vikings guys today, the labor woes in the NFL are particularly inconvenient for the Vikings -- both in terms of how much they need to remake their roster and in terms of how they have preferred to do things in recent years.

As summed up by our guys:

At issue is whether a new CBA will be in place before the draft, which seems unlikely. If not, that could influence teams' decisions in the draft because of the uncertainty of free agency.

Last year, coming off a 12-4 season with virtually every "key piece" coming back, the Vikings barely made a ripple in free agency (and didn't seem particularly interested in making major upgrades in the draft either). The ripple effect of the labor unrest would have been far more limited then.

But now, with questions looming at tons of positions, what do the Vikings do? Draft the best players available regardless of position and hope to fill around them later in free agency if that period does, indeed, come afterwards? Alter their strategy to fill key positions of need in case they get shut out in the open market?

We're not sure what the answer is. But we're pretty sure the timing of all this, should it play out the way people expect, couldn't be much worse for Minnesota.

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