INDIANAPOLIS – Hello from the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, where the offseason begins in earnest. 

From @ASinnen: We all obviously know how bad O-line help is needed (@RandBall), but where else do you see the Vikings targeting to upgrade via draft or free agency?

AK: Before the Vikings’ own departures are settled, I’d say backup running back, defensive tackle, linebacker and receiver would near the top of my list. Given Cook’s early injury history, his backup may become a priority. After the season, Latavius Murray said he wants to start somewhere in 2019, but the free agent will have to go elsewhere to do so. Mike Boone and Roc Thomas flashed some as rookies, but new talent could be coming. Vikings brass will meet with representatives of linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson this week in Indianapolis. Even if they re-sign Barr or Richardson (or somehow both?), depth could still be addressed. Changes could also be made at kicker, punter and punt returner with Dan Bailey, Matt Wile and Marcus Sherels on expiring contracts and a new coordinator in Marwan Maalouf.  They could use an upgrade at the No. 3 receiver spot even if Aldrick Robinson is re-signed. The Vikings also have a decision to make on defensive end Everson Griffen, which we’ll outline later, but if Griffen is cut then defensive end also becomes an area to add depth.

From @SkolMitzel: Who’s harder to replace, Barr or Richardson?

AK: In my opinion, I’d say Anthony Barr would be harder to replace because of his roles in Mike Zimmer’s blitz schemes. Coaches often credit Barr for drawing much of the attention that can give his teammates better matchups. He also holds up in unheralded jobs such as communicating the defensive play calls. The Vikings had the NFL’s No. 1 defense before Sheldon Richardson’s arrival. The defense certainly benefits from his disruptive presence. But especially in a year where as many as seven defensive tackles are projected to be taken in the first round, a unique linebacker in Barr could be harder to replace.

From @crewbacker: How much confidence does the staff have in Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes at DT if Richardson is gone?

AK: The Vikings would need to add a starting-caliber player if Richardson left. Johnson played well in spurts during his second NFL season and showed promise, but it’s unlikely they’d rely on so much youth alone. Holmes, last year’s fourth-round pick, just needs to get on the field more this season. Mike Zimmer has wanted a deeper defensive line rotation, sending in as many as eight different players during the Week 1 win against San Francisco, but injuries and other factors keep derailing their plans. So expect a somewhat big addition if Richardson exits.

From @dobsy1971: When will we hear about restructuring of contracts or releases?

AK: At any point – and especially this week during the NFL’s annual convention in Indianapolis – news could leak about a restructure or release, but the Vikings are generally more methodical than not this time of year. What’s important to know are the key dates that will spurn action. One is March 11, when the negotiating window opens for free agents to talk with other teams and get contracts in place. This is when the real offers come and a team, like the cap-strapped Vikings, will need to have made cost-cutting moves to clear space. Another is March 13, the start of free agency and when Trae Waynes’ $9.069 million becomes fully guaranteed. A big one is March 15, two days into free agency and when Everson Griffen’s $10.9 million salary becomes fully guaranteed. By then the Vikings will have to decide his future with the team. Xavier Rhodes’ $10.4 million, Linval Joseph’s $8.9 million and Stefon Diggs’ $8.9 million also become fully guaranteed on March 15.

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