Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is aware of how difficult replacing 12 players on a 53-man roster can be. Already this offseason, the Vikings have seen eight free agents leave, two players released, Chad Greenway retire and Adrian Peterson have his option declined.

Still after an 8-8 finish, Zimmer said that getting too caught up in who the team has lost might not be the most important takeaway.

"We're going to miss those players. You get attached to all those guys," Zimmer said. "But I do think in order to improve at some point, you have to move on and try to kind of change things a little bit. We're going to miss some of those guys, probably all of them, but I know [General Manager] Rick [Spielman] has done a good job of adding guys.

"Two tackles, Riley Reiff has done a really nice job in Detroit. Mike Remmers. They're both tough guys who are going to fight you all game long. Datone Jones, an inside defensive player, who has the ability to swing to a defensive end. Then Latavius Murray, he is a guy who has been a Pro Bowl running back, big, physical guy, and a great kid. We're looking forward to it, to get going in the season. A lot of new faces, and exciting times."

Asked about losing Peterson, Zimmer said: "It was just one of those deals where Rick, as we started getting going and talking about things, we're trying to get a little younger and trying to move from there. You know Adrian is a great player, always going to be a great Viking, it's just sometimes those things happen."

Adjusting the offensive line

The Vikings' primary concern heading into the offseason was their offensive line. There's still a lot of decisions to be made. In Reiff and Remmers, Zimmer saw their positive attributes but did acknowledge that they both may have weaknesses in the pass game.

"They're kind of the mentality that we're trying to get there with the offensive line, big, tough, smart guys," he said. "They're going to play every single play. They're not going to miss games. They're going to fight until the bitter end. I think those guys will fit in well. I think they should help us in the run game and run blocking, and there's going to be some time in pass protection that they'll struggle, but I know they're going to go out there and fight like crazy."

One of the question marks is whether or not Nick Easton can start at center. If the Harvard product can make that move it would free the Vikings to move Joe Berger around.

"There's a possibility of that scenario. We're really pleased with the way Nick Easton went in and played towards the latter half of the season last year, and Berger at guard, as well," Zimmer said. "Easton is another guy, very smart, very tough, he's a guy that is going to get the last push in all the time. I think that bodes well for him as well.

"We have [Alex] Boone at the other guard, and we're looking to get these guys that they're going to try to bring the mentality back that we're trying to achieve."

Defensive changes

On defense, Zimmer said bringing back Terence Newman, one of the few free agents to return to the Vikings and long a favorite of Zimmer's, wasn't a tough decision.

"Terence is an unbelievable kid," he said of the 38-year-old, 15-year veteran. "He's extremely hard-working. He takes good care of his body. I've told him all along that he's going to coach for me whenever he's done playing, whenever that is. Hopefully he has another great year this year.

"And I thought he played well, since he came in here he has played well, and you know, he's a good leader and a good voice in the locker room."

Newman's leadership will be all the more important with Greenway's retirement, but Zimmer also believes that linebacking group is ready to have Anthony Barr and Erik Kendricks emerge as young team leaders.

"Those two guys I'm really happy with, and obviously there's always things they have to work on but they're two very talented guys," Zimmer said. "They're two guys that care an awful lot about the club, not only the Vikings but the team, the organization and the fans as well. That's a good starting point, to have those two guys.

"Kendricks played outstanding, I thought, this year in his second year. And so you know we're going to have to find another guy. We're also going to have to find another nickelback [to replace Captain Munnerlyn]. In the one position that Greenway played he kind of split time with the nickelback, so those two spots we're going to have to shore up."

While seemingly everyone has focused on free agency and the draft, Zimmer did hint some practice squad players could be ready to fill in.

"I still like Isaac Fruechte, the wide receiver from Minnesota," Zimmer said. "He got a chance to play late in the year. I think he has a chance to help us. [Defensive end] Stephen Weatherly … he was a guy that really improved throughout the season. He's big, strong, he earned his rushes. I'm excited to see how he comes along, as well.

"Some of those young guys are going to get their opportunity. As you said, we lost eight guys."

Yes the Vikings are going to have to get creative as they fill holes this season, but luckily they have Zimmer at the top controlling that process.


• Byron Buxton hit leadoff for most of his time in the minors, but Twins manager Paul Molitor said Friday he didn't expect he would have the center fielder hitting first. Earlier, new Twins boss Derek Falvey said: "Buck has the skills and ability to hit almost anywhere in the lineup. We know he has power, we know he can run, he plays on the defensive side and plays good defense. We just want to make sure that he's playing and he's himself."

• Michael Cuddyer, working with the Twins this spring, compared the team's current batch of prospects to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Twins struggled but ultimately had a run of great success. "You're going to take some lumps when you have young players, but when you have young players that are as talented as these guys are, there's no better place to learn the game of Major League Baseball than in the major leagues," Cuddyer said.

• Still without an NFL team, Adrian Peterson disputed an report that he is demanding at least an $8 million salary to play this season. On social media, the 32-year-old former Vikings running back wrote Friday night: "The last thing I'm worried about is playing ball this coming season ... that WILL HAPPEN! It's not all about the money as EVERYONE is speculating lately." He later added in his statement, "I'm in no rush."

• It looks like the Gophers football team is going to have issues on both sides of the line, having lost three starters to transfers this offseason, including defensive lineman Gaelin Elmore this past week. The Gophers most likely will have to count on four offensive line recruits and six defensive line recruits in the 2017 class to fill out the depth chart.

• The Wisconsin men's basketball team's senior class, which went to four Sweet 16s and two Final Fours, could have included Minnetonka's Riley Dearring, but the 6-5 guardleft the Badgers in December 2015 and ended up at Cal State Fullerton, where he played six games this season.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: