Just how far off are the Vikings from being a Super Bowl-caliber team?
With the amount of money the team has thrown around since the beginning of free agency, it appears the organization thinks it is close to being a legitimate contender.
The Vikings made some waves by improving their below-average wide receiver corps with the signing of Bernard Berrian to a sizeable contract. They also signed Madieu Williams, a talented safety that will most likely see some time covering receivers/back/tight ends in the slot. The team also made some minor moves in bringing in Maurice Hicks and Thomas Tapeh.
But the team has swung and missed in adressing the most glaring need: a pass rushing defensive end.
Last season, the Vikings ranked eighth in the league with 38 sacks, but a majority of them came from the linebackers.
As the New York Giants proved throughout the playoffs and into Super Bowl, a consistent pass rush by a defensive line can shut down the best of offenses, including the most prolific in NFL history.
The Vikings could have a combination of Ronnie Lott, Paul Krause, and Darrell Green in their defensive backfield and receivers would still get open if the quarterbacks have as much time as they typically did last season.
That is why if the Vikings truely think they are a contender, they must do more than draft somebody at that position, like most mock drafts project.
Rumors have been flying that Miami’s Jason Taylor wants out whether they are true is another story. Vice President of Football Operations Bill Parcells has repeatedly stated that Taylor will stay with the Dolphins, but saying that they are shopping him would drop Taylor’s return value.
It seems that Taylor is on his way out.
Why would the rebuilding ‘Fins opt to hang on to a fading veteran when they could get a couple of draft picks in a trade and give a younger player valuable starting time?
Two weeks ago, it was reported that Miami would ask for second- and fourth-round draft picks in exchange for Taylor.
That is too high of a price, but if the Vikings think they are close to becoming a force in the NFC, some deal needs to be worked out. Adding his 11 sacks from 2007 would be a big boost to the defense.
It all comes back to, just how close is this team? Does it make sense to give up potential long-term health in an attempt to win this season?
Even without a feared pass rush, the defense is good enough to get the Vikings to the playoffs. But just like in the recent past (think 34-doughnut against Green Bay last season, or 31-7 against New England in 2006) the defense will never be able shut down a good passing offense. Adding Taylor could give the Vikings one of the most elite defenses in the league for 2008.
But there is another side to the coin. Would the defense be good enough to pull off a Baltimore Ravens-like run to win the Super Bowl? In 2000, the Ravens won the championship by almost exclusively riding their defense.
Minnesota’s defense will not be that good, but their offense might be a little better than what Baltimore had to offer that season.
If Travaris Jackson can take another step forward in his progression to become a competent quarterback, this team is definitely good enough to make the playoffs.
The Vikings should make a serious pitch to the Dolphins for Taylor. Having a former all-pro defensive end will solve many questions for the upcoming season. I might take that for a draft pick or two, considering the Vikings don’t have many legitimate options at that position.
The North Division is wide open and the Vikings could easily win it. With a solid defense that has Taylor harassing the opponents’ quarterback, I would take my chances in the playoffs. And the best part about having a winning team . . . no worries about blackouts.