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Lunchbreak: ESPN's Barnwell Suggests Offseason Moves for Vikings

Posted Feb 16, 2017

The NFL offseason is about to be in full swing.

The 2017 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off in two weeks from Indianapolis, with free agency set to open on March 9. Then the countdown is on to the 2017 NFL Draft, which is the final week of April.

With NFL executives and front office personnel about to get busy, ESPN.com writer Bill Barnwell offered up his thoughts on five moves each team could make this offseason.

Barnwell’s first suggested order of business is to improve an offensive line that struggled with consistency and health in 2016.

He wrote:

Regardless of who lines up in the backfield, the Vikings need to do more to repair a porous offensive line, especially at the tackle spots. The problem, of course, is that they're already down a first-round pick by virtue of the Bradford trade, although they have extra selections in the third and fourth rounds thanks to a trade with the Dolphins.

In addition to whatever they do in the draft, the Vikings need veteran solutions now to build a functional offense. Maybe they use one of those picks to acquire a left tackle.

Barnwell also said the Vikings should lock up cornerback Xavier Rhodes with a contract extension. 

Perpetually one of the league's most underrated cornerbacks, Rhodes is a Pro Bowl-caliber player who was finally recognized as such in 2016. NFL.com noted that Rhodes led the league in passer rating allowed this season, and while individual cornerback statistics are perpetually a work in progress, Rhodes' play on tape matches the numbers. 

Rhodes, a former first-round pick, led the Vikings with five interceptions in 2016 and made the first Pro Bowl of his career.

Hartman: Vikings could look to 1973 team for perspective

Plenty of Vikings fans hope Minnesota can duplicate what the Falcons just did — make a Super Bowl run after starting 5-0 and finishing 8-8 the year before.

But Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman says there’s another team the Vikings could look to for perspective — Minnesota’s 1973 squad.

In 1972, the Vikings made a trade to bring back Fran Tarkenton to go along with a stout defense. The pieces never clicked as Minnesota finished 7-7 and in third place in the NFC Central.

Hartman wrote:

But if you look at the ’73 season and how Tarkenton performed in his second year back with the Vikings, you can see how quickly a turnaround can happen when you have a quality quarterback.

The ’73 Vikings drafted running back Chuck Foreman in the first round but didn’t make any drastic changes to a team that already had a dominant defense.

Minnesota made the Super Bowl after that 1973 season, a goal that Hartman said the Vikings should aim for with quarterback Sam Bradford, like Tarkenton, in his second season with the offense.

The Vikings finished 8-8 and in third place in the NFC North in Bradford’s first season.

Hartman said:

If the Vikings are looking for a team to model themselves after for 2017, it doesn’t have to be the 2016 Falcons. The 1973 Vikings, who had an established, veteran quarterback in his second season with the team and one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history, is a clear and easy comparison.

They already have the most vital members of a strong defense assembled, and if Bradford can have similar success to what we saw from him this season, it’s easy to believe the Vikings could be Super Bowl contenders next season.