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If you could pick one offensive and one defensive player from the Vikings proud past that would best increase the chances of the 2020 team winning the Super Bowl, who would you take?
A couple of assumptions:
—The season is played as normal (No COVID-19).
—The players selected are in the prime of their careers.
—They played enough of their careers in Purple to be called "Vikings" (no Brett Favre or Warren Moon).
Remember, the picks will be replacing a current player so Paul Krause would bench Harrison Smith or Anthony Harris. My favorites are Randall McDaniel and Alan Page. Who do you have?
— Dave Bakke in Brandon, South Dakota
Thanks for the email, Dave, and the great question! I threw this question around to one of my colleagues, and we had a fun chat about it, much like I'm sure you and your buddies do when debating such an interesting topic.
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel.
We'll start with the one player on offense, and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm going to steal your answer in Randall McDaniel. There's a two-part answer to this, and the main one is that the Vikings aren't settled on either guard spot at this point as we head into training camp and the season. There are a host of players who will compete for those spots in Pat Elflein, Dru Samia, Aviante Collins and Dakota Dozier. No disrespect to them, but they simply aren't on McDaniel's level, and they would probably admit that themselves.
Heck, it's tough to find fellow Hall of Famers who could compete with McDaniel's resumé in the NFL. He played 12 seasons in Purple and made the Pro Bowl in the 11 seasons after his rookie year. He then went to Tampa Bay for the final two seasons of his career, making the Pro Bowl his first year as a Buccaneer to extend his streak to 12 straight seasons.
By the time his incredible NFL career was over, McDaniel had started 202 consecutive games and earned a spot on Pro Football Hall of Fame's Team of the Decade for the 1990s. He blocked for five 1,000-yard rushers in his career and four 3,000-yard passers and was simply a model of consistency each and every game he suited up for.
View the Vikings rookie records for most points and most touchdowns scored in a season.
Defensively, I weighed a few options here, including any member of the Purple People Eaters, or other Hall of Famers such as Chris Doleman and John Randle. But since the Vikings cornerback group is short on experience, and we're picking players in their prime, give me cornerback Antoine Winfield.
Winfield could play on the outside or at the nickel spot under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, and he would bring instant leadership and play-making ability to a cornerback room whose most experienced player is Holton Hill with 24 career games.
Winfield enjoyed a notable 14-season NFL career that included 2004-12 with the Vikings, a span highlighted by three Pro Bowl appearances from 2008-10. And while he stood at just 5-foot-9, he more than held his own on the field.
He had a nose for the ball with 27 career interceptions, including two that were returned for scores. He forced 14 fumbles in his career, and had 11 career fumble recoveries, taking two of them back for touchdowns. But he is most known for his feistiness, as he could hang with bigger wide receivers and also come down and be physical in the run game.
In short, he would fit in perfectly in the modern NFL, likely thrive under Zimmer and be a veteran leader at a position where the Vikings are currently short on game experience.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of September 20, 2020.
I have heard that the number 97 is still not assigned to a player. What are the chances that the previous owner (Everson Griffen) returns to the team to wear that number and finish a fine career as a Viking?
— Brian in Pierre, South Dakota
Lots of love from South Dakota in this edition of the Mailbag.
But yes, Brian, you are correct that No. 97 is still available on the Vikings roster. Free-agent addition Michael Pierce wore No. 97 with Baltimore, but he switched to No. 98 with the Vikings. So, not only will he be tasked with replacing Linval Joseph's production on the field, but he'll be wearing Big Goon's old number, too.
As for Everson, that status remains the same as the previous other times I have been asked about him in the Mailbag. As of today, he is currently a free agent after choosing to void his contract with the Vikings in March. As I've mentioned before, he knows the scheme and the players and coaches in Minnesota, so the transition would be minimal. However, the two sides would have to agree on a fair contract, which sometimes takes some work.
And perhaps Everson is just ready for a new chapter in his career? He is beloved by fans and teammates. We'll be sure to let you know if anything develops with him in the near future.