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Shutdown Corner

Shutdown Corner Offseason Blueprints: Minnesota Vikings

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

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Mike Zimmer (USA Today Sports Images)

After the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, all 32 teams officially entered the offseason and started plotting how they could position themselves for a shot at Super Bowl XLIX. Shutdown Corner will look at the offseason blueprint for each of the 32 NFL teams, presenting one team a day (using the 2014 draft order, starting with the Houston Texans and finishing with the Seahawks), leading you right up to the start of free agency on March 11.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

2013 record: 5-10-1

Projected current salary-cap space (according to Spotrac): $29.0 million

Key free agents: QB Matt Cassel, QB Josh Freeman, RB Toby Gerhart, WR Jerome Simpson, OG Charlie Johnson, DE Jared Allen, DE Everson Griffen, DT Kevin Williams, NT Fred Evans, CB Chris Cook.

Possible salary-cap casualties: QB Christian Ponder, LB Chad Greenway

Draft situation: Have eighth overall pick, own all of their picks plus additional third-rounder from Seahawks in Percy Harvin trade

Revisiting 2013: The Vikings opened the season with three close losses, and after getting off to a 1-7 start, the memories of a 10-win season, a playoff appearance and Adrian Peterson's magical run at a hallowed NFL record in 2012 were distant at best. The team started three quarterbacks during the season, and despite late signs of life — victories over the playoff-contending Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions — it wasn't enough to save Leslie Frazier's job.

Reasons for optimism: This might be new head coach Mike Zimmer first crack at being a head man, but he's a no-nonsense veteran who could whip into mental sharpness a locker room that might have been a little lax at times under Frazier's watch. You'd have to think that Peterson remains at the peak of his powers, and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner should be able to use him and electric young receiver Cordarelle Patterson in exciting and fresh ways. There's plenty of cap space to attack needs in free agency and four draft picks in the top 100 to help replenish a roster that needs refining in spots.

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Matt Cassel (USA Today Sports Images)

Glaring hole to fill: The one quarterback on the roster currently, Ponder, is almost certain to be sent packing. The most effective of the three who played last season, Cassel opted out of his deal, leaving $3.7 million on the table in the process, and he's no guarantee to return. The team has the eighth pick in the draft and should be able to draft one of the top four quarterbacks available. But will it be the one whom Zimmer, Turner and GM Rick Spielman covet the most? The Vikings might need to package some picks to move up and get their guy to be sure. The free-agent and trade markets at the position are underwhelming, unless they can bring back Cassel.

Toughest decision: Four of the top six defensive linemen on the depth chart are up for free agency, and not all of them will be back. Allen appears to be gone. Williams might be back on a short-term deal, but he's turning 34 in the preseason. Fred Evans is a few years younger but in a similar situation. Griffen is 26 and could look to cash in. There has been talk of Zimmer wanting to run a 3-4 defense — if so, where would recently re-signed Brian Robison fit? The team has a piece to build around in 2012 first-rounder Sharrif Floyd, but he didn't make enough of an impression in Year 1 to ensure future greatness by any means. How the Vikings manage this position will be crucial this offseason.

Best-case offseason scenario: The Vikings must determine their starting quarterback, and the hope is that whoever it is will be in that spot for longer than just a placeholder position for a year or two. The Vikings have not developed a young quarterback into being a top-rate starter since Daunte Culpepper, and the soon-to-be-32-year-old Cassel only would be a stop-gap solution. They must help repair the defense on all three levels, retain a few key pieces and bolster the offensive line while Peterson remains in top form. Otherwise, the Vikings should entertain the idea of trading him, as painful an idea as that might be to the local fan base.

Previous Blueprints: 32. Houston Texans; 31. Washington Redskins; 30. Jacksonville Jaguars; 29. Cleveland Browns; 28. Oakland Raiders; 27. Atlanta Falcons; 26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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