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Minnesota Vikings' Top 5 Remaining Offseason Priorities

Mike NelsonCorrespondent IApril 3, 2014

Minnesota Vikings' Top 5 Remaining Offseason Priorities

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    Toby Gerhart's departure created a hole in the backfield that hasn't yet been filled.
    Toby Gerhart's departure created a hole in the backfield that hasn't yet been filled.Mike McGinnis

    It started with a lull. Then, it picked up. Now, we're in another lull. 

    The Minnesota Vikings offseason has been quite the roller-coaster ride. 

    Expect the actual moves to be pretty quiet leading up to the NFL draft, but look for the hype and speculation surrounding the NFL draft and the Vikings' expectations for it to continue to heat up. 

    With the No. 8 pick, a dire need at quarterback and some controversial prospects at that position atop the draft, the Vikings' name will be discussed heavily in the upcoming weeks. 

    The Vikings have addressed many of their needs this offseason with some of their moves, but there are still some deficiencies that have yet to be addressed. 

    The offseason isn't young. But it's not in its deathbed yet, especially with the draft fast approaching. 

    The purpose of this slideshow is to analyze moves the Vikings need yet to complete their offseason. 

    The following five slides lay out moves that are still needed to complete the roster and put the Vikings in the best position entering OTAs and training camp. The slides aren't listed in any particular order and are not all-encompassing relative to what needs to be done this offseason (that would be a very long slideshow).

Draft a Quarterback

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    Johnny Manziel is a hot topic with the Minnesota Vikings based upon Mike Zimmer's comments.
    Johnny Manziel is a hot topic with the Minnesota Vikings based upon Mike Zimmer's comments.Patric Schneider

    Analyzing this position for the Vikings has been a roller-coaster ride the past few seasons. Look for 2014 to continue that trend. 

    The Vikings inked Matt Cassel to a two-year, $10.5 million contract his offseason, and he appears set to enter this season as the starting quarterback. 

    The big question is whether Christian Ponder, the former future face of the franchise who has all but fizzled out within the organization, enters training camp as the No. 2 or third-string quarterback.

    It is expected that Minnesota, in some capacity, will address the position in the 2014 NFL draft. Now, whether that's with the No. 8 pick or a seventh-round selection remains to be seen. 

    But very few NFL teams enter a campaign with just two quarterbacks. And the ones that do typically have an Aaron Rodgers or a Drew Brees manning the position. Not a Matt Cassel. 

    Look for the position to be addressed. But it's too tough to tell in what capacity it will since NFL draft projections are like a living organism that varies on a daily basis. 

Get Depth at Linebacker

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    Jasper Brinkley has returned to the Vikings linebacking corps.
    Jasper Brinkley has returned to the Vikings linebacking corps.Associated Press

    Erin Henderson, gone. 

    Desmond Bishop, likely gone. 

    Marvin Mitchell, likely gone. 

    Welcome back, Jasper Brinkley!

    It's been a big offseason of change at the linebacker position. 

    It is expected that Brinkley, in addition to Audie Cole and Michael Mauti, will compete for the starting middle linebacker spot. 

    It is also expected that, at this time, Gerald Hodges (a 2013 fourth-round pick) is slated to start at outside linebacker. He recorded just five tackles last season. 

    There is much uncertainty surrounding the corps as a whole, and it is expected that the Vikings will address the position (either inside or outside linebacker) early in the draft. 

    Chad Greenway is entrenched at the other outside linebacker spot, which leaves just Larry Dean as the lone other linebacker on the roster with NFL experience.

Accumulate Depth at Defensive End

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    Everson Griffen is no longer the third wheel at defensive end.
    Everson Griffen is no longer the third wheel at defensive end.Ann Heisenfelt

    It's been an offseason of change for Minnesota on the defensive line. 

    Kevin Williams is all but done as a Viking. And Jared Allen signed with the division-rival Chicago Bears

    The Vikings didn't stand pat. They dumped big dollars into the up-and-coming Everson Griffen. 

    Griffen, who had played third wheel to the Allen and Brian Robison show, is now on center stage and expected to perform. 

    But what we really don't know at this point is how the Vikings plan to fill in their depth chart behind Robison and Griffen. 

    Corey Wootton was signed from the Bears. The 26-year-old defensive end started 15 of 16 games last season for the Bears, recording 34 tackles and three sacks in that span. 

    He could be the Vikings' third defensive end, but Minnesota invested just a one-year contract and $1.5 million into the former Northwestern Wildcat. 

    If the Vikings feel there isn't a player at a position of need available in the second or third round, they may consider a defensive end they feel provides good value at that spot. 

    Regardless, the position could use some more cushion. 

    There are five defensive ends on the roster who combine for 22 years of NFL experience, and that includes 13 years of experience between Griffen and Robison. 

Find a Third Running Back

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    Matt Asiata is in line to replace Toby Gerhart as the Vikings' No. 2 tailback.
    Matt Asiata is in line to replace Toby Gerhart as the Vikings' No. 2 tailback.Jim Mone

    Toby Gerhart's signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars sets the Vikings back. 

    But depending on your view of Matt Asiata, that's either a big deal or a blip on the radar. 

    Asiata, a 26-year-old and two-year NFL vet, turned heads last season in limited duty. He rushed for 115 yards on 14 carries in the season finale and accumulated three rushing touchdowns on 30 carries in a 48-30 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last season. 

    And there's a hope that Asiata, 6'0" and 234 pounds, can be the third-down back that Gerhart was. 

    If you buy that, then the Vikings need to find a third-string running back. 

    As the Star Tribune notes, that guy could already be on the roster in the form of Joe Banyard or Bradley Randle

    But the Vikings likely will, and should, either draft a running back in the later round of the draft, take a flier on a veteran looking for work or grab some undrafted free agents. 

    And the approach you think they should take depends on your view of Asiata. 

    My money is that the Vikings believe in Asiata as their No. 2 back for 2014. That means they need to find their No. 3 tailback, which could come in any of the forms just mentioned. 

    Regardless, there should be at least one other running back added to the roster before all is said and done.

Figure out the Left Guard Situation

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    Charlie Johnson was re-signed by the Vikings, but is he still the starter?
    Charlie Johnson was re-signed by the Vikings, but is he still the starter?Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Charlie Johnson struggled for most of the 2013 season as the Vikings' starting left guard. 

    Pro Football Focus suggested that Johnson's best role moving forward was to be a backup utility lineman.

    Minnesota re-signed him this offseason to a two-year, $5 million contract. At that rate, it's not guaranteed he'll start. But it suggests that it's leaning that way.

    The Vikings don't have a clear successor to Johnson, should he not be the guy in 2014. 

    Jeff Baca was a sixth-round selection of the Vikings in 2013 and is expected to compete for the job. 

    But it would seem the position could be addressed early in the 2014 draft, depending on how the draft shakes out. Then again, the Vikings could believe in Johnson having a bounce-back effort in 2014 or in Baca developing into an abnormal sixth-round pick. 

    We'll get a better idea after the draft as to how the Vikings view this position. 

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