Defense Gets Attention in Second Wave
Michael Boulware (Getty)
Michael Boulware (Getty)

Posted Mar 28, 2008


The Vikings’ first free-agent signing came at fullback and their most recognizable free agent was wide receiver Bernard Berrian, but the second wave of free agency added depth on defense.

The Vikings continued to be busy in the second wave of free agency signing defensive linemen Kenderick Allen and Ellis Wyms, linebackers Derrick Pope and Dallas Sartz, safety Michael Boulware, and cornerback Benny Sapp.

The versatile Wyms, who spent last season with Seattle, can be used as a pass-rusher off the end and also has the ability to play the nose and the 3-technique spots inside.

Pope will be used behind starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson but is likely to find himself backing up all three positions. The former Miami Dolphin also will strengthen the Vikings’ special teams. Sartz, meanwhile, is a street free agent and will provide depth in training camp.

Boulware provides depth at the safety spot and also will be used on special teams. He didn’t return to the Houston Texans in part because the team wanted to use him at linebacker and not safety.

Sapp, meanwhile, likely will compete with Charles Gordon and Marcus McCauley for a spot in the nickel package.

TEAM NEEDS

While the additions of Kenderick Allen and Ellis Wyms begins to add depth at defensive end, the Vikings need more help in this area. Starting left end Kenechi Udeze will miss the 2008 season after being diagnosed with leukemia and right end Erasmus James’ immediate future is uncertain as he tries to return from knee problems.

That leaves the Vikings with a defensive end corps that includes Ray Edwards, Jayme Mitchell, Brian Robison, Otis Grigsby and Wyms. There remains an outside chance that unrestricted free agent Darrion Scott could return and the team had an interest in free agent James Hall before he re-signed with St. Louis.

1. Defensive end: The Vikings were hoping to lure a free-agent such as Justin Smith, Antwan Odom or Jevon Kearse, but all three ended up elsewhere. The addition of versatile free-agent Ellis Wyms, who can play inside and outside, should help. However, the Vikings must continue to address this area and likely will do so through the draft.

2. Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson is all but guaranteed the starting job, but if Jackson falters the Vikings could be in big trouble. And they know it. Brooks Bollinger is currently the No. 2 quarterback but doesn’t figure to remain in that role. The team continues to explore its options to bring in someone else at this position to at least push Jackson. The latest candidate is Gus Frerotte, who is contemplating his options.

3. Offensive line: The Vikings are set with their starters but depth is an issue and needs to be addressed. Center Matt Birk will be entering his 11th season and doesn’t have a true backup. News that Birk is skipping the Vikings’ voluntary offseason workouts also isn’t a good sign. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie’s recent legal troubles in Miami have left the Vikings’ brass frustrated and could mean the NFL will take disciplinary action against him. If McKinnie is suspended, his replacement would be Artis Hicks. That’s far from an ideal situation. NOTES

  • LB Chad Greenway played last season about 10 pounds lighter than normal in hopes he would reduce strain on his surgically repaired left knee. The plan worked as Greenway had no problems with the knee he injured in the first game of the 2006 preseason. Now he’s hoping to spend this offseason putting some weight back on his 6-2 frame. Greenway’s weight has been listed at 242 pounds since the Vikings took him in the first round in 2006.

  • DE Erasmus James, who is rehabbing from a third operation on his right knee in a 13-month period, has been working out at the team’s Winter Park facility. “I hope he comes back,” starting right defensive end Ray Edwards said. “We train a whole lot to get where we’re at today so I hope he comes back and has a great and successful career. We definitely need a guy like that. You work hard to get here. It’s a shame. You get hurt a lot in this game but hopefully he gets back.”

  • CB Benny Sapp, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent this week after spending four seasons with Kansas City, said he is looking forward to getting a chance in Minnesota that he didn’t with the Chiefs. “It was kind of tough to leave (Kansas City) but I felt like I had a better opportunity in other places,” he said. “I felt like they never gave me an opportunity even though I came out and busted my behind to get it.” Sapp would like to compete for a starting job but more likely will be trying to win a spot in the nickel defense.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: “I really don’t get into too much of all that. Whoever they bring in, they bring in. I’m going to play with the guys that we have here. That’s the bottom line.” — Defensive end Ray Edwards on the talk about the Vikings’ depth issues at that position and the team’s failed attempt to land a big name end in free agency.



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