Vikings' vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman made it clear recently while addressing fans at the team's Arctic Blast snowmobiling event in northern Minnesota that the team is hoping it can hold onto its unrestricted free agents.
That list will include running back Chester Taylor, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, cornerback Benny Sapp, wide receiver Greg Lewis and offensive lineman Artis Hicks.
Taylor and Sapp are probably the highest priorities. Taylor is a backup to Adrian Peterson but is extremely valuable as a blocker and receiver on third down. Sapp got extended playing time at left corner after Antoine Winfield suffered a broken foot in October. Winfield missed six games but was hampered for the remainder of the season.
"What our goal is and our intention is going into this offseason is to sign Chester Taylor back, to sign Benny Sapp back, to sign Greg Lewis," Spielman said. "He made a couple of big plays for us this year. If we can keep our own guys and try to get those guys back and then have another good draft then I think we'll be where we want to be."
The Vikings are expected to open talks with agents for their free agents at the NFL Scouting Combine next week in Indianapolis. Many NFL agents attend that event.
Spielman made it clear that even though Taylor isn't a starter, he is held in very high regard by the Vikings.
"Chester Taylor brings so much to this football team," Spielman said. "He's like the unsung hero of the offense. You hear about Sidney Rice and Shank (Visanthe Shiancoe) and Percy Harvin and Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson. But what Chester Taylor does for this football team — not only on the field, but off the field — he may be, as we look and we evaluate all the free agents out there, one of the top free-agent backs coming out. Especially in that role he played in third down. It's so valuable for us."
That remains the case. Spielman made that clear.
"I think you go ahead and let Brett decide what he wants to do," Spielman said. "I know the organization, from our ownership, from our coaches and I think from our fans out there we'd love to have Brett Favre back for another year and see if we can make another run at this."
The Vikings' approach is a smart one considering how well Favre played this season after deciding to come back for a 19th NFL season last August.
Favre retired last February after one season with the New York Jets and retired in March 2008 after 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Both times the retirement was short-lived.
By allowing Favre time to make his own decision, it likely will increase the odds that he will decide to come back from a 20th season during which he will turn 41 years old.
So far the Favre camp has made no real comments about his intentions. Favre did post a message on his website in which he thanked his fans and spoke highly of Minnesota but gave no indication of what he might do.