Hot stove: Minnesota Vikings

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Mike of Sacramento asked, and I've listened (Finally).

We're still six weeks away from free agency and the start of what we like to call the "new league year," but already it's time to start looking at the NFL's hot stove season.

So over the next four days, we'll roll out an analysis of each Black and Blue team's situation as it begins making plans for the offseason. Let's be fair and move in order of the 2008 finish, starting with Minnesota.

Minnesota Vikings offseason analysis

  • 2008 record: 10-6

  • Coaching changes: Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro took linebackers job in St. Louis. Replacement unannounced.

  • Salary-cap space: $20.4 million before end-of-year credits and adjustments.

  • Restricted free agents: Defensive tackle Fred Evans, cornerback Charles Gordon, defensive end Otis Grigsby, defensive end Jayme Mitchell, fullback Naufahu Tahi.

  • Unrestricted free agents: Center Matt Birk, linebacker Heath Farwell, linebacker Napoleon Harris, offensive lineman Marcus Johnson, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, defensive tackle Ellis Wyms.

  • Draft highlight: They own the No. 22 overall pick

  • Free-agency comment: The Vikings seemingly have made the decision to let Birk and Sharper seek employment elsewhere, although that could always change in the days leading up to free agency. They have an in-house replacement for Sharper in Tyrell Johnson, but they'll have to further evaluate the situation at center. Among the other free agents, Farwell is a likely target as he recovers from a torn ACL.

  • Three biggest needs: (1) A quarterback to compete with Tarvaris Jackson; (2) A right tackle to compete with or replace Ryan Cook; (3) A kick/punt returner to count on weekly, rather than relying on a mix-and-match approach.