MINNEAPOLIS -- Had Michael Johnson resisted the pull of his adopted home in Cincinnati, and set out with his former defensive coordinator on a new path in Minnesota, the Vikings' present and future might have been all set at defensive end.
Johnson is only 28, had flourished in Mike Zimmer's system in Cincinnati and conceivably could have taken on a significant role in the Vikings' defense, where both Brian Robison and Everson Griffen played more than 900 snaps this season. Robison will be 32 in April, and the prospect of a seamless handoff from him to Johnson seemed like a perfect fit for the Vikings.
Instead, with Johnson headed back to Cincinnati on a four-year, $20 million deal, the Vikings are sorting through their remaining options at defensive end. They'd been in touch with former Dallas Cowboys end George Selvie at the beginning of free agency, though a league source said the Vikings had not indicated on Sunday whether they are interested in bringing the 28-year-old in on a recruiting visit.
Players like the Buccaneers' Da'Quan Bowers, former Giants end Mathias Kiwanuka are still on the market, as is former Panthers end Greg Hardy (though it'd be difficult to envision the Vikings bringing Hardy to Minnesota while the future of Adrian Peterson is still unclear). And the Vikings still hope for growth from 2014 third-round pick Scott Crichton, who effectively had a redshirt year as he worked to grasp the Vikings' system after leaving college a year early.
Of the players on the market, Selvie might make the most sense. He's been a solid defender against the run, which was one area where Robison struggled last season. There's a reason the Vikings made him one of the defensive ends they called about shortly after the start of the free agency negotiating window.
It's clear, though, that the Vikings want to add depth at the defensive end position; they'd called about former Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn before he signed with Atlanta, and had hoped Johnson would accept their offer at the end of his visit on Saturday morning. If the Vikings are unable to land another veteran in the coming weeks, it might be prudent to spend another mid-round pick on a defensive end. But the Vikings' actions seem to have established the position as a need this offseason, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them head back out in search of another option after missing out on Johnson.