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Updated: March 18th, 2013 12:11am
Notebook: Vikings 'want to potentially draft someone' to man middle

Notebook: Vikings 'want to potentially draft someone' to man middle

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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PHOENIX -- Don't hold your breath for Brian Urlacher or any other veteran middle linebacker to end up in Minnesota.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier strongly suggested on Sunday at the NFL meetings Jasper Brinkley's successor may be a rookie.

"We want to potentially draft someone," Frazier said. "We need more depth at linebacker than what we currently have."

Brinkley, who replaced E.J. Henderson as the starter last season, signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday. But the Vikings already were planning to move on, knowing they needed an upgrade for their Tampa-2 derivative scheme, particularly in coverage.

They re-signed Erin Henderson to a two-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday and plan to keep him at weakside linebacker. Chad Greenway figures to stay on the strong side, where he has made two consecutive Pro Bowls.

The only other linebackers under contract are special teamer Larry Dean and Audie Cole, a seventh-round draft pick (210th overall) out of North Carolina State last year.

"He'd be an option," Frazier said of Cole. "We played him some there in the preseason. ... We have to get someone to plug in to that position, whether it be Audie Cole or whoever it may be on our current roster or draft somebody."

The Vikings have 11 draft picks, including Nos. 23 and 25 overall in the first round. Two inside linebackers, Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, widely are projected as potential first-round picks.

The Vikings reportedly have shown interest in Urlacher, the longtime Chicago Bear who is a free agent. But his age (35 next in May), declining play and contract demands make that a long shot.

Keep continuity

Henderson wasn't the only potential free agent the Vikings re-signed on Tuesday.

Right tackle Phil Loadholt, safety Jamarca Sanford, fullback Jerome Felton, receiver Jerome Simpson and offensive lineman Joe Berger all stayed put for contracts totaling more than $44 million -- more than half of that to Loadholt, who got $25 million over four years.

"It was big, and the fact that those guys wanted to come back," Frazier said. "They didn't really get out and test the waters. They wanted to be back in Minnesota.

"That's really encouraging, because you want to be able to take care of your guys, the guys that you deemed as your core players, and you need quality vets. You need guys that know your system, that are accustomed to our style of coaching."

In a five-day stretch, the Vikings also traded top receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle for three draft picks, released veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield and signed two veteran free agents, receiver Greg Jennings and quarterback Matt Cassel.

All told, did the Vikings get better?

"I think so, with what we've done -- but the true test will be what happens with the draft," Frazier said. "We've got to continue to create some competition on our roster across the board.

"I do think the addition of Matt, the addition of Greg and then re-signing our guys, we're definitely ahead of the curve. But now can we take that next step with the draft? That will be critical for our team."

Quick hits

• Most of the Vikings' contingent arrived for the meetings at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel on Saturday. Owner Zygi Wilf arrived late Sunday afternoon.

• Frazier said the Vikings still are looking for a "swing" tackle to replace Geoff Schwartz, who signed a one-year deal with Kansas City on Friday. "We're going to look at the draft and try to get some things there to improve our depth on the offensive line," Frazier said.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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