Sunday, June 26, 2005

Best Off-Season Ever?

History will tell, but this season has super potential

For the Vikings, this may be the best off-season ever. Not only in what the team has done, but in regards to setting the stage for fans in 2005. Even those in the media must be excited. There's even plenty for the shock jocks with the Whizzenator and player-owned handguns so the mocking continues. To be honest, I'm a bit saddened by the bad news that doesn't deserve any coverage yet gets the most.

This off-season is tarnished by the scandals including Onterio Smith and Mike Tice’s ticket scalping operation but the real news is the trade that sent Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders. As of today, I don’t even want to talk about what Minnesota got in return because that was not the reason for the trade.

Yes, the biggest news was the Randy Moss divorce. For the Vikings, enough must have become enough and it was time to move on. For Randy, this could not have been a better deal. It seems he had worn out his welcome in Minnesota and a change in scenery will likely do him some good. To be honest, it’s amazing to consider what could happen for Randy. In addition to officially becoming a bad boy, Randy will get paid and likely has many new endorsement opportunities on the west coast.

What Minnesota received in return will be seen. However, the Vikings are not having a fire sale. Instead, the biggest potential improvement of the offeason is signing another vocal player. It seems the Vikings have traded one mouth away and received another. The new vocal Viking is all-star caliber cornerback/safety Fred Smoot. Smoot was signed from the Washington Redskins and they will miss him. I have a friend, Dan, living in the DC area and he was very saddened to see Fred go. That is good news for Vikings fans!

But Randy’s departure won’t silence him. You can bet his comments (and yes, they are coming!) will definitely be heard in Vikings country. However, the Randy drama is now Oakland's problem. This year it will be interesting to see what happens to the Raiders. Can they return to the Super Bowl where they were just 3 seasons ago (they lost to Tampa Bay 21-48 on 26 January, 2003). Will Randy be the missing piece? Or will he be the final nail in Oakland's coffin? It will be fun to watch.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, last year's defensive struggles have resulted in a serious effort to upgrade the porous D. While the Vikings lost a debatably good player in Chris Claiborne (who signed with Saint Louis) (side note: I’ve asked & heard mixed reviews from fans. Some will miss him and others said good riddance), they certainly made strides in signing Smoot as well as picking up ex-Packer Darren Sharper (four-year deal), as well as one of the NFL's best run-stoppers in defensive tackle Pat Williams (three-year deal).

I wonder if the addition of those ballhawks will help the Vikings return to their turnover-forcing ways of 2003. It certainly seems possible.

With all the changes, the ‘experts’ are predicting a run by the Minnesota Vikings in 2005. Can Daunte take over the helm and lead the Viking to Detroit and to a Super Bowl? Will Randy’s void make the team balanced & better? Will Viking handguns get more press? Will the Steal of the Draft, Onterio Smith try harder to live up to his title?

Once all those questions are answered, we may look back and call this the best off-season ever.