8. Minnesota Vikings
You may wonder why the Vikings went after Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson with such vigor Ã¢â‚¬â€ why would any team employ the poison-pill contract strategy and put out a seven-year, $49 million offer sheet, with $16 million guaranteed, as bait for a guard? A left tackle, maybe, but Hutchinson's is not generally regarded as a financially elite position. From Minnesota's point of view, there were two reasons Ã¢â‚¬â€ first, Hutchinson is an immense road-grader with a seriously nasty streak who is so strong, he can push a defensive tackle across a line, sideways, against his own momentum. Second, the Vikings' line in 2005 was a real disaster, as the team ranked 31st in Adjusted Line Yards and 29th in sacks allowed.
Center Matt Birk, the Harvard grad who manned the middle for the franchise's two best rushing seasons (2000, 2002), missed the entire 2005 season with hip and sports hernia injuries. The four-time Pro Bowler is expected back this year. LT Bryant McKinnie was the only Minnesota lineman to start every game. With Hutchinson next to him, the 6-8, 343-pound McKinnie might be part of the best left-to-center starting battery this season.