NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS -- Since free agency began on March 11, the Minnesota Vikings have been busily working the free-agent market to upgrade their defense. Those efforts, according to ESPN Stats & Information, have landed the Vikings among the league leaders in guaranteed money spent since the start of the new league year.

The Vikings have given out $50.2 million in guaranteed money since March 11, which is the fifth-most in the NFL. Only the Buccaneers ($74.3 million), Broncos ($65.5 million), Browns ($63.8 million) and Raiders ($51.0 million) have included more guaranteed dollars in new contracts.

That sum is the cost of doing business for a team that ranked second-to-last in the league in defense last season, but even though the Vikings have spent a sizable amount of money to sign players from other teams, the number itself shouldn't necessarily signal a departure from the draft-and-develop philosophy the team has employed the past three years, largely because of how much of the guaranteed money was wrapped up in the Vikings' new deal for 2010 fourth-rounder Everson Griffen.

Griffen got $19.8 million guaranteed as part of his five-year, $42.5 million contract, and he'll have been paid all of that money by the end of next season. The only money that would accelerate onto the Vikings' salary cap if they cut Griffen after 2015 is the $3.6 million in signing bonus proration left on his deal. The deal that includes the second-most guaranteed money -- for defensive tackle Linval Joseph -- has a similar structure. In that case, the Vikings gave Joseph $7.1 million in base salary guarantees, and a $2.4 million roster bonus they paid him last month, so the only cap charge they'd face by cutting him after 2015 is the $1.8 million of bonus proration left on his deal.

In total, the deals the Vikings gave out this spring would only include $5.73 million of dead money after the 2015 season. The pay-as-you-go method employed by assistant general manager Rob Brzezinski has allowed the Vikings to give out big contracts and stay out of salary cap trouble. Even the $45 million deal the team gave wide receiver Greg Jennings a year ago will only carry a $6 million cap charge after this season; the Vikings gave Jennings $17.8 million in guaranteed money, in the form of a $10-million signing bonus and guaranteed base salaries in each of his first two seasons. That deal came with a bigger signing bonus than most of the contracts the Vikings have done lately, but on a $45 million total deal, the Vikings' cap burden in the final years of Jennings' contract is still relatively small.

That structure will also allow the Vikings to be aggressive next year, should they choose to do so; with the cap possibly rising as high as $140 million, the Vikings could already have $30 million in cap space for 2015, before restructuring any deals or releasing any players.
Earlier this month, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., stood firmly by his belief that the Minnesota Vikings needed to address their quarterback situation before doing anything else in the draft. He said the team needed to chart its future at the position more than it needed to fill holes on its defense in the first round.

"You can't be the fourth team in the division at quarterback by a wide margin and have any chance of being any more than a borderline playoff team, at best, and probably in the cellar, more than likely, if things at other positions don't go your way," Kiper said.

In his fourth mock draft, Kiper still believes the Vikings will take a quarterback with the eighth overall pick, counting on the presence of Matt Cassel to help buy them time to develop their new signal-caller before putting him on the field.


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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Josh Samuda, who sustained a gruesome injury to his right ankle during the team's workout on Tuesday, had surgery in the Twin Cities to mend a broken fibula, dislocated ankle and deltoid ligament damage on Wednesday, according to a source close to the situation. He should get more information about his prognosis as the week draws to a close, the source said, but while the injury isn't thought to be career threatening, the initial expectation is Samuda will miss nine to 10 months.

Samuda, who signed a reserve/future contract with the team in January, was injured during a footwork drill where one player chased another in a close circle. His ankle appeared to give out, and he was helped off the field several minutes later. On Tuesday, there was some concern that Samuda sustained more serious damage inside his deltoid ligament, but those fears were allayed once doctors were able to see the full extent of the injury.

"We'll wait, like, six weeks and see how he starts to heal," the source said. "He’s in good spirits. It’s a freak accident; it's unfortunate and severe, but he's focused on rehabbing his body."

The Massachusetts product spent the 2012 season with the Miami Dolphins, playing in all 16 games before the team cut him at the end of training camp in 2013. He had signed with the Vikings to give the team some interior line depth, but while the 25-year-old figures to play again, he's got a long road back from a nasty injury.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Some quick thoughts on a few Minnesota Vikings quarterback items:
  • Freeman
    Josh Freeman has signed a one-year deal with the New York Giants -- the beneficiaries of his now-infamous "Monday Night Football" misadventure last October -- and one of the most bizarre quarterbacking episodes in Vikings history has an appropriately perplexing conclusion. But for a team like New York, who has a proven quarterback in Eli Manning, there might be some logic behind the move. The Giants obviously evaluated Freeman on more than his 20-for-53 performance against them at MetLife Stadium, and after Freeman's 2013 season -- which included an unsightly divorce with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano -- the Giants probably didn't spend much to acquire the quarterback. If they felt they could rehabilitate his game away from the pressure of a starting spot, they might have made a sensible move in signing Freeman. It's essentially the same reason the Green Bay Packers would have had interest in signing Freeman had they not brought back Matt Flynn, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan, and it's a derivation of what the Vikings were trying to do with Freeman, with one important difference. The Vikings didn't have a stable enough quarterback situation to treat Freeman purely as a speculative signing, which is probably what they should have done. Instead, they tried to rush him into the lineup, and paid for it with an embarrassing loss to an 0-6 team on national TV.
  • Ponder
    Ponder
    By May 3, NFL teams have to decide whether they will exercise fifth-year contract options for 2011 first-round picks, keeping those players under contract through the 2015 season. Those options are guaranteed only against injury; otherwise, teams face no penalty for cutting a player before the start of the 2015 season. If the Vikings picked up quarterback Christian Ponder's option for the 2015 season, and Ponder played under that contract, it'd cost the team the average of the third through 25th-highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL, or $9.686 million. As expensive as that number sounds, the Vikings could always buy insurance against injury and pick up the option if they saw any chance of offensive coordinator Norv Turner coaxing more out of Ponder, who doesn't figure to be on the field -- and at risk of injury -- that much in 2014 anyway. The decision will indicate what the Vikings still think they have in Ponder: whether they see any potential left, or whether they're just hanging onto him as a backup in case they only take a developmental QB in the draft. General manager Rick Spielman has said Ponder "will be here" in 2014, but if the Vikings did decide to cut him, they would realize a cap savings of $1.76 million.
  • Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray threw at his pro day on Wednesday morning, five months after tearing his ACL, but the Vikings reportedly only had a scout there. General manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer were both at the team facility during the Vikings' offseason workout on Tuesday, and the Vikings have draft hopefuls in town on Wednesday and Thursday for their top-30 prospects event. They've typically been sending Spielman, Zimmer and Turner to meet with quarterbacks after their pro days, and though the Vikings could still schedule a private workout with Murray between now and the draft, their approach to his pro day might indicate he's not as high on their list as other quarterbacks. Then again, we're in that time of year where teams are doing their best to conceal their intentions, and it's always possible the Vikings are trying to do that with Murray.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings made a pair of roster additions Tuesday, bringing back tight end Allen Reisner and claiming former San Diego Chargers linebacker Terrell Manning off waivers.

Reisner spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Vikings, shuttling between the practice squad and the active roster after signing with the team as a rookie free agent. He signed with Jacksonville before the 2013 season and played five games for the Jaguars, starting three and catching five passes for 40 yards.

Manning played one game with the Chargers last season after being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2012. He played mostly special teams in five games with the Packers in 2012 and was let go by the team in the final round of cuts last August, after returning from a parasitic infection that caused him to lose 20 pounds during training camp. He was an outside linebacker at North Carolina State, and Packers general manager Ted Thompson thought enough of him to trade three picks in order to move up and draft Manning in the fifth round in 2012.

With competition likely coming at linebacker, Manning might have a chance to push for playing time.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings offered former Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman a contract after meeting with the free agent on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a league source, but Coleman is still weighing his options.

The Vikings confirmed Coleman's free-agent visit on Friday morning, which meant the safety had left the facility without a contract.

Coleman had met with several teams, and arrived in the Twin Cities on Wednesday to begin his visit with the Vikings. However, the contract offer wasn't enough to get him to pull the trigger on a deal on Friday. The Vikings and Coleman could still circle back to one another and come to an agreement at some point.

The former seventh-round pick started 27 games between 2011 and 2012 for the Eagles, but was bumped out of a starting job last season. If he were to sign with the Vikings at some point, he'd likely come in as a special-teams contributor and a backup at both safety spots, where he'd compete with Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo for playing time at one of them.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings are continuing their search for a young quarterback at the end of the week, holding a private workout with Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo today, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. The workout comes after the Vikings met with LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger following his pro day, and before the team plans to fly Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Twin Cities for a meeting next week.

General manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL scouting combine the Vikings would conduct private workouts with "eight or nine" quarterbacks, so it's no surprise to see them making the rounds with a month to go before the NFL draft. They'd already met with Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Fresno State's Derek Carr, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, and reportedly had a private workout with San Jose State's David Fales. The Vikings also met with South Carolina's Connor Shaw at the NFL scouting combine, and had a scout at his pro day, though Shaw isn't projected to go as high in the draft as the other quarterbacks the Vikings have scouted.

The Vikings are believed to be high on Mettenberger, who threw more than 100 passes at his pro day in an attempt to show the progress he's made since tearing his ACL last fall. The quarterback had dinner with four Vikings officials on Wednesday night, according to a league source, and seemed to click well with offensive coordinator Norv Turner; by the end of Mettenberger's workout, the source said, Turner was calling out the routes he wanted to see Mettenberger throw. The quarterback could be raw in some areas of his game, but he might have one of the stronger arms in the draft, and could be a good fit for Turner's deep passing game.

As we get closer to the draft, though, the Vikings will have to consider plenty of different permutations for the quarterback position. They'll have to decide if they want to take one in the first round, or wait until later in the draft, and they'll have to sift through a deep quarterback class where sure things are thought to be in short supply. And if Spielman has been known for one thing in his career, it's his thoroughness. We're certainly seeing that play out here.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The list of prospects the Minnesota Vikings are bringing to the Twin Cities for their top-30 prospects event next week is starting to take shape.

Louisville linebacker Preston Brown will join his teammate, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, in Minnesota next week. ESPN's Josina Anderson reported earlier this week that Bridgewater will visit the Vikings next week, and a league source said Brown will also meet with the team. UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr had also told Fox Sports he will visit the Vikings, and Towson running back Terrance West will be part of the event, as the Baltimore Sun first reported this week.

The Vikings typically allocate many of their 30 pre-draft visits to the two-day event, which allows coaches and team executives to meet with players 3 1/2 weeks before the draft. The event isn't necessarily a perfect indicator of how interested the Vikings are in certain players; for example, they brought USC tackle Matt Kalil to the event in 2012, but didn't extend an invitation to Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. Twenty-three days later, the Vikings took both players in the first round.

Quarterbacks such as Central Florida's Blake Bortles, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Fresno State's Derek Carr aren't expected to be at the event; the Vikings met with all of them, as well as Alabama's AJ McCarron and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel after their on-campus pro days. Those meetings, or private workouts like the ones the Vikings had with San Jose State quarterback David Fales, can often be as helpful as the Vikings' event next week. But as the draft gets closer, the Vikings will use many of their visits to spend time with a wide range of prospects who could be taken anywhere from the first round to the middle of the draft.
ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay's latest mock draft spans two rounds, and like Mel Kiper Jr. did last week in his Grade A mock draft, McShay has the Vikings addressing perhaps their biggest need on each side of the ball with their first two picks.

The Vikings will have a number of different directions they could pursue at quarterback and cornerback with the eighth and 40th overall picks, and it's conceivable they could draft a quarterback and cornerback in either order in the first two rounds. If the draft falls the way McShay predicts it will, however, the Vikings will have an interesting choice on their hands at N0. 8.


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Kurt Coleman visiting Vikings

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman flew to the Twin Cities on Wednesday to begin a free-agent visit with the Minnesota Vikings, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. Coleman will continue his visit with the Vikings on Thursday, and if the Vikings like what they see, they could add Coleman to what already looks like a crowded safety position.

Coleman didn't start in 2013 for the Eagles after making 27 combined starts in 2011 and 2012. He struggled in run support, especially in 2012, missing 15 tackles that season, according to Pro Football Focus. Coleman had two interceptions in 2012, and four in 2011, but mostly played special teams in 2013. He saw his most playing time on defense in the Eagles' 48-30 loss to the Vikings on Dec. 15, playing 27 snaps at safety.

He'd likely come in as a backup safety and a contributor on special teams, but while Harrison Smith likely has one safety spot locked down, Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo can make no such claim at the other spot. Both played well at times last season, but Sanford will be a free agent next spring after taking a pay cut this year, and Sendejo was solely a special-teams player until injuries forced him into the lineup last year. If the Vikings were to sign Coleman -- heading into a training camp where a new coaching staff figures to invite plenty of competition -- it's conceivable he could fight for playing time.

Coleman had visited the Indianapolis Colts last week, but left without signing a contract. Now, he and the Vikings will discuss whether they might make a good match.
MINNEAPOLIS -- There are only five players on the Minnesota Vikings' roster with more experience, and none more prominent, than Adrian Peterson. The 2012 NFL MVP has worn the unofficial face-of-the-franchise title for most of his seven seasons with the Vikings, except in perhaps the two years he shared it with Brett Favre, and he'll certainly have it when the Vikings start the 2014 season.

Zimmer
Peterson
Peterson
But coach Mike Zimmer said in a radio interview last week that Peterson doesn't get the benefit of the doubt for being the team leader simply because he's the most well-known player on the Vikings' roster. Peterson said on Wednesday he was fine with that.

"I definitely understand where he's coming from when he says that," Peterson said on a conference call with reporters. "He doesn't know me that well. I met him. We talked. We chatted once or twice. I'm sure not only me, but everyone else has to prove that they are leaders of the team. That's something that I really take pride in as well. That's all a part of me taking care of my business when I'm away from the facility. It's normal. It's a normal routine for me."

Peterson will be playing for his third head coach in seven seasons, and spoke out in favor of retaining former coach Leslie Frazier at the end of the 2013 season. His relationship with Zimmer hasn't developed much yet simply because the two haven't had time to work together in the same building, but there's no reason to think they won't connect before too long. At age 29, Peterson likely knows the rest of his prime is in Zimmer's hands, and though the Vikings probably won't lean as heavily on Peterson as they have in recent years, he's still going to be the most prominent player on their offense. If Zimmer's remarks to an Austin radio station were meant to issue a bit of a challenge to Peterson, the running back seems willing to accept it.

"I'm working out extremely hard to be productive for my team," Peterson said. "Coming off the groin surgery [he had in January], I was slowed down a little bit, but I've been able to recover a lot faster. So, yeah, it is what it is. I respect what he has to say."
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will bring Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Twin Cities for a visit on Monday and Tuesday, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson. We've heard the Vikings top-30 prospects event is scheduled for the middle of April, and it appears Bridgewater's visit could be part of it.

Bridgewater
Since the NFL draft went to a three-day format in 2010, the Vikings have conducted their top-30 prospects event 3 1/2 weeks before the draft each year. With the draft being bumped back to May 8-10 this year, the Vikings also pushed back their event from the first week of April. Each team in the NFL is allowed to bring 30 draft hopefuls to its facilities for meetings with coaches, and the Vikings have typically used most of their allotment to bring many prospects in at once.

The event doesn't necessarily identify the Vikings' top 30 prospects, however. It has allowed the team to spend more time with players it wants to learn more about, but the Vikings have also used high picks on players who weren't at the event, like safety Harrison Smith in 2012. From what we've heard, the Vikings don't plan to bring Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger or Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr to the event; they held individual meetings with all three, as well as Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, after their respective pro days, and while they also met with Bridgewater after his pro day, their decision to opt for a second visit with him doesn't crystallize where he stands in their pecking order. They might have more they want to learn about him, and the closer we get to the draft, of course, the more teams use subterfuge to cloud their true intentions.

It is worth noting, though, that Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner didn't seem as distraught by Bridgewater's subpar pro day as some others; he told NFL.com last Month he thought Bridgewater was "pretty good" during his March 17 workout. Now, it appears, the Vikings will take one more chance to sit down with Bridgewater before the draft.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Since Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made his much-discussed comments about the "sideshow" at Johnny Manziel's pro day and the "flags" that come up with the ballyhooed Texas A&M quarterback, there have been plenty of attempts (on this blog and others) to discern what it could mean for the chances of the Vikings taking Manziel with the eighth pick in the May draft.

Manziel
But Manziel's compatibility with offensive coordinator Norv Turner's scheme might be worth just as much of a look as whether he would click with Zimmer.

For our purposes, the nice thing about Turner is, he's got 23 seasons of experience as a head coach or offensive coordinator that can be used to evaluate his team's tendencies. And in Turner's time with the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, there simply isn't a template for a quarterback like Manziel.

In Turner's 23 seasons as a head coach or coordinator, he's never had a quarterback run for more than 192 yards in a season, and that came with the diminutive Doug Flutie in 2001. In the nine times Turner's had one of the top 10 scoring offenses in the league, his quarterbacks have run 41, 49, 28, 28, 40, 31, 35, 35 and 31 times, counting kneel-downs at the end of games. In two 13-game seasons at Texas A&M, Manziel ran 201 and 144 times, for 1,410 and 759 yards. There will be plenty of NFL teams who will ask him to curtail his scrambling somewhat, partially to reduce the number of unnecessary hits he'll absorb. But if you draft Manziel, you're doing so in part because of his ability to improvise and make plays with his feet, and you're doing so knowing he's probably going to take some extra sacks in the process. It's hard to see a coordinator as established as Turner playing his type that much, especially when quarterbacks like Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Zach Mettenberger (with whom the Vikings will meet tomorrow) would seem like more logical fits.

This isn't to say the Vikings won't take Manziel a month from tonight if he's still available with the eighth overall pick. But like we discussed in regard to Zimmer's comments last week, Manziel might have to clear some pretty high thresholds for the Vikings to be convinced he's their guy. If he is wearing purple come May 8, it'll be because he answered whatever concerns Zimmer might have and proved he can fit in Turner's offense when there really isn't a precedent for a quarterback like him doing so.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will continue their hunt for a young quarterback in Baton Rouge, La., this week, when they attend LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger's pro day and meet with him individually after his workout, according to a league source.

Mettenberger
The Vikings have the No. 8 pick in the draft, but had planned to meet with most of the prominent quarterbacks in this year's draft class. They're believed to be highly interested in Mettenberger, who has one of the strongest arms in this year's class, and if they were able to get the 6-foot-5 quarterback in the second round, they'd be able to address another position -- possibly on defense -- in the first round.

Mettenberger could still be available with the 40th overall pick after tearing his ACL in November, and the teams that meet with him this week will also want to address character concerns after Mettenberger pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery in a case that ultimately led to him transferring from Georgia and spending a year in junior college before landing at LSU. But if he's able to show he's matured -- and healed -- he could see his draft stock climb. The source said the Vikings have not yet invited Mettenberger to their top-30 prospects event later this month, but it's likely the Vikings would do most of their work with Mettenberger on campus anyway.

That might make him a good fit for the Vikings, who are believed to be exploring quarterback options outside the first round. Even if Mettenberger were to climb the draft board enough to be a late first-round pick, the Vikings have dealt back into the first round each of the past two years, and have an extra third-round pick to help facilitate a move up.

While the fact that the draft is still a month away means any information about which way a team is leaning must be taken with a grain of salt, there's been quite a bit of talk about the Vikings' interest in Mettenberger, and it appears they will invest plenty of time getting to know him this week.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings are one of seven teams with a new head coach, and as such, they're one of seven teams allowed to begin their offseason workout program next week.

The Vikings will get started on Monday, as will the Browns, Lions, Texans, Buccaneeers, Titans and Redskins. Players are only allowed to do strength and conditioning work, as well as rehab, in the first two weeks of the program, but linebacker Michael Mauti said on Thursday that new strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus has some different weight training plans than the Vikings' old regime, so players will get a chance to learn their new strength program starting next week.

In the second phase of offseason workouts, players can receive individual instruction in position drills. The Vikings will hold a voluntary pre-draft minicamp (another privilege of having a new coach) a week before the draft. Finally, teams can conduct "organized team activities" -- or full-squad, non-padded practices -- in the third phase, leading up to a mandatory minicamp in June. The NFL has not announced dates for rookie camps yet, but the Vikings have historically held one the week after the draft.

Here is the Vikings' full offseason schedule:

April 7 -- Offseason strength and conditioning programs begin

April 29-May 1 -- Voluntary pre-draft minicamp

May 28-30 -- Voluntary OTA for rookies and veterans

June 3-5 -- Voluntary OTA for rookies and veterans

June 9-12 -- Voluntary OTA for rookies and veterans

June 17-19 -- Mandatory mini-camp for rookies and veterans

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