NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS -- For years, former Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff had waited for his Pro Football Hall of Fame chance, without so much as an opportunity to be discussed by voters as a finalist. That's despite the fact Tingelhoff had in his favor a ringing endorsement from one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, whose teams played against Tingelhoff during the first six seasons of his career, routinely praised Tingelhoff, calling him one of the toughest centers he'd ever seen after the Vikings became one of the two teams to beat the 1966 Packers, winners of Super Bowl I. As Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman wrote in his 2007 book, Tingelhoff had played that game with a broken ankle.

The accolades from Lombardi -- as well as Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant -- finally have reverberated. Now, Tingelhoff is headed to Canton.

[+] EnlargeVikings' Mick Tingelhoff
AP PhotoMick Tingelhoff was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his 32nd year of eligibility.
The 74-year-old was selected to the Hall of Fame on Saturday evening in his 32nd year of eligibility, as the lone nominee from the senior committee. Tingelhoff joins an eight-member class that officially will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Aug. 8.

Tingelhoff is the 16th former Vikings player to reach the Hall of Fame, and the 11th who spent at least a majority of his career in Minnesota. Grant, former coach Norm Van Brocklin and former general manager Jim Finks are also in the Hall of Fame.

Tingelhoff, who was the anchor of the Vikings' offensive line on four Super Bowl teams, is the fourth former Viking to reach Canton in the past six years, following defensive tackle John Randle in 2010, defensive end Chris Doleman in 2012 and wide receiver Cris Carter in 2013. He becomes the sixth player from Grant's teams -- which played in four Super Bowls from 1969 to 1976 -- to be selected.

The undrafted free agent started 240 consecutive games in 17 seasons, playing through myriad injuries that never caused him to miss so much as a practice. At the time of his retirement, Tingelhoff's consecutive starts streak was the second longest in NFL history, behind teammate Jim Marshall. In fact, the three longest streaks in NFL history were all set by players in Vikings uniforms -- Brett Favre, Marshall and Tingelhoff.

"Mick was a catalyst for our team and one of the most respected players on those teams," Grant said. "I have no doubt that had he not played center, he would have been a Hall of Fame linebacker. He played center with the mentality and tenacity of a linebacker. Mick’s intangibles were the thing that made him so great. He was a captain the whole time I coached him and guys looked at him as an example of how to do things.”

Tingelhoff was named a first-team All-Pro every year from 1964 to 1970, and was selected to the Pro Bowl each season from 1965-70. Tingelhoff was part of Vikings teams that won 10 division titles in 11 years from 1968-78, played for five NFL/NFC Championships and went to three of their four Super Bowls from 1973-76.
MINNEAPOLIS -- A year ago at this time, Teddy Bridgewater hadn't been through his infamous pro day yet. He was still at the top of many draft boards, with some predicting he'd be the most NFL-ready quarterback in his draft class.

At least according to one awards ballot, nothing changed on those fronts.

Bridgewater
Bridgewater was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year on Friday, winning the award through a fan vote. It doesn't mean the Minnesota Vikings quarterback will win the "official" Rookie of the Year award on Saturday night -- he'll have to beat out the New York Giants' Odell Beckham, among others, for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award -- but the fact that Bridgewater won Friday's award is a vindication of some sorts.

"This award means a lot to me. I’m glad to have the fan base that I have,” Bridgewater said in a statement. “They’re the reason I was even in consideration for this award. To be able to play the game is one thing, but to also have a fan base is another and I’m very appreciative for that. Playing in The Bank this year – TCF Bank Stadium – hearing those fans chant my name, that was an amazing feeling. Also being able to go out and live out my dream, be able to complete my first season in the NFL was always a childhood dream of mine, so everything paid off.”

Bridgewater dropped to the bottom of the first round in large part because of his poor pro day workout, when he threw without his gloves and gave scouts concern by missing several throws at Louisville. But once Bridgewater worked out with Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, he assuaged whatever fears the team had about his pro day and the Vikings put him at the top of their quarterback draft board with Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

And at the end of his first season, Bridgewater looks to be at the top of his class among quarterbacks. His passer rating (85.7) was the seventh-highest by a rookie in NFL history, and his completion percentage (64.4) was the third-highest by a rookie. Bridgewater did it all at the controls of a dilapidated offense that was missing Adrian Peterson, among others, and fans across the country took notice of that performance.

Considering how much publicity Beckham earned after his sensational one-handed touchdown catch against the Dallas Cowboys and his prolific statistics, it says something that Bridgewater beat him out. We'll see if it's a precursor to more awards on Saturday.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're just over 48 hours from the kickoff of Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, which means the festivities leading up to Sunday's game are in their final days. For the cities that will host Super Bowls in future years, though, the preparations are already in full swing.

At the moment, there are three communities that know their turn in the national spotlight is coming, and the one with the most time still to prepare is our own. The Twin Cities will host Super Bowl LII in 2018, and Minneapolis' Super Bowl committee has been in the Phoenix area all week, taking notes about how it might want to stage its own event in three years and doing some public relations work for what could be the coldest Super Bowl host city in more than a decade.

Yes, it's going to be cold in Minneapolis and St. Paul when the Super Bowl comes to town, and there's certain to be plenty said about the lack of sand and surf available for one of the nation's largest parties. (As Minneapolis' marketing folks are sure to tell you, though, there's more shoreline in Minnesota than in California, Florida and Hawaii combined. It's just that most of it surrounds frozen lakes in the wintertime.)

Maureen Bausch, the Mall of America's executive VP of business development who's currently serving as the Minneapolis Super Bowl committee's CEO, knows there'll be work to do to sell national travelers on the Twin Cities. The attempt to reframe Super Bowl LII's chilly climate are already underway.

"I think it's all about people," Bausch said. "If we make them feel good, they're going to have a good time. Arizona's done a good job of that, even in the rain. It's about showcasing our people, our sophisticated marketplace, our innovations. It's about showcasing all that we do in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and changing what people [think]. We're not Fargo -- not that Fargo's bad, but [we're not] the movie and everything."

The NFL will visit Minneapolis' proposed Super Bowl sites in March, and review the city's plans for the event. Nicollet Mall will tentatively host the Super Bowl Central fan activities, while the NFL Experience interactive exhibit will be in the Minneapolis Convention Center. Media day could be in either the Target Center in Minneapolis or the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, though concerns about the cramped quarters of this year's media day in the U.S. Airways Center could lead the committee to consider putting the event back in the stadium, where it has traditionally been.

Bausch said the Twin Cities' Super Bowl bid included events in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, adding the Super Bowl will coincide with St. Paul's Winter Carnival, which is expected to include an ice castle for the first time since the NHL All-Star Game was in town in 2004.

On Saturday, the Minneapolis Super Bowl committee will stage an event at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, where Vikings players Teddy Bridgewater, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo will help unveil the city's Super Bowl LII logo. The group's presence at Super Bowl L next year in San Francisco, and Super Bowl LI in Houston in 2017, will be even bigger, Vikings VP of public affairs Lester Bagley said.

By 2018, the group hopes fans, sponsors and dignitaries have warmed to the Twin Cities as a host.

"Being a retailer, it's your time to buy the very best winter clothes. Come prepared -- it's going to be a fashion show of beautiful winter clothes," Bausch joked. "I feel so bad for Arizona, because in rain, you can't do anything. In snow, we have fun."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Since he was placed on the commissioner's exempt list in September, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has received a steady stream of support from teammates who've said they want to see him back on the field. In that regard, what wide receiver Greg Jennings said in a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview Friday wasn't that out of the ordinary.

But Jennings' comments caught my eye for a different reason in that they went a step further. Here's what he had to say:

Jennings
Peterson
Peterson
“I don’t know if he’ll be back. I can’t answer that question,” Jennings said. “But what I do know is that if he does come back, he’d be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it’s a touchy subject and he’s been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can’t get him back, and that’s the nature of this business.”

That Jennings said Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, from ownership on down, is interesting to me. Without knowing whether he's spoken to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation, it's still safe to say the receiver made one of the more sweeping proclamations of support for Peterson that we've heard from the Vikings. Coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman have said they want Peterson back, in so many words, but we haven't heard from ownership on Peterson's future, and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported in November that team vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren had been working with the league to keep Peterson off the field in 2014.

Peterson told ESPN in December that he'd felt the support from his teammates, and that while he'd thought about the idea of getting a fresh start with another team, he had also watched each Vikings game during his absence, imagining how he'd fit in next to Teddy Bridgewater. He also said he knew the people who hadn't supported him in the Vikings organization are, "in the big scheme of things, not relevant."

"There's people in the organization that I know hands down love me," Peterson said in December. "I feel skeptical, of course, but that has been comforting."

Jennings added another layer to that Friday. Whether it reflects a unanimous sentiment in the organization is another matter, but the receiver certainly didn't mince words about the Vikings' support for Peterson.
The anchor of the Minnesota Vikings' offensive lines during the most successful seasons in team history, center Mick Tingelhoff is a finalist for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, the only nominee from the senior committee.

Tingelhoff's durability was a legendary component of Bud Grant's teams; he started 240 consecutive games, and at the time of his retirement that streak was second in NFL history only to teammate Jim Marshall. The center played through injuries that would have sidelined many players, made six Pro Bowls and was voted a first-team All-Pro five times. He started for each of the Vikings' four Super Bowl teams and had his number retired by the team in 2001. It's been suggested that Tingelhoff, now 74, has waited this long for enshrinement because of the Vikings' four Super Bowl losses, but his chances appear to be good this time. Forty of the 54 senior candidates have been voted into the Hall of Fame, and four of the other 14 were inducted after being nominated a second time.

If Tingelhoff is selected, he would be the 16th former Vikings player to reach the Hall of Fame, along with Grant, former coach Norm Van Brocklin and former general manager Jim Finks. Kicker Morten Andersen, who spent the 2004 season with the Vikings, is a finalist, as is Tony Dungy, who was the Vikings' defensive coordinator from 1992-95.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Well, at least we can see Adrian Peterson is healthy.

The suspended Minnesota Vikings running back tweeted a picture of himself and his wife Ashley at comedian Kevin Hart's show in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday night. After the show, Hart challenged Peterson to a race in the middle of the street. The comedian -- who was named the MVP of the 2012 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game -- got an early lead on Peterson, but the running back pulled away at the end.

Peterson could be in Minneapolis on Friday, when U.S. District Court judge David Doty will hear the NFLPA's lawsuit against the NFL on his behalf. Peterson said in December he'd been working out through his time on the commissioner's exempt list and his suspension. It's tough to take much from a late-night race in street clothes -- other than a laugh or two -- but it'll pass as visual evidence that the running back is in good shape.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' new stadium is quickly taking shape in the eastern part of downtown Minneapolis on the former site of the Metrodome. And when it opens in 2016, it will have a first-of-its-kind lighting system.

The Vikings' new stadium will be the first to install LED lighting during its initial construction, the team announced this week. The lighting system is designed to use 75 percent less energy than traditional systems and can be color-tuned to provide a clearer view of the playing field, both in the stadium and on TV.

Two other facilities -- including University of Phoenix Stadium, which will host the Super Bowl this weekend -- have installed LED lighting, but no facility has installed LED lighting during construction before the Vikings' stadium. The team will partner with Syracuse, New York-based Ephesus Lighting to install the system.

"From day one this stadium has been designed with the fan experience in mind, so it was logical to select an LED Lighting solution,” Vikings president Mark Wilf said in a press release. “We selected Ephesus after careful consideration of the other available options based upon their track record of developing innovative solutions and their ability to meet our requirements for having a positive impact on the fan experience.”

The Vikings' new stadium is scheduled to host Super Bowl LII in 2018, as well as the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2019. The stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2016, is already more than 35 percent complete.
MINNEAPOLIS -- It appears the Minnesota Vikings' efforts to land another receiver named Carter will come up empty-handed.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday evening that Montreal Alouettes receiver Duron Carter -- a CFL All-Star and the son of Vikings Hall of Famer Cris Carter -- is closing in on an agreement with the Indianapolis Colts. After Carter worked out with the Vikings on Jan. 9, he said the team was at the top of his list, along with the Colts, and it's believed Carter was being offered a three-year deal with a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $100,000. That's big money for a CFL receiver, and when Carter narrowed his list down to two teams late last week, the Vikings appeared to still be in the thick of things.

[+] EnlargeCarter
Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesIt appears CFL star Duron Carter, the son of Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, will not be joining the Vikings.
There are some valid reasons for Carter to head to Indianapolis, though, and as you might expect, the biggest one wears No. 12. Andrew Luck directed the league's most prolific passing offense last season, and the Colts' receiver group could be in flux with Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks possibly on the way out. Carter also has a couple former college teammates on the Colts' roster in linebacker Jonathan Newsome and running back Trent Richardson. And while he'll always be compared to his father on some level, those comparisons would be much louder in Minnesota. If part of Carter's motivation was a desire to forge his own path, there's something to be said for that.

What we can draw from the process, though, is further confirmation the Vikings are in the market for a receiver. They'd stayed in touch with Carter since his rookie camp tryout two years ago, and they liked the idea of pairing him with Teddy Bridgewater. There will be other avenues available to the Vikings if they want a playmaking wideout this offseason. The team is still hoping Cordarrelle Patterson can emerge in Year 3, though it remains to be seen if he'll work in more of a specialty role than as a split end. Players like Louisville's DeVante Parker and West Virginia's Kevin White could be options with the 11th overall pick, and there's plenty of talent among this year's group of unrestricted free agents. If Carter does indeed finalize a deal with the Colts -- as it appears he will -- the Vikings will have lots of other options this spring.
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MOBILE, Ala. -- The Senior Bowl won't be played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium until Saturday, but for NFL teams evaluating the 108 players in this year's game, most of the heavy lifting is done. Many coaching staffs, including the Minnesota Vikings' coaches, left town on Thursday, and while the team's front office will be here until Saturday, they're mostly staying for a meeting with the team's representative from the BLESTO scouting service.

The top of the draft board is stocked with underclassmen -- Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton, thought to be the top player in Mobile this week, generally isn't projected to go until the middle of the first round -- but there is value to be found here for the second and third days of the draft.

The Vikings have identified eight positions where they need to improve in 2015. Some of those could be filled by development from players the Vikings already have, and some could be solved through free agency in March. But for now, here's an early guess at a few areas where the Vikings could be looking for help, and a look at a few players who stood out in those areas during Senior Bowl practice this week.

Safety

Mississippi's Cody Prewitt has had an impressive week here, intercepting a pass on Tuesday, charging in to stop a reverse during Wednesday's practice and showing good strength and positioning during one-on-one red zone drills on Thursday. At 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, he could make a nice second-round target for the Vikings if they wanted to put him next to Harrison Smith.

Middle linebacker

Clemson's Stephone Anthony was voted the top linebacker of Senior Bowl week by scouts who evaluated practice, and could be worth keeping in mind; he's 6-foot-2, 245 pounds and had solid speed for his size. Miami's Denzel Perryman might be too small to play middle linebacker in the NFL -- he's only 5-foot-11, and said earlier this week he's trying to get down to 235 pounds before the NFL scouting combine in February -- but he's looked stout against the run this week. Cincinnati's Jeff Luc has also been impressive. He's also 5-foot-11, but weighs 263 pounds and has run well in coverage at that weight.

Offensive line

Wisconsin's Rob Havenstein is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-7 and 332 pounds; he comes from a school that prides itself on power football, but looked better on his feet in pass-blocking drills than many thought he might. It remains to be seen if the Vikings will pursue help at the tackle position, as there were indications they spent some time with Havenstein this week. Duke guard Laken Tomlinson was voted the top lineman of the week, largely for how well he fared against Shelton in practice. He's got a compelling story -- he was born in Jamaica, double-majored in evolutionary anthropology and psychology at Duke, and has dreams of becoming a doctor -- and if the Vikings were looking for help at left guard, Tomlinson might catch their eye.

Wide receiver

The group here this week has been stocked with slot receivers -- Kansas State's Tyler Lockett had a good week, and said he talked a couple times with Vikings receivers coach George Stewart -- but Auburn's Sammie Coates is a name to keep in mind. At 6-foot-2, he's the best outside receiver prospect at the Senior Bowl. There's still concern about his hands, but he can fly (he could run the 40 in the 4.3 range at the combine) and is currently projected as an early second-round pick. The Vikings don't exactly need another unrefined player at receiver, but if they feel they can develop Coates, there's plenty there to like.
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Minnesota Vikings have one hire to make to fill out their coaching staff for the 2015 season, but it appears the rest of the group is intact for the long haul.

Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings plan to extend the contracts of most of their assistant coaches through the 2016 season and will promote coaching assistant Drew Petzing to take over for former assistant receivers coach Klint Kubiak, who left for a job at the University of Kansas. The Vikings have one coach who wanted a one-year contract, Zimmer said. But as many teams do, the Vikings will roll over their coaches' contracts before they're working into the final year of their deal.

When asked on Tuesday about the length of his own contract, Zimmer said it runs past 2016. The Vikings have not announced the details of Zimmer's contract, but what the coach said on Wednesday means, at the very least, he has a four-year deal (or possibly the same kind of three-years-with-an-option contract given to his predecessor, Leslie Frazier). Given the progress the Vikings made in their first season under Zimmer and the optimism surrounding quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the team could be putting together a foundation that will stand up for years to come.
MINNEAPOLIS -- If Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison and Robert Blanton are back with the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, all four will see substantial pay raises over what their initial rookie contract called for them to make.

Wright
All four players will receive pay bumps under the new rookie wage scale that was introduced as part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. Players taken between the third and seventh round of the draft can trigger a Proven Performance Escalator by playing at least 35 percent of their team's offensive or defensive snaps in two of their first three seasons. Blanton, Ellison and Wright will earn base salaries of $1,574,000 in 2015, while Robinson -- who was taken 66th overall in 2012 -- will make $1,564,000, according to NFL Players Association salary data.

The salary increases total a combined $3,531,804 in 2015. The salary cap is expected to rise in 2015, possibly to the neighborhood of $140 million. The Vikings currently have about $129.8 million in cap commitments for 2015, according to ESPN Stats and Information, but that could change through releases or restructured contracts for players such as linebacker Chad Greenway, left guard Charlie Johnson or wide receiver Greg Jennings (to say nothing of what might happen with Adrian Peterson).

It's probably safe to expect the Vikings will go into the new league year with at least $15 million of cap space, and there are few pressing needs among their own pending unrestricted free agents. Even with the pay bumps for some of their younger players, they should be in a solid cap situation by the start of free agency.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said the team is prohibited from speaking directly with Adrian Peterson while he is suspended by the NFL. But when asked about the running back's future in Minnesota, Spielman said, "I don't know if there's a team in the NFL that wouldn't want Adrian Peterson.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
AP Photo/Tom GannamAdrian Peterson still has value, but the Vikings have much cheaper alternatives.
"There's no question on what Adrian Peterson has done for this organization on the field, and what he is as a football player," Spielman said in a news conference with Minnesota reporters on Wednesday. "I think people tend to forget, Adrian did make a mistake, he admitted he made a mistake, he went through the process in the court system. He is currently suspended by the NFL right now, but he's done a lot of positive things in this community as well. I've been here his whole career. I know what type of person Adrian is. But I also know that we have to follow everything that's put in place for us. Is there a resolution? Not right now. All I know is where we stand today."

The running back cannot be reinstated until April 15 under the current terms of his suspension, and the NFL Players Association is suing the league on Peterson's behalf to get him back into the league sooner than that. Peterson, who will be 30 in March and is scheduled to carry a $15.4 million cap figure in 2015, could need to restructure his contract to fit with the Vikings -- or any team -- next season. He said in an interview with ESPN last month he didn't think he needed to take a pay cut, and it remains to be seen where he will play next season.

Spielman, though, said he doesn't doubt the 2012 NFL MVP will excel next year.

"Everybody talked about, 'Well, he's not going to be the same after his ACL [injury in 2011].' That was his best year, coming back from that," Spielman said. "Knowing Adrian, I know he's going to play at a very high level when he comes back. I'm anticipating that, just knowing Adrian and what he's done in the past."

Spielman's comments echoed what coach Mike Zimmer said in his season-ending news conference on Dec. 30, when he said of Peterson," I think he’d add value to any team, to be honest with you. I think the kid’s a heck of a football player."

There will be those who parse Spielman's comments in light of his oft-repeated refrain from the 2012 offseason, when he said the Vikings have "no intent" of trading Percy Harvin. If the general manager wanted to end speculation about Peterson's future in Minnesota, he could have declared the Vikings will welcome the running back's return to their roster as soon as he's reinstated by the league. But that wouldn't be the most prudent move from a football standpoint. The Vikings got 1,108 yards out of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon in Peterson's absence this season, and depending on what they do with Peterson, they could look to add a running back in a deep draft class.

There's little question about Peterson's singular talents on the field, but the Vikings' ability to get decent production at a fraction of the cost could depress Peterson's value from a financial standpoint. It still seems as though the fulcrum for this whole thing will be Peterson's willingness to restructure his contract in Minnesota, and that could depend on the state of the running back's relationship with the team come the time of his reinstatement. So here we sit, with the uncertainty about Peterson's future in Minnesota likely to linger for several more months.
MINNEAPOLIS -- There was always going to be something about Duron Carter's visit to Minnesota that felt a little different than any other visit the Canadian Football League star took this winter. He would return to the same practice facility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, that he ran around as a kid. He would see some of the same faces on Friday that he remembered from when his father, Cris, was finishing his Hall of Fame career with the Vikings. In many ways, it would feel like a homecoming.

But now, there's a good chance the younger Carter's Friday workout in Minnesota could be the beginning of his own story with the Vikings.

Duron Carter
USA TODAY SportsDuron Carter caught 75 passes for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns this season in the CFL.
Duron Carter said the Vikings are his top choice after his meeting and workout with the team, and while the CFL All-Star can't sign with a team until Feb. 10, it seems like a distinct possibility he'll follow his father's footsteps with the Vikings. The 23-year-old still could visit the Carolina Panthers next week (depending on the team's playoff schedule), as well as the Cleveland Browns. He has also talked with the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers about visiting. But at the moment, Carter said, the Vikings and Indianapolis Colts are the front-runners for his services.

Carter, who went through a rookie minicamp tryout with the Vikings in 2013, has stayed in touch with receivers coach George Stewart and many of the team's receivers since then. On Friday, he worked out for the Vikings' front office and coaching staff, with everyone from general manager Rick Spielman to head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner in attendance.

"Nobody missed it -- from the GM all the way down," Carter said.

After catching 75 passes for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns for the Montreal Alouettes this season, Carter has earned significant NFL interest this winter. It's believed he could fetch a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $100,000 on a three-year deal -- for comparison's sake, the Vikings gave former CFL receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux a $75,000 signing bonus in 2011 -- and if Carter lands in Minnesota, he could get a chance to compete for playing time on a team still trying to figure out what it has at receiver.

"It felt like being back home," Duron Carter said. "I used to run around that facility when I was little. It still hasn’t changed -- I remember some of the cooking people, I still remember where everything is. When I was in for the rookie minicamp, it felt really overwhelming. But this was completely different from the minicamp, from the standpoint of them wanting me and pursuing me. It felt a lot better."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Cris Carter has made no secret of his gratitude for what the Minnesota Vikings did to help him turn his life around, and the Hall of Fame receiver is doing his best to put his affections for his former team aside as his son Duron visits with them on Thursday and Friday.

"I'm trying my best to be non-partisan," Carter said on Thursday. "But strange things have happened. Minnesota has been good to the Carters."

Duron Carter
USA TODAY SportsDuron Carter caught 75 passes for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns this season in the CFL.
For Cris Carter, though, the biggest thrill in the process might be the fact that his 23-year-old son is earning significant NFL interest because of what he's done, not because of what his father did.

After a rookie minicamp tryout with the Vikings in 2013, Duron Carter chose to sign with Montreal Alouettes, rather than go through training camp in Minnesota. He played two seasons in the CFL, caught 75 passes for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and has received significant NFL interest from teams like the Vikings, Colts, Chiefs, 49ers, Browns and Panthers, among others.

He will work out for the Vikings on Friday, and could still visit with San Francisco, Cleveland or Carolina after his trip to Minnesota. He isn't able to sign with a team until Feb. 10, but can agree to a deal before then. Things could move quickly with the Vikings if his visit goes well; the team has kept in touch with him since his 2013 tryout, and a NFL source said the Vikings' interest in Duron Carter is "beyond a workout" this time around.

Duron Carter might have had a more traditional path to the NFL if not for academic issues at Ohio State and Alabama, but the elder Carter, who works as an analyst on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," said his son's time in the CFL gave him the valuable experience he missed in Division I college football.

"It was everything for him," Cris Carter said. "He didn’t have the game experience, he didn’t have the consistency, he didn’t have the competition it would take to be a professional. The opportunity he had in Montreal, it was really just player development. We're pretty used to the system -- you go to high school, play football, you go to college, play football and you try to make it in NFL. But there are other ways of getting there, if you're talented, you persevere and you get a good break."

Cris Carter said he wants the best situation for his son, and knows the Vikings have to make their own business decisions, too. "It's not going to affect how I ever feel about the Vikings," he said. "(General manager) Rick (Spielman)'s got to get the best players he can get. I respect that. Under no circumstances do the Vikings feel like Duron is being forced on them. They are the ones that pursued him."

That's because of the son's accomplishments, not the father's. And no matter Duron Carter's next destination, his path to this point has made his dad proud.

"His trail led to the CFL," Cris Carter said. "Him playing in the NFL is more realistic than two years ago."
The Minnesota Vikings took care of their main 2015 free agent priorities last preseason, signing tight end Kyle Rudolph and guard Brandon Fusco to contract extensions in August and September, respectively. Their main 2015 offseason question will revolve around the future of Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, but in terms of the team's pending free agents, the Vikings have few major items on their to-do list. Below is a quick look at the Vikings players who will become unrestricted or restricted free agents when the new league year opens at 4 p.m. ET March 10, when unrestricted free agents can sign with any team.

Unrestricted:

Christian Ponder, QB
Jerome Felton, FB (can opt out of 2015 contract)
Joe Berger, OL
Vladimir Ducasse, OG
Corey Wootton, DE
Tom Johnson, DT
Jasper Brinkley, LB
Mistral Raymond, SS (spent 2014 on injured reserve)
Cullen Loeffler, OL

Restricted:

Matt Asiata, RB
Mike Harris, OT

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