NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

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Breakdown: The Vikings' efforts to improve their defense under new coach Mike Zimmer will get a firm test early in the season; the team will have faced Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers by Oct. 2, with two of those three games coming on the road. The Vikings will have to handle that stretch of their schedule if they want to burnish their playoff chances with a soft stretch in the middle of the season -- four consecutive games against Detroit, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Washington, with a bye week coming at the end. And the NFL gave the Vikings their fair share of chances to play cold-weather games in their first season at TCF Bank Stadium; four of Minnesota's last six are at home.

Complaint department: If the Vikings were to have a gripe with this schedule, it would probably come right up front. They will open on the road for the sixth time in seven seasons, face Brady in their first game at TCF Bank Stadium and travel to two of the toughest venues on their schedule -- the Superdome and Lambeau Field -- in a five-week stretch. The other home game in there is against the Atlanta Falcons, who will be trying to rebound from a rare down year. It will be incumbent upon Zimmer to have the Vikings' defense in good working order early in the season, or the passers on the Vikings' schedule could make it tough to recover.

Getting acquainted with the elements: The Vikings haven't played well in cold weather in recent years, but they are going to have to learn, because the NFL loaded up the back half of their schedule with home games. They get three in a row at home from Nov. 23-Dec. 7, and close the season with Jared Allen's return to Minnesota on Dec. 28. In fact, the Vikings will play five of their seven games after the bye in cold-weather climates, with four of those at home and another in Chicago. The only breaks will come on Dec. 14 in Detroit's dome, and Dec. 21 in Miami.

Strength of schedule: 21st, .477 | Vegas over/under : 7

Vikings Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 7, at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 14, New England, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 21, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 28, Atlanta, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 2, at Green Bay, 8:25 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, NY Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, at Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, Chicago, 1 p.m.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings players are on a one-week break from the team's offseason workout program, and many of them will return next week for the team's voluntary veteran minicamp. The Vikings got to start their offseason program two weeks earlier than most teams, after hiring new coach Mike Zimmer, but that doesn't mean they get to have a longer program than the rest of the league. As such, players are on their own this week, though there are still handfuls of players working out at the team's facility.

But when the Vikings do get back together, they'll likely have high attendance for their minicamp, as they've had for the beginning of their offseason program and they've had for their programs in years past. For many players, in addition to a chance to get extra work with teammates and make a good impression on coaches, there's money to be earned by participating in the team's offseason program.

Like many teams, the Vikings include workout bonuses in the contracts of veteran players, offering them an incentive to spend time in a structured program where the team can keep track of what they're doing and give them opportunities to work with players. The bonuses generally aren't offered to players in their rookie contracts, but some draft picks, like cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, have $100,000 bonuses in the fourth year of their rookie deals.

This season, the Vikings could pay out as much as $1,695,000 in workout bonuses to players who participate in the majority of their offseason program. Those bonuses range from $250,000 (for running back Adrian Peterson) all the way down to $10,000 (for cornerback Josh Robinson and long-snapper Cullen Loeffler). Peterson, of course, hasn't been with the team yet during its offseason workouts, instead staying in Houston to do rehab work after his January groin surgery, but he said earlier this month he hopes to join the Vikings for their offseason program soon.

Here is the full list of the Vikings' 2014 workout bonuses, according to ESPN Stats & Information contract data:

 
MINNEAPOLIS -- There are just 16 days to go until the 2014 NFL draft, meaning we're firmly in the time of year when general managers are more likely to top off their draft preparations with a dollop of misdirection than a scintilla of truth.

And yet, when Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman described the process of evaluating this year's quarterback class as "torturous" in an interview published Monday, his comments were structured around a consistent theme he's been hitting since the Vikings began draft preparations in earnest three months ago.

"Every one of these quarterbacks ... nothing is a sure thing," Spielman said in a discussion with MMQB.com on Monday. "There’s no Andrew Luck, no Peyton Manning. It is such a mixed bag with each player -- every one of them has positives, every one of them has negatives. And if that’s the way you end up feeling, why don’t you just wait ’til later in the draft and take someone with the first pick you’re sure will help you right now?"

[+] EnlargeChristian Ponder
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsWould the Vikings have stayed with Christian Ponder as long as they did if he had been drafted in the second or third round?
Since January, Spielman has been talking about how far and wide the Vikings would search for a quarterback, how careful they would be not to get boxed into drafting one in the first round. He has described this class as being without a sure thing since February and has talked since March about how re-signing Matt Cassel gave the Vikings the freedom to wait on a quarterback.

There are a couple of viable explanations for the consistency. One possibility is that Spielman has been crafting the narrative that the Vikings won't force a quarterback pick at No. 8 for months, possibly to ward off teams that might be interested in leapfrogging the Vikings for a QB or to create a market for trading down. The other scenario is that Spielman is staring at the situation, knowing how damaging the fallout could be for him if he misses on another highly drafted passer, and is mulling the possibility that a first-round quarterback might just be too big of a gamble in this draft.

Plenty of people around the league believe the Vikings won't take a quarterback at No. 8, choosing instead to draft a defensive player or trade back a few spots to accumulate more picks before picking a defender. With the caveat that what you hear from people around the league has to be triple-filtered this time of year, I'm inclined to think it's likely the Vikings wait, for a couple reasons. First, the Vikings still have enough defensive needs that they would be helped sooner by a linebacker or defensive back than they would by drafting a quarterback who needs time to develop. There's some legitimacy to Spielman's statements that the Vikings aren't that far away from being back in the playoffs. That's based on how many close games they might have won with only slightly more efficient quarterbacking and a less porous defense last season. If you believe a full season of Cassel and the prospect of defensive improvement is enough for a quick pivot while Adrian Peterson is still in his 20s, wouldn't it be tempting to consider that route?

The second, and probably more important reason for the Vikings to wait on a quarterback, is this: They've seen just how much time and how many resources can be squandered on a quarterback who doesn't pan out. Peterson was 26 when Christian Ponder made his first start for the Vikings. Percy Harvin was a 23-year-old turning into a breakout star, and Jared Allen was in the midst of a 22-sack season at age 29. The Vikings were in the middle of a rebuilding project under Spielman and Leslie Frazier, but those don't have to take that long in the modern NFL when there are cornerstone players in place.

Heading into 2014, though, Harvin, Allen and Frazier are gone, Ponder has lost the benefit of the doubt, and the Vikings are still trying to figure out their long-term answer at quarterback. Spielman outlived Frazier in Minnesota and got a chance to hire his own coach in Mike Zimmer, but he probably can't survive another big swing and miss at quarterback. If the Vikings were to hitch their fortunes to the wrong guy at No. 8, Zimmer could eventually be dragged down with the GM.

It's interesting to think about what might have happened in 2011 if the Vikings had taken Ponder in the second or third round and if they would have felt less compelled to stand by him. Would they have made a play for Robert Griffin III the next year or taken Russell Wilson instead of Josh Robinson in the third round after Frazier and his staff coached Wilson at the Senior Bowl?

The Vikings might have decided to give Ponder time anyway, but it's difficult to argue any team faces the same pressure to stick by a second-day draft pick as it does with the 12th overall selection. It has to be in the back of Spielman's mind that taking a quarterback later in the draft wouldn't carry the same kind of inherent commitment as drafting one in the top 10, in addition to the fact that passing on QB at No. 8 would give him the opportunity to pick from a dynamic group of defensive players. Considering the quarterbacks that could be in next year's class -- such as Florida State's Jameis Winston, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Oregon's Marcus Mariota -- the Vikings had better know how tethered they want to be to a quarterback they would take this year.

The Vikings are in eight days of pre-draft meetings that conclude next Tuesday, when players return to the team facility for a three-day voluntary minicamp. That event will give Zimmer his first real chance to work with players and make some determinations about what he has in Cassel and Ponder. From there, the Vikings can have their final discussions about how they want to approach the quarterback position. But it seems possible, as it has for months, that they are seriously weighing the benefits of waiting if they're not completely enamored with a QB in the first round.

"How many franchise quarterbacks actually come out?" Spielman said earlier this offseason. "Last couple years, there have been a couple guys that have been taken in the second and third rounds that have been successful. I think there’s some depth in this quarterback class. You’re definitely not going to be forced to take a quarterback at 8 unless you’re totally sold on that quarterback. I can guarantee you that it’s not going to be a forced issue.”
MINNEAPOLIS -- It appears likely we'll see the 2014 NFL schedule this week, possibly as soon as Tuesday night. When the 256-game slate is made public, fans will be able to get their hands on the Minnesota Vikings' calendar for their first season at TCF Bank Stadium. It's an itinerary that, in all likelihood, was more difficult for the league to plan than any in the past five years (and possibly longer).

The Vikings will once again be sharing a stadium with the University of Minnesota, which moved out of the Metrodome in 2009, but this time the Vikings are playing on campus and working under an agreement that places some fairly stringent restrictions on when the team can play home games at TCF Bank Stadium.

For starters, if the Vikings have a prime-time home game this season, it almost has to be on a Sunday night, Thanksgiving night or in late December when the fall semester is over. The team's agreement with the university prohibits the Vikings from playing a weeknight home game while school is in session, and considering how the Vikings have hosted Thursday night games each of the past two seasons, it's difficult to see them playing at home on a Thursday for a third consecutive year. It seems like a prime-time home game would come on a Sunday night, on Monday, Dec. 22, or not at all.

The university also asked the NFL and the Vikings to work with them in preventing home games during the Minnesota State Fair and on Gophers' home weekends. That's part of the reason the Vikings are playing their final two preseason games on the road, and it seems unlikely the league will be able to avoid at least one or two weekends when the Vikings and Gophers are home at the same time (the Gophers have home games on Sept. 6, Sept. 20, Oct. 11, Oct. 18, Nov. 8 and Nov. 15). The university also asked to set aside a pair of Sunday afternoons in November for Gophers basketball games, and the agreement between the university and the team means Vikings' ticketholders wouldn't have parking priorities if the teams are playing at the same time.

Assuming many -- or at least some -- of those demands were compatible with the many other scenarios NFL scheduling guru Howard Katz must manage, it probably isn't too hard to make some reasonable guesses about the Vikings' 2014 schedule. If they open on the road, they'd avoid sharing a home weekend with the Gophers after the first week of the school year (even though the Vikings have opened five of their past six seasons away from home). The league could put the Vikings on the road on both Nov. 9 and 16, or give the team a midseason bye, setting those two Sundays aside for Gophers basketball games when there are already football games on Saturday. And assuming the league sticks with its rotation of Week 17 division matchups, the Vikings would be slated to finish the season in Chicago.

It's a difficult (albeit temporary) set of circumstances to manage, but taking all that into consideration, here's one guess (and it's nothing more than that) at the Vikings' schedule that could keep all parties relatively happy:

Sunday, Sept. 7 -- at Buffalo, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 14 -- vs. Washington, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 21 -- at Tampa Bay, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 28 -- vs. Chicago, 7:20 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 5 -- at Miami, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 12 -- vs. New York Jets, 12 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 16 -- at Green Bay, 7:20 pm.
Sunday, Oct. 26 -- vs. New England, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 2 -- vs. Carolina, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 9 -- Bye
Sunday, Nov. 16 -- at St. Louis, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 23 -- vs. Detroit, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 30 -- at New Orleans, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 7 -- vs. Green Bay, 3:25 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 14 -- at Detroit, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 21 -- vs. Atlanta, 12 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 28 -- at Chicago, 12 p.m.
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."

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