NFC North: Jayme Mitchell
So it here is, broken down by each team in all its glory, courtesy "Marathon" Brett Longdin of the ESPN.com blog editing team. Below it I'll have a few notes.
- The Bears used the third-round pick they received for tight end Greg Olsen last summer as part of their trade to acquire receiver Brandon Marshall earlier this month. That leaves them with their original third-round pick, No. 79 overall.
- The Lions lost their sixth-round draft pick as part of their 2010 tampering case with the Kansas City Chiefs. It rose from a seventh-round pick because they made the playoffs.
- One of the Lions' seventh-round picks came from the Seattle Seahawks in a trade for Tyler Polumbus in 2010.
- The Packers got an extra seventh-round pick, the No. 224 overall, in a trade with the New York Jets for offensive lineman Caleb Schlauderaff last summer.
- The Minnesota Vikings got an extra sixth-round pick, the No. 175 overall, as part of its 2010 trade with the Cleveland Browns for defensive end Jayme Mitchell.
- The Vikings also got a seventh-round pick, No. 223 overall, as part of its acquisition of receiver Randy Moss in 2010.
- The Chicago Bears surprisingly released defensive end Mark Anderson and signed veteran Charles Grant, the former New Orleans Saint who had been playing with Omaha of the UFL. My first reaction: Can Grant play right tackle? Because nothing that ails the Bears right now can be fixed by a defensive end. I don't doubt that Anderson has underachieved and that Grant is an intriguing short-term replacement. But this move is more eye-opening than it is likely to be impactful on the field. If you subscribe to the theory that coach Lovie Smith has dropped all player loyalties in this win-or-else season, maybe the Anderson release shouldn't be that surprising. I wasn't sold on that idea last week, but Smith has now taken dramatic moves against two of the players he has most inexplicably supported in recent years: Anderson and defensive tackle Tommie Harris.
- The Minnesota Vikings traded defensive end Jayme Mitchell to the Cleveland Browns for a late-round 2012 draft choice. Mitchell has been a decent situational pass rusher over the years, but he role would always be limited behind Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Brian Robison and possibly rookie Everson Griffen.
- The Carolina Panthers released receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who was arrested Tuesday morning for driving while impaired. Before anyone asks if Jarrett is a possibility to help fortify the Vikings' receiving corps, remember that the team passed on its opportunity to draft Jarrett in the second round of the 2007 draft. Instead, the Vikings drafted Sidney Rice. The Vikings had a much lower grade on Jarrett, and I don't think anything has happened since then to change their feelings.
We'll spend part of Wednesday sifting through the various forms of free agency as the market sets to open late Thursday night (at least in the central time zone).
My NFC West colleague, Mike Sando, offers a nice primer on restricted free agency (RFA), a system for players with three years of accrued experience. By offering one of four tenders, a team can ensure a player's return for 2009 by matching any offer he might receive on the market. There is also an opportunity for compensation if the original team decides against matching.
First, let's look at the four tenders for 2009:
The deadline for offering tenders is Thursday. In the NFC North, Green Bay has the most decisions to make -- not surprising, considering the Packers were the NFL's youngest team in 2008. Here is the full list of NFC North restricted free agents by team, based on information distributed by the NFL Players Association:
- Chicago: None
- Detroit: None
- Green Bay: Safety Atari Bigby, receiver Shaun Bodiford, safety Jarrett Bush, tight end Tory Humphrey, defensive end Jason Hunter, fullback John Kuhn, receiver Ruvell Martin.
- Minnesota: Defensive tackle Fred Evans, defensive end Otis Grigsby, defensive end Jayme Mitchell, fullback Naufahu Tahi.
If a player signs his tender, that relinquishes his rights to negotiate with another team.
To me, the Black and Blue's most interesting RFA is Bigby, who seemed on his way to big things after the 2007 season. Injuries limited him to seven largely ineffective games in 2008, and his value isn't totally clear. The Packers would like to rely on him as a starter in 2009, but the reality is that Bigby has missed 12 of a possible 40 games because of injury during his career.
At the same time, it's possible another team would make him an offer if the Packers apply the low $1.01 million tender. UPDATED/CORRECTION: Bigby was undrafted, so he would require no compensation at the low tender. I agree with Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. If their goal is to discourage another team's interest, the Packers probably will have to offer the second-round tender of $1.545 million.
Mike of Sacramento asked, and I've listened (Finally).
We're still six weeks away from free agency and the start of what we like to call the "new league year," but already it's time to start looking at the NFL's hot stove season.
So over the next four days, we'll roll out an analysis of each Black and Blue team's situation as it begins making plans for the offseason. Let's be fair and move in order of the 2008 finish, starting with Minnesota.
Minnesota Vikings offseason analysis
- 2008 record: 10-6
- Coaching changes: Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro took linebackers job in St. Louis. Replacement unannounced.
- Salary-cap space: $20.4 million before end-of-year credits and adjustments.
- Restricted free agents: Defensive tackle Fred Evans, cornerback Charles Gordon, defensive end Otis Grigsby, defensive end Jayme Mitchell, fullback Naufahu Tahi.
- Unrestricted free agents: Center Matt Birk, linebacker Heath Farwell, linebacker Napoleon Harris, offensive lineman Marcus Johnson, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, defensive tackle Ellis Wyms.
- Draft highlight: They own the No. 22 overall pick
- Free-agency comment: The Vikings seemingly have made the decision to let Birk and Sharper seek employment elsewhere, although that could always change in the days leading up to free agency. They have an in-house replacement for Sharper in Tyrell Johnson, but they'll have to further evaluate the situation at center. Among the other free agents, Farwell is a likely target as he recovers from a torn ACL.
- Three biggest needs: (1) A quarterback to compete with Tarvaris Jackson; (2) A right tackle to compete with or replace Ryan Cook; (3) A kick/punt returner to count on weekly, rather than relying on a mix-and-match approach.
We mused earlier today about the pros and cons of getting Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson onto the field Thursday night at Dallas, especially considering the tendency of NFL coaches to rest selected starters in the final preseason game.
Even with Jackson's shortened preseason, it's almost certainly the right call. The Vikings already have lost two players -- linebacker Heath Farwell and defensive end Jayme Mitchell -- for this season. Several other starters are nursing injuries, a list that includes Jackson, receiver Bernard Berrian (toe) and safety Madieu Williams (neck).
We have heard plenty of complaining from all over the league about the NFL's new 80-man roster limit for training camp. Previously, NFL Europe exemptions gave each team an extra handful of players. But one part of last year's rules -- allowing 75 players on the roster for the final preseason game -- remained unchanged.
As recently as 2006, the NFL required teams to cut down to 65 players (plus their NFL Europe exemptions) before the final week of the preseason. If teams still had to operate with that limitation, it is unlikely that Childress -- and we have to imagine other coaches -- would have had the roster flexibility to sit all 22 starters.
So, if you're a sunny-side up kind of person, there is one positive aspect of the NFL's roster policy this year.
|Tim Heitman/US PRESSWIRE|
|The Minnesota Vikings are counting on Adrian Peterson and Tarvaris Jackson this season.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Let's, er, wrap-up our Camp Wrap series today by looking at the Minnesota Vikings. (We covered the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers late last week. And there isn't much to add to this report on the Detroit Lions, which came after a visit on the final day of their training camp).
What we learned about the Vikings this summer:
1. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has made some improvements but needs to be more careful about preserving his health. Most recently, he sprained his right knee after choosing to lower his shoulder on two Baltimore defenders rather than sliding. "Maybe we learn to play another day and take two less yards on running up the field," coach Brad Childress said. Amen.
2. Preseason injuries are a downer. The Vikings have lost special teams ace Heath Farwell (knee) and defensive end Jayme Mitchell (knee) for the season. They will go without new safety Madieu Williams (neck) for at least the first three games and are hoping Jackson is not sidelined long. Receiver Bernard Berrian has been bothered by a case of turf toe and nose tackle Pat Williams is battling elbow and knee ailments. Even with a deep roster, the Vikings can't withstand many more significant injuries.
3. The Vikings have a high degree of confidence in placekicker Ryan Longwell -- so much so that he was a healthy scratch for the first two preseason games. The decision was part of a plan to ensure that Longwell, 34, maintains a strong leg for the duration of the season. In the meantime, rookie Steven Hauschka has kicked well enough in Longwell's place to earn a few tryouts later this summer. We'll bring you more on Hauschka later this week. (Try to contain your excitement).
What we still need to find out:
1. Resolution at left tackle. There still has been no official word on the status of left tackle Bryant McKinnie, whom the NFL is likely to discipline in some way for an offseason arrest in Miami. Will it be a fine? One game? Two? Four? No one knows yet. The same can also be said for his potential replacement. Artis Hicks remains the likeliest candidate, but he spent no time at left tackle during camp. Instead, the Vikings worked three young players behind McKinnie: Chase Johnson, Drew Radovich and Tim Mattran. The latter two are sidelined with shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively.
2. If Jared Allen can fix the pass defense alone. Madieu Williams' injury leaves Allen as the only healthy newcomer the Vikings brought in to improve a pass defense that finished last in the NFL in 2007. Allen has applied some pressure in the preseason but it will be a while before we know whether the Vikings' perennially poor pass defense has gotten any better.
3. If the Vikings are ready to overcome the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears for NFC North supremacy. The Vikings haven't won the division since 2000, and on paper they have as deep a roster as any of the division's four teams. But the injuries and Jackson's uncertain status requires a wait-and-see attitude.
Even as they wrapped up training camp Thursday, the Minnesota Vikings were still assessing their depth at left tackle, where starter Bryant McKinnie is facing possible NFL discipline for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
The NFL has not yet announced McKinnie's punishment, which should range from a fine to a four-game suspension. (Sirius NFL radio speculated this week it would be four games). Even if he misses only one contest, however, the Vikings will have to find a replacement at one of the game's most important positions.
Utility backup Artis Hicks would figure as the short-term answer, but in speaking about the issue Thursday, coach Brad Childress did not mention another name that has been floated about -- second-year player Chase Johnson. Instead, Childress noted the work of two undrafted rookies: Drew Radovich, who is sidelined by a shoulder injury, and former Stanford center Tim Mattran.
Heading into Saturday night's preseason game at Baltimore, Childress didn't pretend that the Vikings are particularly deep at the position.
"I feel like we've got some guys that we can move in and out of there," he said. "... It's rare that you're great at 1 and great at 1A. It's rare."
No matter how deep the Vikings are, losing their left tackle for four games would be a significant blow. Already this summer they have lost two key defensive reserves (linebacker Heath Farwell and defensive end Jayme Mitchell), while safety Madieu Williams likely will miss the first three games because of a neck injury.
We'll get you our daily Black and Blue roundup a bit later this morning, but this news out of Minnesota deserves its own post.
It appears safety Madieu Williams will miss an extended period of time due to a neck injury, according to the Star Tribune. Williams, who signed a six-year, $33 million contract as one of the Vikings' three major acquisitions during the offseason, won't play before the Vikings' Sept. 28 game at Tennessee.
The exact nature of the injury hasn't been disclosed, and as a result the Titans game could be the early end of Williams' timetable. He likely will be replaced by rookie second-round pick Tyrell Johnson, but Johnson himself missed practice Monday because of a strained abdominal muscle.
Injuries are starting to pile up for the Vikings' defense. Linebacker Heath Farwell and defensive end Jayme Mitchell both suffered season-ending knee injuries in last Friday's preseason opener against Seattle. Defensive end Brian Robison has missed most of training camp after having two blood clots removed from his leg, and the Vikings are being careful with the surgically repaired elbow of nose tackle Pat Williams.
MANKATO, Minn. -- I believe it, but only because I saw it myself.
For weeks, we've been reading about the relatively sweatless training camp that Brad Childress has been running in his third year as the Minnesota Vikings' coach. But after watching the brutal conditions he implemented as recently as 2006, it was hard to imagine training camp practices without the constant crash of helmets and shoulder pads.
But that's exactly what we found during our visit Monday to Minnesota State, Mankato. The Vikings practiced in shoulder pads and shorts for about an hour and 50 minutes during the morning, and then in shorts and shells (soft shoulder pads) for a little over an hour in the afternoon.
Childress has put players in full pads only four times in 25 practices this summer; one of them was a dual practice with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Contrast that to two years ago, when Childress scheduled full-pads practices for 12 consecutive days. Childress' first camp with the Vikings was similar to the one John Harbaugh is running in Baltimore: A summer dedicated to setting a permanent foundation and tempo for his new program. (Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune had a good piece on the topic last week.)
"We still bang but it's not like previous years," nose tackle Pat Williams said. "I think it's going to pay off in September, in October and in the long run after that. It'll definitely pay off for us."
Yes, the approach has gone over well with the Vikings' veteran roster. Practices are focused on installation and mental work rather than hitting. Depending on personnel groupings, the Vikings could start as many as seven players who will be at least 30 years old during the season. They are a professional group, and Childress is leaving their conditioning up to them.
It is a delicate balance, of course. Excessive hitting wears down many players. In the worst-case scenario, it leads to injuries. On the flip side, the violent nature of football requires some degree of hitting to re-condition players to contact.
The Vikings fumbled five times, losing four, in their 34-17 preseason loss to Seattle last Friday night. A cynic might make a connection between fumbles and the level of contact in practice, but it seems way too early to draw that conclusion.
Here are a few other random observations from today's practices:
- One reason Childress might have pulled back this summer: More than a few veteran players are nursing injuries. Pat Williams is wearing a brace to repair his surgically-repaired elbow. Safety Madieu Williams has been sidelined with a sore neck. Receiver Bernard Berrian, meanwhile, hasn't participated in team drills for the past two days because of a sore groin.
- Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson had excellent accuracy on the short- and medium-range passes I saw him throw. But he was still hit-or-miss on deep passes, and I saw several "long fly balls," as Childress calls overthrown passes.
- Monday morning couldn't have been the sharpest practice of the summer. The Vikes had receiver Bobby Wade with two drops and Aundrae Allison with one. Rookie Jaymar Johnson, meanwhile, dropped two punts.
- Running back Adrian Peterson exists. Peterson didn't get a carry last Friday night, but he was active -- and as fast as ever -- during practice Monday.
- The Vikings are running out of defensive ends. They placed Jayme Mitchell (knee) on injured reserve Monday, ending his season. Second-year end Brian Robison revealed he had two blood clots removed from his leg as part of a surgical procedure to repair a varicose vein. Those injuries have elevated Otis Grigsby to second-team status.
The Minnesota Vikings learned Sunday they have lost not one, but two, key reserves for the season because of torn anterior cruciate ligaments.
As feared, linebacker/special teams ace Heath Farwell is one of them, coach Brad Childress told reporters Sunday. But the other was a surprise: Defensive end Jayme Mitchell, who apparently suffered the injury on his first play from scrimmage Friday night in the Vikings' 34-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Mitchell was running with the second team behind left end Ray Edwards and was expected to be part of the Vikings' defensive line rotation this season. Farwell, meanwhile, is one of the NFL's top special teams cover men and probably would have been the first linebacker off the bench at all three positions during the regular season.
Farwell's injury could pave the way for rookie linebacker Erin Henderson to make the team. Henderson is the younger brother of Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson.