SI’s Trotter: Tomlinson To Visit Vikings On Thursday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2010 – 7:14 pm

Earlier today we posted a blog entry explaining a few thoughts about the Vikings task of replacing RB Chester Taylor. One of the names mentioned in those thoughts – RB LaDainian Tomlinson – is the subject of a report that will likely catch the attention of Vikings fans.

Jim Trotter of reported midway through Tuesday afternoon that Tomlinson, a 5-time Pro Bowler and 1-time NFL MVP, will visit the Vikings at Winter Park on Thursday. A versatile and experienced RB, Tomlinson has the skill set that would make him a fitting complement to starter Adrian Peterson.

We have not confirmed this report but wanted to mention it in this space, especially because we addressed the topic of replacing Taylor earlier today. We’ll provide updates on this issue when they become available to us.

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Vikings, Sapp Agree To Terms

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2010 – 7:05 pm

In the previous entry we referenced a tweet from CB Benny Sapp’s agent saying the CB and Vikings have agreed to terms on a contract. At that point, we couldn’t comfirm the news.

But now we can. The Vikings and Sapp have indeed agreed to terms and the re-signing will likely become official soon.

Sapp is coming off a career year and his presence on the roster will be important for the Vikings in 2010 because both Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield will be returning from injuries.

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Agent: Sapp Re-Signs With Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2010 – 2:34 pm

I have not confirmed with team officials, but according to the Twitter account of Benny Sapp’s agent Andy Simms, the unrestricted free agent (UFA) CB has agreed to terms to remain with the Vikings.

The news should be encouraging for Vikings fans because Sapp played well in 2009 as the team’s primary nickel CB and he also stepped up his game and played outside quite a bit when CB Antoine Winfield was missing from action due to a foot injury. With both Winfield and other starting CB Cedric Griffin coming back from injuries in 2010, Sapp’s presence on the roster should provide some stability.

Sapp has spent the past 2 seasons with the Vikings after playing the first 4 years of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

We’ll have more information for you when it becomes available.

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Thoughts On Replacement Options For Chester Taylor

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2010 – 2:11 pm

The most common email question I received this past week was about RB Chester Taylor signing with the Bears and the Vikings next move in replacing him. I thought there was so much interest in this issue that we’d devote a separate blog entry to it rather than including it in this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag.

So, let’s take a look at a several options the Vikings have in terms of filling the hole created by Taylor’s departure.

– Since we’re in the middle of free agency, many of you seem to be brainstorming about which available players might best fit the Vikings offensive system as a replacement for Taylor. There are 3 types of available players for the Vikings to consider – free agents, unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and restricted free agents (RFAs).

The 2 free agents that have been linked to the Vikings most frequently are former Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson and former Eagles RB Brian Westbrook. Both of these players were released from their respective teams, making them free agents. Also, both players seem to have the skill sets that would make them nice complementary backs to Adrian Peterson.

But another free agent RB that might also fit nicely with the Vikings is former Raiders RB Justin Fargas. Most people will immediately write off this suggestion and I think that reaction is the product of Fargas playing in Oakland – not an ideal scenario over the past few seasons – more so than the result of a true evaluation of how he might play in Minnesota.

In the RFA market, I think Jets RB Leon Washington is an intriguing possibility. But there are 2 significant hurdles for any team interested in Washington. First, he’s coming off a serious leg injury from last season. Secondly, he was tendered at the 2nd round level by the Jets, meaning any team that wants to sign him must pay him a contract and also give up a 2nd rounder this year.

In terms of UFAs, one back out there who has produced at the NFL level in the past is Willie Parker. He has displayed abilities in both the run game and also as a receiver out of the backfield.

– Another option for the Vikings to consider is drafting another RB to fill Taylor’s role. Maybe it’s with their 1st round pick – #30 overall – or maybe it’s with another choice later in the draft. The Vikings currently have 7 selections in April’s draft and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Vikings use one of them on a RB.

– Don’t forget the Vikings have a pair of RBs on the roster right now – Ian Johnson and Albert Young – who will give their best effort to show coaches that they can step up with Taylor now departed. Also, the Vikings have recently added 3-year pro James Johnson to the roster. Young was the Vikings #3 RB last year but Johnson gave him good competition during training camp last year.

– Another route the Vikings could go is to explore a trade for a RB, although this seems like the least likely method the Vikings would use.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the Vikings goal should not be to fill the spot quickly. Rather, the Vikings need to fill it well. Taylor was obviously an important part of the Vikings offense in 2009 and all during his 4-year tenure in Minnesota, so it’s fair to expect that whomever the Vikings choose to fulfill that role in 2010 will be relied upon in a similar fashion.

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More On The Lloyd Signing

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2010 – 8:41 am

Although it doesn’t carry the same high-profile nature of a signing such as DE Julius Peppers or S Antrel Rolle, the Vikings soon-to-be official acquisition of kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd is no less important.

The Vikings, of any team, surely realize the impact of the kickoff and kickoff return game. During the 2009 season, Percy Harvin averaged 27.5 yards per kickoff return and there were a number of times when a big return from the rookie sparked the offense and turned momentum around. Additionally, there were a number of times when the Vikings gave up a big return – at Chicago in Week 16 and at New Orleans in the NFC title game – that stole momentum.

While in general the Vikings special teams play improved in 2009 from 2008, I expect that the signing of Lloyd will yield even better results for the Vikings in 2010. Specifically, Lloyd will register more touchbacks (TBs) than Ryan Longwell. During the 2009 season, Longwell had 5 TBs while Lloyd tallied 21. For his career, Lloyd registers TBs on 33.3% of his kickoffs (51 out of 153), which is an excellent rate and one that will make life easier for the Vikings kickoff coverage team and defense.

To illustrate the importance of forcing opponents to start at or inside their own 20-yardline, consider this: During the 2009 season, Vikings opponents scored on 28.1% of their drives (53 out of 188). But when Vikings opponents began drives inside the 20-yardline, they scored just 18.2% of the time (8 out of 44).

Lloyd has been efficient at registering TBs during his career and he’s been spectacular when kicking indoors. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Lloyd tallied 15 TBs on 34 kickoffs (44.1%) while playing indoors. This is a good trend for the Vikings considering they will play 10 of their 16 regular season games indoors next year.

The extra strength Lloyd provides on kickoffs will also come in handy for the Vikings 6 outdoor games in 2010. Depending on what time of year the games are played, contests in Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York (Jets), Philadelphia and Washington can often times feature inclement weather that makes it hard on the kickoff team. With Lloyd on the roster, though, the effect won’t be felt as much by the Vikings kick coverage team.

So the addition of Lloyd won’t necessarily result in more sacks or INTs, and it doesn’t help the Vikings replace Chester Taylor, but it does give the team another weapon that will ultimately result in worse field position for the opponent. Longwell will now be able to focus solely on FGs and PATs while Lloyd will concentrate on booting TBs.

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Report: K Lloyd Signs With Vikings

Posted by cjsiewert on March 9, 2010 – 7:19 am

According to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd and the Vikings agreed to a 2-year contract Monday night.

After passing on making a visit with the New York Giants on Tuesday, the former Gopher and Apple Valley, MN native became the first free-agent signed by the Vikings this offseason.  The Panthers did not tender him an offer as a restricted free agent (RFA), allowing him to test the market.

The 4-year veteran spent his rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens and the past 3 seasons with the Carolina Panthers.  Lloyd played in all 32 of the Panthers regular season games over the past 2 seasons compiling a total of 51 touchbacks in 160 kickoffs.  It is assumed that the Vikings will rely on Lloyd to handle kickoffs with 14-year veteran Ryan Longwell specializing in field goals and extra points.

Lloyd’s agent, Frank Murtha, expressed the kicker’s excitement about the organization while acknowledging his new role as the Vikings’ kickoff specialist.

“The organization made it clear that they were committed to carrying a kickoff specialist,” Murtha told Zulgad. “I think that was made clear to Rhys and to me.  Coach Childress and his staff and the organization were committed to that.  They wanted to have the advantage that they had seen around the league either with the teams that have carried an extra guy or those that have someone in the organization whose kickoffs were beyond the norm.  Rhys is capable of putting the ball in the end zone all of the time.”

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