It’s not an NFL contest and it won’t be played in an NFL stadium, but there’s a football game in Minneapolis on Saturday and the Vikings have a stake in the action.
The 38th annual Minnesota High School All-Star Game will be played this Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium and a pair of former Vikings will be head coaches for each team. The game’s format pits a “North” team against a “South” team, with the line drawn through the Metro area and former TE Joe Senser leading the North team against former LB Matt Blair’s South squad.
The Vikings are one of many sponsors of the all-star game and will have a presence beyond Blair and Senser. Head coach Leslie Frazier will give a (pre-taped) congratulations message during pregame and other entertainment and in-game elements will be supported by the Vikings.
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Earlier this week we devoted a “Monday Morning Mailbag: Extra” blog entry to analyzing the Vikings situation at WR, where the status of Sidney Rice remains up in the air due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) impasse. Another member of the starting lineup – this one on the defensive side of the ball – finds himself in a similar scenario.
DE Ray Edwards, who has developed into a solid starting LDE opposite Jared Allen, will hit the open market under a CBA that requires 4 or fewer accrued seasons to be eligible for unrestricted free agency. But if the next CBA requires more than 4 seasons, Edwards (and Rice) will remain under contract in Minnesota with a RFA tender.
So we’ll treat this entry the same way we treated the entry about Rice; what might be the Vikings plan if Edwards decides to leave the club via free agency?
As I pointed out with Rice, I think it’s important to first make it clear that retaining Edwards is the optimal outcome, whether it’s via a 1-year RFA tender or a long-term contract extension. He’s developed from a risky 4th-round pick in 2006 to a solid starting-caliber DE on a defensive line that’s been dominant against the run and improving against the pass over the last several seasons. Edwards fits well on the defensive line in Minnesota and I’m guessing head coach Leslie Frazier would prefer to have a player of Edwards’ ability on the roster.
But sometimes the optimal outcome can’t be reached. In that event, the Vikings might address the position a bit differently than they’d address the WR position. As we pointed out on Monday with the WRs, the Vikings could take a look at the open market to fill a vacancy left by Rice’s departure. But if Edwards leaves and creates a void, the Vikings might already have the players who can step up and fill in.
Let’s take a quick look at a few players (in alphabetical order) who could compete for a starting job should Edwards leave via free agency…
Christian Ballard: This is a player about whom Vikings fans should be excited. He measures in at 6-4, 283 pounds, which gives him the frame to play either DE or DT in the Vikings 4-3 defensive scheme. Conveniently, Ballard has the skill set as well as the frame to be a versatile lineman capable of playing multiple positions. Ballard spent the first 2 years of his career at left DE before moving inside and starting all 13 games of his junior season at DT. In his final season, Ballard rotated often at both spots, starting 8 contests on the outside and 5 more inside. Wherever the Vikings need an infusion of talent – DE or DT – Ballard looks able to provide it.
Everson Griffen: The Vikings selected Griffen during the 2010 NFL Draft and at the time he was described as a player with 1st-round talent who slid to the 4th round. He was productive on special teams but wasn’t able to make much of a difference on defense (he didn’t see much action on defense, either). But there’s no denying that Griffen has the physical ability to be a contributor on defense. He just has to put in the work necessary to improve and convince coaches he can be trusted to perform consistently. If Griffen can get on the field, he’s got a shot to prove a lot of doubters wrong and show everyone that he shouldn’t have slide into the 4th round.
Brian Robison: Here’s yet another player the Vikings took in the later rounds and eventually developed into a solid playmaker. Robison was rewarded for his hard work and production this past offseason with a new contract. It might not take long for Robison to start earning that contract, because he’s likely the default choice to start if Edwards leaves. But don’t peg Robison as someone who’ll be happy to be named the “default starter.” Both Ballard and Griffen could have the talent to beat him out. The question is, will Robison let them? I’m guessing the answer is no.
What do you think? Do any of these players represent a suitable replacement for Edwards? Let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.
Tags: Brian Robison, Christian Ballard, Everson Griffen, Leslie Frazier, Sidney Rice
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