Who’s In, Who’s Out? Vikings Busy On First Day Of League Year

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 13, 2013 – 5:42 am

The first day of the New League Year did not disappoint. It was a hectic day full of signings, reports of signings, cuts, trades and roster shuffling. The Vikings were in on the mix for much of it. Here’s a rundown of what the Vikings accomplished on Tuesday, with another busy day possibly in store for the organization on Wednesday…

– The Percy Harvin trade was finalized. After 4 seasons of receptions, returns and runs for the Vikings, Harvin was shipped to Seattle in exchange for a 1st-round pick and a 7th-round pick in April’s draft plus a 3rd-round pick in the 2013 NFL. That’s a nice haul for the Vikings, who now have 11 selections in this year’s draft and will have a pair of 1st-round picks in back-to-back seasons (Matt Kalil-Harrison Smith in 2012, #23 and #25 overall in 2013).

– Phil Loadholt re-signed with the Vikings and is looking to “finish what we started in Minnesota.” Securing Loadholt allows the Vikings to carry continuity along the offensive line into the 2013 season, as all 5 starters from last year will return in 2013. The average age of the 5 starters is just 25.8 years old.

– While investing in youth by securing three more draft choices and re-signing Loadholt, the Vikings parted (for now) with 15-year veteran CB Antoine Winfield. It was a hard decision, said Vikings GM Rick Spielman, but one the team made with the best interest of the team in mind. Spielman did not rule out a return for Winfield to the roster.

– Spielman was asked about a report that the team and TE John Carlson restructured the contract they agreed to a year ago, but the Vikings GM declined to get into specifics of the restructurings.

– Pro Bowl FB Jerome Felton, LB Erin Henderson, special teams ace and safety Jamarca Sanford, and WR Jerome Simpson all used Twitter to announce that they’ve reached deals to remain with the Vikings. Reports also surfaced on Tuesday that OL Joe Berger re-signed with the Vikings. No official word yet from the club, but this is good news given how much of a priority Spielman and the Vikings front office put on re-signing their own free agents.

– Spielman described the Vikings as being “in good shape” from a salary cap standpoint even after reportedly re-signing 6 of their own free agents, including what figures to be a significant multi-year deal for the road-grading Loadholt. Great work by the Vikings front office.

– Agree with him or disagree (I agree with him), Spielman is steadfast in his opinion of how to best build a roster that can sustain long-term success – through the draft and by retention of core players. Free agency has a place, no question, but it’s a limited place. This quote from Spielman during his press conference on Tuesday sums up the philosophy well: “Well we think we’re going to compete next year, there’s no doubt about that because we were a playoff team last year. By keeping your own and continuing to build through the draft and the success we’ve had the last couple of years with this draft and feel very strong about this draft class coming up, that that’s the approach and philosophy that we believed in and it’s showing that we are having success with that philosophy.”

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Loadholt Looking To “Finish What We Started” In Minnesota

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 12, 2013 – 6:36 pm

About this time in 2009, there was question as to where Phil Loadholt would settle in the NFL. In what would he be selected? And what position would he play? Would he use that massive arm span to corral the League’s best pass rushers as a left tackle or would he use his size and strength to maul defenders in the run game as a right tackle?

Eventually, all of those questions were answered, and they were answered by the Vikings when they selected Loadholt in the 2nd round. Loadholt had 4 productive seasons for the Vikings while playing under his rookie contract, and he proved his worth to the point that the Vikings locked him up for multiple more years on Tuesday, the opening day of the 2013 League Year.

Now, there’s no question where Loadholt is settling. Minnesota.

“I love being in Minnesota, love the community, and my family feels really at home,” Loadholt said. “It’s been great settling in Minnesota and calling it home. I was drafted here, and I wanted to come back and finish what we started here. I have a good feeling about where things are going with this team. We’ve just got to continue to build on what we’ve got and keep improving.”

A combination of ability, size and age made Loadholt an attractive option for teams looking to beef up their offensive line. The Vikings valued the 6-8, 343-pound road-grading run blocker more than anyone else, though. With Loadholt now retained as the team’s starting right tackle, the Vikings have invested heavily and wisely in their offensive line. Left tackle Matt Kalil, a 1st-round pick just a year ago and already a Pro Bowler, bookends the line with Loadholt. John Sullivan, who signed a contract extension in December of 2011, anchors the line and has emerged as one of the top centers in the NFL. At right guard the Vikings have developed 2011 sixth-round pick Brandon Fusco into a solid player and Charlie Johnson slid inside to left guard once the team selected Kalil fourth overall in 2012.

“It was important to keep the consistency we have on the line,” Loadholt said. “The more we keep working together the better we will be as a group. If we continue to stay healthy and work hard we can reach our goals.”

Of course having Adrian Peterson to block for doesn’t hurt, either.

“Having the best running back in the league makes blocking a lot more fun,” Loadholt said of his fellow Oklahoma Sooner. “Adrian makes everyone’s job easier and knowing what he can do makes you want to work even harder.”

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Top 10 Free Agent Signings In Vikings History

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 11, 2013 – 6:51 am

Free agency is about to begin and while we wait to see which players the Vikings sign this year, let’s take a look back at the best (modern) free agent signings in franchise history.

Here’s a list of the Top 10 (year signed), with honorable mentions at the bottom.

Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

10. Ben Leber (2006)
Leber is a great example of a free agent who provided his team with outstanding value relative to the contract he signed. A starter for 5 seasons at outside LB for the Vikings, Leber was an important part of defenses that ranked 1st against the run for 3 straight seasons (2006-08) and that helped the franchise capture back-to-back division titles in 2008-09 as well as an appearance in the NFC title game following the ‘09 season.

9. Jeff Christy (1993)
A 4th-round pick of the Phoenix Cardinals in 1992, Christy was eventually cut and missed that season. Phoenix’s trash was the Vikings treasure, as Christy played 7 seasons in Minnesota and was a key cog on an offensive line that in 1998 blocked for one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. Christy was a 2-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler in Minnesota who started all 16 games of a season 5 times as a Viking.

8. Gary Anderson (1998)
In just 5 seasons with the Vikings, Anderson quickly climbed the franchise’s all-time scoring list and still ranks 6th. He had a perfect regular season in 1998, helping the Vikings to a 15-1 record. In 2000, Anderson surpassed the legendary George Blanda to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer (he now ranks 2nd).

7. Darren Sharper (2005)
One of the most prolific ball-hawking safeties in the NFL, Sharper jumped state lines in 2005 and joined the Vikings for 4 productive seasons. During his Vikings career, Sharper was an All-Pro twice and he tallied 18 INTs and 3 TDs.

6. Pat Williams (2005)
One half of the famed “Williams Wall” that anchored a dominant Vikings run defense for half a decade, Williams finished his 14-year NFL career with 6 great seasons in Minnesota. The Vikings became the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to lead the NFL in rush defense, and Williams was a key contributor in that effort.

5. Randall Cunningham (1997)
Out of football for a year in 1996, Cunningham joined the Vikings in ‘97 and displayed no signs of rust. He enjoyed the greatest season of his career as a Viking in 1998, guiding the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season record with 34 TDs and only 10 INTs. Among QBs with 20+ starts, Cunningham has the 2nd-best winning percentage (.696) and his 34-TD campaign in ‘98 still ranks 2nd all-time in club history.

4. Ryan Longwell (2006)
As steady as the day is long, Longwell was a key part of 2 division winning teams during his 6 years with the Vikings and finished his career in Purple ranked 3rd in all-time scoring. Blair Walsh began to rewrite the Vikings record book for kickers, and much of what he’s rewritten only validates how productive Longwell was for the Vikings. Longwell ranks 1st in Vikings history with 9 game-winning FGs.

3. Steve Hutchinson (2006)
A member of the 50 Greatest Vikings team, Hutchinson was a dominant road-grading run blocker and sure-fire pass protector during his 6 seasons with the Vikings. Hutchinson earned 4 of his 7 career Pro Bowls with the Vikings, and he was an invaluable part of Vikings offenses that featured a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his seasons in Minnesota.

2. Brett Favre (2009)
After torturing the Vikings for 16 seasons as a member of the Packers, Favre joined the Purple in 2009 and had arguably his best season with 33 TDs and a passer rating of 107.2 while leading the Vikings to the NFC title game. Favre was the difference between a team that went 10-6/one-and-done in the playoffs following the 2008 season and a team that went 12-4 and was on the brink of a Super Bowl appearance.

1. Antoine Winfield (2004)
An easy selection at #1, Winfield has been the rare blue-chip signing who outperforms expectations. He has played in 119 games over 9 seasons with the Vikings and in 2010 was named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team. Twice he’s recorded a single-season team record for tackles by a CB (110) and he now holds the Vikings record for most fumble recoveries by a DB with 11 and ranks tied for 2nd in team history with 12 forced fumbles by a DB.  Winfield has also scored all 5 of his career touchdowns (2 FRs, 2 INTs, 1 blocked FG) as a Viking.

Honorable mention: Jerry Ball, Bernard Berrian, Greg Biekert, Corey Chavous, Jack Del Rio, Jerome Felton, Lance Johnstone, Fuad Reveiz, Visanthe Shiancoe, Chester Taylor

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Free Or Not To Be Free? A List Of Vikings Free Agents

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 11, 2013 – 5:31 am

In 2012 the Vikings notched the greatest single-season win improvement in franchise history, moving from 3 wins in 2011 to 10 wins this past season. This offseason the team will look to further improve the roster through the retension and acquisition of free agents and the development of another strong draft class.

The first step in that process has already begun, as the Vikings front office is in the process of evaluating its own class of free agents as well as the large group of players scheduled to become free agents on Tuesday, the first day of the new League Year. Before a team delves into the free agent market, it must first address the status of its own free agents. Will the Vikings re-sign most of their free agents? We don’t know that yet. But we do know which Vikings players are scheduled to become free agents.

Below is a list of the Vikings restricted free agents (RFAs) and unrestricted free agents (UFAs). Also, click here to check out the 2013 Free Agent Glossary.

Restricted Free Agents
CB AJ Jefferson

Unrestricted Free Agents
WR Devin Aromashodu
OL Joe Berger
LB Jasper Brinkley
FB Jerome Felton
LB Erin Henderson
RT Phil Loadholt
LB Marvin Mitchell
S Jamarca Sanford
OL Geoff Schwartz
WR Jerome Simpson

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New Three-Day Negotiating Period Set To Begin Thursday Night

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 7, 2013 – 7:41 am

The NFL has added a new wrinkle to free agency this year, and it’s a wrinkle that will further enhance the fans’ enjoyment of the League and serve as an accelerant to the commencement of a new League Year. The new wrinkle is termed by the NFL as a “three-day negotiating period for unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and it will provide football fans with plenty of fodder over the upcoming weekend as the new League Year quickly approaches.

Previously, teams were prohibited from entering negotiations with soon-to-be UFAs until the beginning of the new League Year. Now, however, the NFL has instituted this three-day negotiating period, which allows teams to contact the certified agent(s) for players set to hit free agency. Essentially, this three-day window will allow players scheduled to hit free agency a sneak peek at their market value before deciding whether or not to re-sign with their current team prior to the start of free agency. Conversely, it will allow teams to gauge the market of players not on their team to see if the price tag of those players is worth a potential upgrade over a player currently on their team.

Officially, the new League Year begins on March 12, but for all intents and purposes business opens three days before that because of the new three-day negotiating period. This three-day negotiating period begins at Thursday, March 8 at 11:00 p.m. CT and concludes on Tuesday, March 12 at 2:59 p.m. CT. While negotiations may commence during this period, a prospective UFA cannot visit a team (other than the player’s current team) and a team other than a player’s current team cannot directly contact a prospective UFA. If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.

The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential UFAs; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents (RFAs), or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.

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Monday Morning Mailbag Extra: Free Agency Primer

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 6, 2013 – 7:54 am

While putting together a few questions and answers for next week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, I came across a good question that required a thorough answer. The answer became complicated enough that I thought it would be too long-winded for the Mailbag. So, I thought we could make a blog entry out of it and let the readers take it from there.

Take a look at the question and my answer. Then be sure to leave your thoughts on the matter by utilizing the comments section below the blog entry.

I know the Vikings new direction is to draft players instead of pick them up from free agency. I agree wholeheartedly with their direction. However, what type of contract deal does Mike Wallace want? What are the chances of the Vikings picking him up? Are there any free agents that you would personally like the Vikings to go after?
– Derek P.
Pearl Harbor, HI

Building the team through the draft as opposed to free agency is not a new direction for the Vikings. This has been GM Rick Spielman’s philosophy during his tenure in Minnesota. It may feel new to some fans because they are starting to see the wisdom in that philosophy given the Vikings recent success in the draft, but it’s nothing new for veteran NFL GMs.

I’m not sure what kind of contract Wallace will demand once free agency opens on Tuesday, but my sense is his camp will be seeking top-end type of money – something in the neighborhood of what Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Detroit’s Calvin Johnson are making. Whether that’s what he deserves or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is what the market bears. That’s why free agency can be dangerous, and that’s why teams prefer to use the draft as the primary tool to build their roster. In free agency, you’re not paying players based on their ability to perform. Rather, you’re paying them based on supply and demand. Those are two entirely different propositions.

The Vikings are a run-oriented team that features the NFL’s best running back and one of the League’s top run-blocking offensive lines. As such, it’s fair to wonder whether it makes sense then for the Vikings to invest such a large amount of money in a single receiver. If you’re a team that can run the ball effectively up to 30-35+ times per game, are you also a team that wants to pay a free agent wide receiver upwards of $15 million a season? I’m not saying the answer is yes or no in the Vikings particular case, I’m just suggesting it’s a question every team must ask itself when it comes to drawing up a plan for free agency.

As for free agents I’d like to see the team pursue, I don’t have anyone in particular in mind. Of course it’d be great to add a receiver the caliber of Wallace or Greg Jennings. But to me, the Vikings had a good plan in free agency last season. Spielman and Co. waited for the high-priced free agents to fly off the shelf early in free agency, and then once the second and third wave of free agency came along the Vikings picked up a few. While the additions of tight end John Carlson and Jerome Simpson didn’t work out as planned, the book on both of their Vikings tenures may not be over yet. Also, the signing of fullback Jerome Felton was brilliant. At the time, the Felton signing was an under-the-radar move that didn’t yield much more than a sentence or two buried at the bottom of the lead story. In the end, though, it turned out to be one of the better offseason additions and it resulted in a Pro Bowl berth for Felton following the best season of Adrian Peterson’s career.

Long story longer, the key to free agency is not making the biggest splash or identifying the best players at each position and then pursuing them. The key to free agency is identifying and signing players who fit the scheme and can be obtained with reasonable salaries. That leaves cap space and cash for the best kind of free agent signing – the re-signing of your own free agents whom you know fit with your team, which in the Vikings case could be players such as right tackle Phil Loadholt, safety Jamarca Sanford and even a future free agents such as Everson Griffen.

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Check Out The 2013 Free Agency Glossary

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 5, 2013 – 12:17 pm

Have you ever picked up a newspaper or turned on the NFL Network only to wish you had a National Football League Free Agency Glossary? All the talk about unrestricted and restricted, or franchise tag and right of first refusal, it’s enough to make your head spin.

Ever wonder what the “CBA” is or how they determine the salary cap? Well, scratch your head no more because, with the help of Vikings Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski, has all the definitions to important free agency terms.

And the timing couldn’t be better. Free agency begins on March 12 and the two-week designation period for teams to place the franchise tag on players just concluded on Monday.

Our thanks to Rob for helping with the tricky language. NFL front office executives such as Rob deal with these issues on a daily basis and they know these rules like the back of their hand. Rob is one of the most-respected at his position in the NFL, and the Vikings are fortunate to have him in a leadership position.

Here are a few examples of terms we’ve defined in the Free Agency Glossary…

Accrued Season: Any playing season for which a player received credit with respect to his qualifications for Unrestricted Free Agency or Restricted Free Agency.

Collective Bargaining Agreement or CBA: A fully binding agreement that governs all business (wages, hours, working conditions, etc.) that takes place between the National Football League Management Council (essentially, the NFL) and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA – essentially, the players).

Restricted Free Agent: A Veteran who has three Accrued Seasons and who completes performance of his Player Contract, but who is still subject to a Right of First Refusal and/or Draft Choice Compensation in favor of his prior club.

Check out the glossary by clicking here.

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Vikings Hit The Road To Collect Hardware

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 4, 2013 – 11:47 am

Adrian Peterson had already won and collected NFL MVP honors earlier this year. But Peterson’s sensational 2012 season continues to collect hardware.

This past weekend Peterson was in Atlantic City to collect The Maxwell Club’s Bert Bell Professional Player of the Year Award. It’s the second time he’s received the award (2008). Also this past weekend, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave were in Kansas City to accept on Peterson’s behalf the NFL 101 award for NFC Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Peterson rushed his way into the history books in 2012, less than a year removed from a serious knee injury and grueling rehabilitation process. He finished the season with 2,097 yards rushing, the second-highest total in League history and just 9 yards shy of breaking Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson’s NFL record (2,105).

The historic season Peterson authored was instrumental in the Vikings generating the greatest single-season win increase in franchise history, going from 3 wins in 2011 to 10 wins in 2012 in addition to making the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

More on the Maxwell Club
The Maxwell Football Club is an organization involved not only in football at all levels but the community in general, not just once a year, but all year. It’s an organization dedicated to the concept that young people are the potential of this nation.  The Maxwell Football Club wants to help young people realize that potential as leaders now, and as the future leaders of this country.

More on the 101 Awards
Following each National Football League season, a civic organization called “The Committee of 101” hosts the 101 Awards, Kansas City’s Salute to Professional Football. This nationally-renowned event was initiated in 1969 by a group headed by Kansas City businessman Jack O. Wheeler to honor outstanding achievements in professional football. Each year, 101 members of the national media select the Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year in the American Football Conference and National Football Conference.

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Tentative Rookie Minicamp And OTA Schedule Set

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 4, 2013 – 11:12 am

The Vikings have tentatively scheduled their rookie minicamp and Organized Team Activities (OTA). The dates are not yet official and are subject to change. Dates open to the media have not yet been determined.

Rookie mini-camp: Friday, May 3 – Sunday, May 5

OTAs #1-3: Tuesday, May 28 – Thursday, May 30

OTAs #4-6: Tuesday, June 4 – Thursday, June 6

OTAs #7-10: Monday, June 10 – Thursday, June 13

Mandatory Minicamp: Tuesday, June 18 – Thursday, June 20

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Vikings Announce Coaching Staff Moves

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 4, 2013 – 10:28 am

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has made two adjustments to his coaching staff – one is a position switch and the other is an addition.

The switch will be made by Ryan Ficken, who joined the Vikings staff in 2007 and was previously the assistant wide receivers coach. Ficken will now be the assistant special teams coordinator, replacing Chris White. Earlier in the offseason, White left the Vikings to accept a position at the University of Iowa.

The addition is Jeff Howard, who replaces Cam Turner as the Vikings Assstant to the Head Coach. Cameron Turner previously held the position but left this offseason to join his father’s staff at Florida International University. Howard spent 2011-12 at Texas Tech as a graduate assistant, where he was the safeties coach and the defensive recruiting coordinator.

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