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Where Does The Jennings Acquisition Rank?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 27, 2013 – 4:48 pm

The NFL began a new League Year on March 12, and the news came fast and furious once teams were able to do business. Long-rumored trades become official, core players were re-signed, coveted free agents made big-money decisions and teams manipulated their rosters to put themselves in optimum salary cap position.

Through it all, the Vikings were significant players during the process. They re-signed RT Phil Loadholt and several other of their own free agents, they swapped WR Percy Harvin for three draft choices (including a 1st-rounder this year) and they did what they had to do to clear room under the salary cap.

The move that made the most noise on a national level, though, was the signing of WR Greg Jennings.

So just where does the Jennings signing rank in terms of relevance across the NFL? Bucky Brooks of NFL.com has considered all the roster shuffling and has compiled a list of the 10 most significant. It’s worth a quick read.

Let us know what you think of Brooks’ list and of his opinion regarding the Jennings acquisition by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

greg


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No Shortage Of Stars At Southern Cal Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2013 – 6:52 pm

On Tuesday morning we previewed Notre Dame’s pro day. On Wednesday, another high-profile football program known for pushing out professionals will hold its pro day, too. NFL GMs, coaches and scouts will descend upon the University of Southern California campus to continue their tour of the country in the lead-up to the 2013 NFL Draft.

The big news out of USC’s pro day will be the workout of QB Matt Barkley, as he looks to mitigate his senior season slide. A year ago, Barkley would likely have been considered a lock to go in the 1st round. But he chose to return to USC for his senior season, and a combo platter of performance and injury has led to a reduced draft stock. In his final season, Barkley threw fewer TDs, more INTs, took more sacks, threw for a lower percentage and registered a lower passer rating than he did during his junior season. On top of that, he suffered a sprain of the AC joint in his throwing shoulder, causing him to miss USC’s final two games.

Wednesday marks the first time Barkley has thrown publicly since suffering the shoulder injury, so expect to hear a lot of reaction to that.

But there are others who will perform at USC’s pro day who are worthy of mention. I was impressed with S TJ McDonald in watching him at the Senior Bowl in January, and it’s hard to not be impressed whenever you watch WR Robert Woods. Over the past 2 seasons at USC, Woods hauled in 187 receptions for 2,138 yards and 26 TDs. For fans of a team that is in the process of upgrading its WR corps, those numbers are tantalizing.

Roberts Woods, Matt Barkley

Others participating in USC’s pro day include: C Khaled Holmes, DE Wes Horton, CB Nickell Robey and S Jawanza Starling.


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Ranking The Draft’s “Explosive” Prospects (And Finding One For The Vikings?)

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2013 – 8:47 am

Pat Kirwan is one of my favorite NFL analysts. I first became familiar with him because he was a writer and analyst for NFL.com. He’s now a contributor to CBSSports.com, but his best work in my opinion is done as co-host of Sirius NFL Radio’s Moving the Chains. Kirwan’s most recent written piece explains the place “explosiveness” has in the NFL, offers a method of measuring explosiveness, and then identifies and ranks the Top 20 Explosive Players in this year’s draft.

Before you click the link to check out Kirwan’s rankings, there’s something you should keep in mind. The top-ranked explosive player on his list is a player who was much discussed right here on the vikings.com Blog earlier this year. His name is Cornelius Washington, and he played DE for the University of Georgia. I wrote extensively about one of Washington’s Senior Bowl practices, going so far as to say that he may have matched the dominance that DT Sylvester Williams showcased at the Senior Bowl as well.

SEC Championship Football

The point of this entry is not to promote Washington as a selection for the Vikings in the 2013 NFL Draft, although I’m not opposed to that at this point. Rather, it’s interesting to note not just how well Kirwan explains the place explosiveness has in the game of football but how he’s chosen to try and measure an athlete’s ability to explode and, consequently, his potential ability to make an impact at the NFL level. His piece is worth a read.

Once you’re done reading Kirwan’s piece, though, make sure to come back to vikings.com to stay up-to-date on all Vikings and 2013 NFL Draft news.

Click here to review our coverage of the 2013 Senior Bowl.

Click here to review our coverage of the 2013 Scouting Combine.


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Te’o To Take Center Stage At Notre Dame’s Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2013 – 6:14 am

One of the highest-profile football programs in the country will host its pro day on Tuesday, and that will set the stage for one of the highest-profile prospects in this year’s draft class to workout in front of what will surely be a packed house of NFL GMs, coaches and scouts at the Loftus Sports Center.

Senior LB Manti Te’o is that player, and his performance will likely be the top story in the Tuesday NFL news cycle.

Te’0 was impressive at the Combine last month in terms of his on-field drills, media obligations and, reportedly, in the team interview process as well. But he ran a slower-than-expected time in the 40-yard dash, prompting his detractors to question whether or not he could cut it in pass defense as a starting LB in the NFL. He was clocked with a 4.82 time in the 40-yard dash. On Tuesday, Te’o will have a chance to dispel his detractors and reassert himself as one of the top defensive prospects in this year’s draft. If Te’o can cut the time down to the mid-4.7s, that could do enough to restore the confidence many lost in him following the Combine.

There will be 14 Notre Dame players participating in Tuesday’s pro day, according to the school. Those players are: WR John Goodman, OL Mike Golic Jr., OL Braxston Cave, RB Theo Riddick, WR Robby Toma, TE Tyler Eifert, RB Cierre Wood, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, S Zeke Motta, S Jamoris Slaughter, LB Manti Te’o, P Ben Turk, LS Jordan Cowart and S Chris Salvi.

Here’s a schedule of all pro days leading up to the NFL draft at the end of April.

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Helmet Use, Illegal Challenge Procedure Highlight Rules Changes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 21, 2013 – 10:39 am

NFL owners held their annual Spring meeting this week in Arizona. Those meetings have concluded, and much of what the owners discussed during the week was with regard to rules changes. Here is a summary of some of the changes…

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– The rule change with the most discussion – and controversy – has been adopted in the name of player health and safety, and the passage of this rule represents a significant victory for the NFL in its effort to promote and enhance player safety. The new helmet rule states the following: “Contact with the Crown of the Helmet: It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside of the tackle box. Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.” This rule has been met with intense public opposition by the public and both current and former players. In the end, though, this is a rule that will have a much more  significant on player safety than it will on how players play the game and fans view the game. This rule does not disallow a ball-carriers ability to lower his pads – and, thus, his head. Rather, it prohibits ball-carriers (or any player) from using the crown of the helmet (not the face mask, hairline or any other part of the helmet) as a weapon. An infraction of this rule will be the result of an obvious action by the player, not the result of a common play.

– The rule regarding the illegal use of a challenge by coaches was amended. Under the new rule, every time a coach initiates a replay, his team will be charged a timeout (the challenging team still gets the timeout back if the challenge is successful). If the play is challenged illegally, the team will lose a timeout — even if the challenge is successful. If a team is out of timeouts, it will be penalized 15 yards for illegal challenging a play, but the play still will be reviewed. The impetus behind this change came from the Thanksgiving Day game between the Lions and Texans in which Detroit Head Coach Jim Schwartz challenged a play that was going to be automatically reviewed. By rule, that was an illegal challenge, and also by rule any play that was illegally challenged was then not reviewed by officials. The result of that incident was a TD for the Texans that clearly would not have been upheld by replay.

– A rule that has become known as the “Tuck Rule” was eliminated. The Tuck Rule dictated that a fumbled ball that was moving forward in the hand of a QB was to be called an incomplete pass. The most famous instance of this rule came in 2001 during a playoff game between the Patriots and Raiders when Charles Woodson hit and sacked Tom Brady, causing the ball to come loose. Oakland recovered, but the Tuck Rule gave possession back to New England. They went on to tie the game, then win it, and eventually go on to win the Super Bowl.

– NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the Pro Bowl will remain a part of the NFL calendar. The 2014 Pro Bowl will take place on the Sunday between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, and Aloha Stadium in Honolulu will be the host.


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DT Star Lotulelei Shines At Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 21, 2013 – 6:09 am

Star Lotulelei’s ability to play football has never been a question. The 6-4, 325-pound DT was a 2-time First-Team All-Pac 12 selection at the University of Utah and he was also a Morris Trophy winner in 2011. What has become a question, though, is Lotulelei’s health.

During Lotulelei’s medical evaluation at the Combine last month, an echocardiogram revealed that his left ventricle was pumping at below average levels (44%). Officials would not let Lotulelei continue with Combine activities, so he went back to Utah for more testing. Those developments caused teams to take a step back and re-evaluate Lotulelei’s pro prospects.

Lotulelei was cleared by doctors to participate in Utah’s pro day, which occurred on Wednesday. And it should come as no surprise that he impressed teams with his performance. Lotulelei hoisted the 225-pound bench press 38 times, registered a 30-inch vertical leap and clocked a 4.65 in the shuttle. The 38 reps would’ve tied him for the most in his position group at the Combine.

Star Lotulelei, Isi Sofele

Those numbers are very good, and they certainly confirm the feelings most scouts and coaches had about Lotulelei being one of the top defensive linemen in this year’s draft. So, once again, Lotulelei’s ability to play football isn’t a question. It’s his health that is the question.

This is the type of issue that will divide teams. A player with a medical condition such as the one Lotulelei has may be researched and cleared by one team, but a different team may look at the same information and flag the player. While NFL teams do share much of the medical information they obtain at the Combine, different teams have different thresholds of tolerance for different issues.

Where NFL teams – and, specifically, the Vikings – stand on the issue of Lotulelei and his heart condition remains to be seen. What we do already know is that Lotulelei looks to be a future star in the NFL if the heart condition doesn’t plague him.


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No Compensatory Selections For Vikings; Total Picks Stand At 11

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 19, 2013 – 6:29 am

The NFL awarded 32 compensatory picks to 16 teams on Monday, but the Vikings were not among the teams who received the additional draft stock. As such, the Vikings total draft selections for the 2013 NFL Draft remains at 11.

Here’s a breakdown of the Vikings 11 picks:
— 1st round – #23 (#23 overall)
— 1st round – #25 (#25 overall)
— 2nd round – #22 (#52 overall)
— 3rd round – #21 (#83 overall)
— 4th round – #5 (#102 overall)
— 4th round – #23 (#120 overall)
— 5th round – #22 (#155 overall)
— 6th round – #21 (#189 overall)
— 7th round – #7 (#213 overall)
— 7th round – #8 (#214 overall)
— 7th round – #23 (#229 overall)

How do compensatory selections work?
The number of compensatory picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. The 32 compensatory choices announced on Monday will supplement the 222 choices in the 7rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft (April 25-27). This year, the compensatory picks will be positioned within the 3rd through 7th rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a team is covered by this formula

For the fourth consecutive year, the NFL will hold its annual draft in prime time. The 1st round will be held Thursday, April 25 and begin at 7 p.m. CT. The 2nd and 3rd rounds are set for Friday, April 26 at 5:30 p.m. CT, followed by Rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday, April 27 at 11 a.m. CT.

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Vikings Free Agency: What’s Happened? What’s Next?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 18, 2013 – 5:18 am

Rick Spielman may prefer to and excel at building his team through the draft. But the Vikings GM has illustrated this year that he also views free agency as an important vehicle to improving his roster. We’re not even a week into the New League Year, and the Vikings have already been one of the NFL’s most active teams when it comes to shuffling the roster and making improvements.

Here’s a quick look at what the Vikings have done so far, and what might be next…

Got Jennings? Vikings do
The Vikings finished the 2012 regular season with the 31st-ranked passing offense, so during the offseason you can be sure that adding talented pass-catchers will be atop the priority list. To that end, the Vikings have already taken a huge step forward by signing WR Greg Jennings. After being a thorn in the Vikings side for the past 7 seasons, Jennings will now be a helping hand to Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and QB Christian Ponder. The signing of Jennings was met with wild excitement from a Vikings fan base that has watched the former Packers pass-catcher torch them for 63 receptions and 10 TDs in 15 games vs. the Purple.

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Loadholt, other UFAs re-signed
Spielman is asked every year what his priority will be in free agency. And every year he responds by saying that re-signing his own free agents is atop his wish list. Early in this year’s free agency, Spielman attacked that wish list. The focal point of that effort was re-signing RT Phil Loadholt, and the Vikings got the job done. Aside from Loadholt, the Vikings were also able to reach agreements with 5 of their other 6 unrestricted free agents (UFAs), including: OL Joe Berger, Pro Bowl FB Jerome Felton, LB Erin Henderson, S Jamarca Sanford and WR Jerome Simpson.

Harvin traded
In what may go down as one of this year’s more notable moves across the NFL, the Vikings traded WR Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, and for doing so received three draft picks – a 1st-rounder (#25) and 7th-rounder this year, and a 3rd-rounder next year. The trade gives the Vikings 11 selections in this year’s draft, including 6 in the first 4 rounds. If the Vikings use both 1st-rounders next month, it will mark the second consecutive year they’ll net a pair of 1st-round picks in a draft. That’s a good way to improve the talent level on your roster.

Winfield cut
In a move that is a great illustration of the type of difficult decisions NFL franchises have to make each year, the Vikings released CB Antoine Winfield. At first blush it seems like a startling move, but given Winfield’s salary and given some of the team’s other priorities, it was a decision that was in the best interests of the franchise. It may have set the stage for the Loadholt re-signing and/or the Vikings ability to go out and get Jennings to help the passing game. Spielman did say that the team is open to Winfield returning at some point this offseason.

Calling for backup – Cassel signed
On the same day the Vikings made a big splash in signing Jennings, they also secured another QB to add to the mix behind starter Christian Ponder. The Kansas City Chiefs released Matt Cassel, and the Vikings immediately swooped in to pick him up. Cassel is an experienced passer in the NFL (62 starts) who was Tom Brady’s backup in New England when the Patriots went 16-0 and advanced to the Super Bowl in 2007. Also, when asked to play, Cassel has responded. He guided the Patriots to an 11-5 record after Brady went down with a knee injury in Week 1 of the 2008 season and he was also a Pro Bowler as the Chiefs starter in 2010, passing for 27 TDs and authoring a passer rating of 93.0.

Misc.
In other developments, the Vikings tendered restricted free agent (RFA) CB AJ Jefferson, so he is set to return for 2013. WR Michael Jenkins was cut and earlier in February the Vikings signed former CFL standout CB Roderick Williams.

What’s next?
– The only UFA the Vikings weren’t able to re-sign was middle LB Jasper Brinkley, who has subsequently signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings could look to free agency to fill that spot, they could wait until the draft to find a middle LB, they could rely on Audie Cole to win that job, or they could enact one or more of those possibilities in combination.
— Looking at the roster right now compared to the roster at this time of the year in 2012, the Vikings are at or above capacity at most spots on the roster. There are two exceptions: offensive tackle and running back. Last year at this time, the Vikings had 6 running backs and right now they have 5. Last year at this time the Vikings had 5 offensive tackles and this year they have 4. Of course the Vikings could wait until the draft to fill the voids in each spot, they could find a free agent on the open market, or they could do both.


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Fun Facts On New Vikings Jennings, Cassel

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 15, 2013 – 7:42 pm

While the rest of us were winding down on Friday after a busy week of free agency, the Vikings front office was ramping up their effort to continue improving an already young and talented roster. Early Friday afternoon the Vikings finalized the signing of former Patriots and Chiefs QB Matt Cassel to beef up the competition at QB behind starter Christian Ponder.

It was the signing late on Friday afternoon that created the biggest buzz in the Vikings fan base, though, as the team completed its courtship of WR Greg Jennings by signing him to a contract. Jennings has been a thorn in the Vikings side since he entered the League in 2006 as a 2nd-round draft choice of the division rival Green Bay Packers, but now he’ll be a helping hand for a Vikings offense that looks to improve its passing game while maintaining its identity as a dominant, physical run-first group.

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By now you’ve read up on both signings to get all the formal information. But here are some fun facts about your two newest Vikings…

Greg Jennings
– Attended same high school as NY Yankees legend Derek Jeter (Kalamazoo Central).
— Married to the former Nicole Lindsey. Couple has 3 daughters: Amya, 5; Alea, 3; and Ayva, 2 and 1 son: Aice.
— Caught Brett Favre’s 400th career TD pass.
— Also caught Brett Favre’s 420th and 421st TD passes as the future Hall of Fame QB chased, matched and surpassed Dan Marino’s career record for TD passes.
— Caught Aaron Rodgers’ first career TD pass.
— Posted 68 receptions and 10 TDs in 15 games vs. the Vikings while helping Green Bay to an 11-4.
— Made an appearance on the CBS crime drama Criminal Minds, playing the role of a lab.

Matt Cassel
– Grew up in Northridge, CA where he helped lead his squad to the 1994 Little League World Series.
— Was selected in the 36th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft by Oakland.
— Teammates at USC with Ryan Kalil, older brother of Vikings LT Matt Kalil.
— Majored in communications at USC where he was roomed with Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu.
— Married to Lauren, the couple has daughters Quinn and Ella.
— Backed up Brady on 2007 Patriots squad that went 16-0 in the regular season and played New York in Super Bowl.


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Hutch Hangs ‘Em Up

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 13, 2013 – 6:26 am

hutch-blog

As NFL players continue to use free agency as a vehicle to extend their careers with new teams this week, we take a respite from the frenzy to acknowledge a decorated player who has chosen to end his career this week.

Former Vikings offensive guard Steve Hutchinson has decided to retire after 12 illustrious seasons in the NFL, and he used Twitter to make his decision public.

“Retiring today after a great run in the NFL. Want to thank the @Seahawks, @Vikings, @TennesseeTitans and their fans for the opportunity,” Hutchinson tweeted. He later added: “I appreciate all the love. It’s all of you fans that make this the greatest sport in the world.”

After an All-America career at the University of Michigan, Hutchinson was drafted with a 1st-round (#17 overall) pick by Seattle in 2001. He played there through the 2005 season and then signed a free agent contract with the Vikings before the 2006 season. He played with the Vikings from 2006-11 and then played one season in Tennessee.

While with the Vikings, Hutchinson blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher each season and helping guide the club to a pair of division titles and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season. While with the Vikings, Hutchinson was a 4-time All-Pro and a 4-time Pro Bowler. He was also named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team and was #3 on our list of the Top 10 Free Agent Signings in Vikings History.

In total, Hutchinson was a 7-time All-Pro and 7-time Pro Bowler and was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He will be a candidate to one day join the NFL’s immortals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Aside from being a dominant blocker on the field, Hutchinson made a profound impact in the community, too. He is a regular visitor at children’s hospitals, and he worked diligently with his wife, Landyn, to make the holidays a special team for patients and their families at Minneapolis children’s hospitals.

Congratulations to Steve on a successful NFL career, and we wish you nothing but the best in your years of retirement.


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