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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 vikings.com 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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Expect Rotation With Schwartz To Continue

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 16, 2012 – 9:40 am

When the Vikings signed Geoff Schwartz this past offseason, the thinking was he could perhaps compete for a starting position at right guard while also providing depth on each side of the offensive line as a swing tackle. An injury slowed his progression during training camp, though, so the Vikings didn’t get a great look at the free agent signing before the season started.

With the season in full swing now, though, the Vikings are starting to take a closer look at the reserve lineman. They rotated Schwartz into Sunday’s game at Washington, inserting him into the lineup at right guard for several snaps.

“We wanted to be able to take a look at Geoff (Schwartz) yesterday and get him some game action,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday. “Yesterday allowed us to do that, and we want to be able to do it periodically. We felt like that was a good game to do it and it worked out pretty good to get him, I think he had about 11 snaps, so we got some good game-action tape that we couldn’t get in the preseason to evaluate him and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

So, how did Schwartz do in his first extended regular season action as a Viking?

“In those plays, I thought he did a good job, good enough to where we feel comfortable if something were to happen, we could get him in there,” Frazier said. “But there are some other things we want to be able to see from him, but we’ll continue to evaluate him as we go forward.”

Frazier stopped short of saying the right guard competition was suddenly open for competition. Brandon Fusco is the starter there, and the second-year player out of Slippery Rock is playing well so far. More than illustrating displeasure in Fusco’s performance or trying to shake things up along the offensive line, the Vikings goal in rotating Schwartz in seems to be exactly what Frazier stated – just to get a look at a player who hasn’t seen much action on the offensive line since signing in Minnesota.

Frazier intimated the Vikings may continue to rotate Schwartz in during games, though he didn’t say if it’d be at right guard or a different position.

Schwartz measures in at 6-6, 340 pounds and is in his 5th season out of the University of Oregon. He was a 7th-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2008 and played in 32 games with 19 starts. He missed all of last season with an injury. Schwartz’ young brother, Mitchell, was a 2nd-round pick of the Cleveland Browns last April.


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Late Griffin III TD Run Ends Vikings Comeback Bid

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 14, 2012 – 9:39 pm

The Redskins had lost eight consecutive home games heading into Sunday’s showdown with the Vikings, and Robert Griffin III decided that was enough. The Redskins rookie quarterback – taken second overall in last April’s draft – passed and ran all over FedEx Field in leading Washington to a 38-26 victory over the Vikings, ending Minnesota’s three-game winning streak.

Griffin III, who was listed as questionable on the injury report after being limited in practice most of the week, showed no ill-effects from the concussion he suffered in last week’s home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He accounted for 320 yards of offense and three touchdowns, proving to be most lethal on the ground with 13 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including a 76-yard scoring dash down the Redskins sideline that daggered the Vikings with 2:43 to play in the game.

The long touchdown jaunt came on the heels of 14 unanswered points by the Vikings and all but eliminated the road team’s chance to complete an improbable comeback. After opening up a 9-0 lead in the 1st quarter, the Vikings surrendered 24 consecutive points and didn’t score again until late in the 3rd quarter on yet another Blair Walsh field goal. The offensive drought and the defense’s inability to keep Griffin III off the field led to a 12-point deficit as the 4th quarter begin.

But in an instant, that 12-piont hole became a 19-point mountain because former Vikings safety Madieu Williams intercepted a Christian Ponder pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown, giving the Redskins a 31-12 lead.

That’s when Ponder began a Vikings comeback, taking his offense down the field for a pair of back-to-back scores. One touchdown was a 9-yard completion to WR Michael Jenkins followed by a 2-point conversion to TE Kyle Rudolph, and the other was a 1-yard toss to Rudolph that cut into Washington’s lead and made the score 31-26.

But three plays after the Rudolph touchdown, with the Vikings defense smelling a punt and looking to give Ponder and Co. the ball back again with a shot at the game-winning drive, Griffin III threw the FedEx Field crowd into a frenzy with his game-clinching sprint to paydirt.

Griffin III’s counterpart – Ponder – had an up-and-down day, finishing the game going 35 of 52 for 352 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs. Percy Harvin was Ponder’s most frequent target, collecting 11 receptions for 133 yards. Adrian Peterson looked explosive but wasn’t able to break loose, finishing the day with 17 carries for 79 yards; he was also a factor in the passing game with 7 receptions for 50 yards.

The offense will come away from the game wondering what could’ve been, though, as they were unable to score a touchdown on three trips inside the red zone in the 1st quarter, and finished the game scoring two touchdowns in seven total trips to the red area. The Vikings were good on 3rd downs (8 of 17), collected 27 first downs, racked up 421 yards of total offense and showed some spark late in the game, but that Ponder-led comeback, which featured plenty of Harvin as well, came up just short.

The Vikings return to Minnesota with just their second loss of the season, moving to 4-2. They will return to Mall of America Field next weekend for two home games over the course of four days, hosting the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the following Thursday.

There’s much more to go over from Sunday’s Vikings-Redskins game, so be sure to stay tuned to vikings.com for more summary and reaction to the game.

Notes
– Antoine Winfield led the Vikings defense with 10 tackles (unofficially), and he also grabbed his 2nd INT of the season.
– Ponder completed passes to eight different receivers during the game.
– Blair Walsh continued his impressive season, converting all 4 of his FG tries and also collecting 7 touchbacks to bring his total to 24 on the season.
– The Vikings held Alfred Morris, the NFL’s 4th-leading rusher heading into the game, to just 47 yards on 16 carries.
– The Vikings rotated Geoff Schwartz in at RG during the game. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explaining after the game that the team wanted to get some tape on Schwartz during game action.


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Peterson (Questionable) A Game-Time Decision; Other Injury Report Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 7, 2012 – 12:39 pm

The Vikings and Jaguars released their final injury reports of the first week of the season today, a requirement of teams who have Sunday games. Here are the details…

Vikings
RB Adrian Peterson (knee) is listed as questionable, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said he’d be a game-time decision.

S Robert Blanton, TE John Carlson (knee), DT Letroy Guion (knee), OL Geoff Schwartz (abdomen) and CB Marcus Sherels (ankle) are listed as probable.

LB Marvin Mitchell (ankle), S Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and WR Jarius Wright (ankle) are listed as out.

Jaguars
DE Austen Lane (foot), DE George Selvie (knee) and LB Daryl Smith (abdomen) are listed as out. Lane and Selvie are reserves, so there absence means the Jaguars could slide DTs Tyson Alualu and D’Anthony Smith outside to play DE at some points in the game. Smith is a starting outside LB, and it’s likely that Kyle Bosworth will get the start.

CB Derek Cox (hamstring) was listed as doubtful. He’s a starter, so expect Will Middleton to get the start at CB along with Aaron Ross. Rashean Mathis will be the Jaguars nickel CB. Also, CB Mike Harris (hamstring) is questionable.

WR Justin Blackmon (ankle), C Brad Meester (not injury-related), DE Aaron Morgan (not injury-related) and G Uche Nwaneri (ankle) are listed as probable.

Finally, expect RB Maurice Jones-Drew to play.


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Vikings Issue First Depth Chart Of Preseason

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 8, 2012 – 5:19 am

There’s a long way to go before NFL teams have to make roster decisions, but there’s not a long way to go before teams take the field for their first preseason game. So while there’s still plenty of time for players to make their case for a roster spot, NFL teams began releasing their initial preseason depth charts this week.

You can find the Vikings initial depth chart by clicking here.

There aren’t any major surprises or developments in the depth chart, but here are a few notes…

– As expected, Brandon Fusco is listed as the starter at RG, with Geoff Schwartz as his backup. Chris DeGeare is listed as the backup at LG behind Charlie Johnson.

– Lex Hilliard is listed as the 3rd-team RB, with Derrick Coleman and Jordan Todman stacked evenly behind Hilliard.

– Veteran Joe Berger is listed as the backup center, with undrafted college free agent Quentin Saulsberry listed with the 3rd team.

– D’Aundre Reed is lasted as the backup left DE and Nick Reed backs up Jared Allen at right DE.

– Tyrone McKenzie is in the lead for backup middle LB duties, with Audie Cole listed as the 3rd-team middle LB. Everson Griffen is also with the 3rd-team, listed at the weakside LB position.

– Marcus Sherels backs up Antoine Winfield at one CB position and Chris Carr is behind Chris Cook at the other CB spot. Based on my observations at practice, Carr would be ahead of Sherels in any 3-CB defensive alignment.

– Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are listed as starters at safety, with Harrison Smith behind Sanford at FS and Eric Frampton behind Raymond at FS. This is a fluid position, and Smith has been getting more and more reps with the 1st-team.

– Percy Harvin is listed as the top kickoff returner and Sherels is listed #1 at punt returner. Sherels also backs up Harvin at kickoff return and rookie WR Jarius Wright is listed as the backup punt returner.


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Twitter-Sized Player Evaluations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2012 – 7:15 am

On Tuesday as I walked out to afternoon practice here at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, I asked followers on Twitter if there were any players they’d like me to pay special attention. We received many responses, so instead of responding to each person individually, we decided to put all the responses together and share it that way so everyone can read about the players that are tipping the curiosity of the fans.

And to make it as Twitter-realistic as possible, each comment below is in 140 characters or less (that is the character limit for a Twitter message). Here we go…

DL Christian Ballard: Second-team DT on Tuesday. Looks significantly bigger and better this year compared to last year. Will contribute.

S Robert Blanton: Sat out practice on Tuesday. Has been good to this point. Still learning defense obviously.

LB Audie Cole: Best I’ve seen him look on Tuesday. Great swim move during pass rush drill. Strikes well.

CB Bobby Felder: Had impressive INT during 1-on-1 drill. Won’t surprise me if he impresses during preseason. Plays with energy.

FB Jerome Felton: Was running with the first team at FB. Solid blocker. Also a special teams contributor.

LB Everson Griffen: First-team kickoff coverage; third-team LB. Explosive rushing passer off edge. Plays with energy.

DT Letroy Guion: First-team DT. Having a great camp. Good movement skills, very good strength. Anchors well.

DT Trevor Guyton: Third-team offense. Also plays special teams. Good movement. Role TBD.

LB Tyrone McKenzie: Big jump up from last year. Plays second-team MIKE LB. Impressive INT on Tuesday. Vocal on field.

S Mistral Raymond: Mostly first-team reps, some second-team. Seems better-versed in defensive scheme this year.

DE Brian Robison: Same ‘ol B-Rob. Plays with passion. Exclusively first-team left DE. Good inside pass rush moves.

OL Geoff Schwartz: Plays multiple positions with second and third teams. Role still TBD.

WR Jerome Simpson: Great speed. Gets open a lot. Love him on comeback routes. Good after the catch.

S Harrison Smith: Opened camp with the second team, but has begun to take some reps with first team. Looks the part. Plays bigger than listed.


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Notes From Friday Walk-Thru And Practice; Solid Start For Offense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 27, 2012 – 5:19 pm

The first walk-thru and practice of 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp is in the books, as the Vikings conducted their one-hour walk-thru this morning and then worked for roughly two hours and 15 minutes in the afternoon. Coaches and players were available to reporters after both workouts, and Head Coach Leslie Frazier also met with reporters via press conference after the walk-thru.

There are a number of topics to touch on following Friday’s action, so let’s be brief with several topics rather than long-winded with just a few…

Peterson to Active/PUP; Burton, Shuler on NFI
Frazier announced during his press conference that RB Adrian Peterson will begin camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which simply means that he won’t take part in the walk-thrus or practices and will instead work on the side with the training and strength staffs. This is not an unexpected development. The Vikings can remove Peterson from the PUP list at any time. Two other players – WR Stephen Burton (toe) and TE Mickey Shuler (heel) – were both placed on the Active/Non-Football Injury list. Frazier both would be day-to-day because neither injury is considered serious.

Solid first practice for offense
The offense was slow-to-go in their first practice of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), but eventually hit their stride and showed great improvement. It was a much different start for the offense in training camp. For a first practice of camp, Friday’s workout went well for the offense. I saw a number of players make diving catches (John Carlson, Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson), LB Chad Greenway was as vocal as I’ve heard him, OL coach Jeff Davidson was pleased with the way his offensive line worked during individual drills, etc. QB Christian Ponder told me while walking off the field after practice that Friday’s workout was probably better than any of the OTA practices they held during the offseason. Obviously there’s a ways to go, but Friday was a solid start.

Griffen focusing on LB
There was a lot of talk this offseason about the possibility of Everson Griffen transitioning from DE to LB. The talk is over now because it’s actually happening. Griffen worked with the LBs during Friday’s practice and Frazier said that’s where he wants Griffen to focus his undivided attention.

“He’s an outstanding athlete, was a great special teams player for us a year ago,” Frazier said. “Played in multiple positions for us a year ago at linebacker and then at defensive end. With his athletic ability, we want to try to find a way to get him on the field a little bit more.”

Griffen shed 18 pounds this offseason to get within the team’s ideal range for a player at his position, and Frazier described Griffen as extremely motivated to show what he can do at LB.

Competition at RG
Brandon Fusco opened camp with the first team at RG, an expected development. The position will be one to watch this camp and preseason as the Vikings look to solidify an offensive line that is poised to take a big step forward in 2012. Frazier indicated the competition would include Fusco, Chris DeGeare and Geoff Schwartz, and that ideally the team would name a starter by the third preseason game (at home vs. San Diego).

“We’ll let those guys compete and battle it out,” Frazier said, “and hopefully we’ll be a better team with whichever one ends up winning the job.”

Many competing for punt return duties
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said this offseason that he’s pleased with the number of players on the Vikings roster who have the ability to cleanly field kicks. He said he’s been to teams where they struggled to find one player who could consistently do it. This year in Minnesota, Priefer has a bevy of players competing for opportunities. On Friday the following players took turns fielding punts from Chris Kluwe: CB Bobby Felder, DB Reggie Jones, CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Kerry Taylor, CB Nick Taylor, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright.

Robinson is fast
Speaking of Robinson, there was a moment early in practice on Friday where he put his quick burst on display. It happened during a special teams period of practice where Robinson was in the rotation to field punts. A punt heading his way got caught up in the wind and tumbled down to the ground well short of where Robinson was positioned. It’s a cardinal sin for punt returners to let the ball hit the ground, and it only compounds the problem when a returner lets the ball hit the ground and then tries to pick it up after more than one bounce. In an effort to not let the ball bounce more than once, Robinson turned on the jets and covered six yards as fast as I’ve ever seen, getting his hands under the ball at the last second before it bounced a second time.

Later in practice, Robinson pulled up with what appeared to be a leg injury of some kind. No word on what kind of injury it is or how serious.


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Roster Rundown: Offensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 24, 2012 – 7:00 am

Few position groups will be as heavily scrutinized early this season more than the offensive line. The Vikings have been one of the NFL’s best rushing teams over the past several seasons, but the combination of a need for improvement in pass protection and multiple new starters in the group will have many keeping close tabs on the men up front.

The offensive line is the subject of today’s Roster Rundown…

The Vikings will bring 15 offensive linemen with them to training camp, probably a standard number in League circles. While we can be fairly certain on four of the five starters heading into training camp, there will still be plenty of competition up and down the line in both the starting lineup and especially for the reserve spots.

John Sullivan is solid at center and has developed into one of the best five or so players at his position in the entire League. Sullivan began his career as Matt Birk’s understudy and eventually rose to starter status, where he snapped to Brett Favre in his first season as the starter and has progressed nicely ever since. There are two other players listed as centers on the Vikings roster who will compete for a backup role behind Sullivan - Joe Berger and Quentin Saulsberry. Berger is a returning veteran with seven seasons of experience and Saulsberry is an undrafted college free agent out of Mississippi State.

The Vikings should be set at both OT positions as well. Phil Loadholt returns at RT and should be sufficiently motivated in a contract year. Fans have grown tired of his penalties and occasional pass protection letdown, but my sense is Loadholt is sitting on a nice season. At LT the Vikings of course have 1st-round pick Matt Kalil. Sullivan has described Kalil as a “freak” athletically. Other OTs listed on the Vikings roster are: Pat Brown, Levi Horn, DeMarcus Love, Geoff Schwartz and Darrion Weems. Brown and Love are returning from last year’s team, Schwartz was a free agent pickup for the Vikings this offseason and could compete for the starting RG spot, and both Horn and Weems are undrafted college free agents.

The addition of Kalil at LT allows the Vikings to move Charlie Johnson over to LG, perhaps his more natural position. Johnson has the athleticism to play OT, but Vikings GM Rick Spielman explained to me earlier this offseason that his arm length is not ideal for the position. Moving him inside to LG will put Johnson is a better position to succeed, and it will allow Johnson to help Kalil transition to the NFL game. The RG position is up for grabs at this point. I expect Brandon Fusco to open camp as the starter, but both Schwartz and Chris DeGeare should have their sights set on winning the job as well. The two other OGs listed on the Vikings roster are Tyler Holmes and Austin Pasztor, a pair of undrafted college free agents.

A lot of names to go over there, but it just means more competition for the position group as a whole. The top three aspects of the offensive line I’ll be watching at training camp are…

– Who looks the best at RG? Fusco has the early edge based on the offseason program, but both DeGeare and Schwartz are in the mix as well.

– How does Kalil adjust to the NFL? Going against Jared Allen every day will help Kalil a ton if the 1st-round pick can strike a balance between taking his medicine from Allen and others on defense while also establishing himself as Ponder’s blindside protector.

– Does Loadholt take a big step forward this year? He was solid as a rookie in 2009 when he helped the club go 12-4 and play in the NFC title game, but since then he’s produced mixed results. Loadholt is one of my favorite guys on the team and I know he takes pride in his game, so I expect him to take a big step forward in his second year working with well-respected OL coach Jeff Davidson.


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Vikings Beef Up Offensive Line Competition

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2012 – 11:23 am

The Vikings have made official the signing of free agent OL Geoff Schwartz, adding the versatile 5th-year pro to an offensive line that is getting younger this offseason. The move reunites Schwartz with Vikings OL coach Jeff Davidson, who was the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator from 2007-10 when Schwartz was drafted by the Panthers in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Oregon.

The Vikings released veteran OGs Anthony Herrera and Steve Hutchinson earlier this month, and they appear committed to getting younger along the offensive line while also adding competition at the same time. Schwartz will turn 26 in July and has played in 32 games with 19 starts in his career. He’s dealt with injuries since entering the NFL, with his 32 games played and 19 starts coming over just 2 seasons. He is listed as appearing in no games in 2008 (his rookie season) and in 2011.

Following the release of Herrera and Hutchinson, I proposed an economical, long-term plan for the offensive line that included drafting Matt Kalil at #3, moving Charlie Johnson to LG and then holding competition for the starting RG spot between veteran Joe Berger and youngster Brandon Fusco, along with Chris DeGeare and any other future draft picks joining the competition. That plan would produce plenty of competition for at least one starting spot – RG – and could also open competition at LG should one of the youngsters push Johnson for playing time.

The Vikings decision to sign Schwartz only increases the competition for playing time. One could argue that if the Vikings had to play a game today, Schwartz would be the starter at one of the guard positions, or event perhaps at LT. But the Vikings don’t have to play a game today, and won’t play a game for another 4.5 months. In the meantime, Schwartz and the rest of his new offensive line teammates will go through a robust competition for playing time.


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