Blogs

New Faces Welcomed To Vikings Offseason Program

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 23, 2013 – 5:40 am

Vikings Launch Offseason Program
Five Vikings Poised For Breakout Seasons

The launch of the Offseason Program means a return to Winter Park for many Vikings players. But it also marks the arrival – for the first time – at Winter Park for other Vikings players. There are several veteran players who are new to the Vikings, and they’ll begin the process of assimilating to their new team this week.

Vikings fans are familiar with Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, Everson Griffen and Chad Greenway. They are not familiar with Matt Cassel, TJ Conley, Greg Jennings, Greg McCoy and Roderick Williams. Now is a great time to get to know them.

Here’s a look at a few fresh faces now playing for the Vikings (you’ll get to know all of them as the offseason program progresses)…

freshfaces-blog

We got Greg!
The Vikings reached across the Minnesota-Wisconsin border to nab a big-time Packers playmaker once again this offseason, signing WR Greg Jennings to conclude the first week of NFL free agency. After being a thorn in the Vikings side for the past 7 seasons, Jennings will now be a helping hand for the Vikings. He instantly upgrades the receiving corps and provides that group of players on the roster with a leader. 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.

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 Ponder. The Kansas City Chiefs released Matt Cassel early in free agency, 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.

From North of the border to the NFC North
The Vikings have reached into the Canadian Football League (CFL) with success in the past. Bud Grant became the second head coach in franchise history after leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to 4 Grey Cup titles over 10 seasons. This offseason the Vikings once again reached into Canada to try and improve the franchise, signing CB Roderick Williams. He measures in at 5-10, 180 pounds and he’s 26 years old. Williams is technically an undrafted rookie because this is his first NFL contact, but he’s played at a high level in the CFL for 3 seasons, collecting 11 INTs and 1 all-star honor for the Edmonton Eskimos in that time.

Edmonton released Williams, who attended the same school as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier (Alcorn State), from his contract specifically so he could pursue an opportunity in the NFL. That opportunity will be with Frazier and the Vikings.

An extra leg
It’s not uncommon for teams to carry an extra kicker or punter during the offseason program and training camp, and the Vikings moved early in the offseason to add a punter to their roster in TJ Conley. An undrafted free agent in 2009 after playing college football at the University of Idaho, Conley joined the NY Jets from 2009-2011 and was a free agent in 2012. He was the Jets starting punter in 2011, the only year he recorded statistics, and in that season he punted 92 times in 16 games for a gross average of 42.7 and a net average of 38.8. None of his punts were blocked and none were returned for TDs, while 32 of them landed inside the 20 and 32 were returned for an average of 7.5 yards.

The real McCoy
Sometimes one team’s trash is another team’s treasure. The Vikings will test that theory with CB/return specialist Greg McCoy. He was a 7th-round pick of the Chicago Bears out of TCU in 2012 and was cut on final cutdown day heading into the regular season. McCoy then spent time on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. He had 7 INTs in 51 career college games at TCU and he was named his conference’s special teams player of the year in his final season after averaging 30.6 yards per return and scoring 2 TDs on 37 kickoff return attempts.


Tags: , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 73 Comments »

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.

rick-jennings

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All | 207 Comments »

Roderick Williams – From North Of The Border To The NFC North

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 13, 2013 – 7:42 am

The Vikings have reached into the CFL with success in the past. Bud Grant became the second head coach in franchise history after leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to 4 Grey Cup titles over 10 seasons. Grant’s success with the Vikings is well-chronicled, so we won’t take the time or space to detail it here. Suffice it to say, he’s perhaps the most revered figure in franchise history.

Earlier this week the Vikings reached across the border once again by signing CB Roderick Williams. The point here is not to compare what Grant accomplished with the Vikings from 1967-83 and in 1985 to what Williams could do for the Vikings now. The Grant part was just an opportunity to spice up an offseason blog entry with a Hall of Fame name. Rather, the signing of a player in mid-February who was an all-star in another professional football league further illustrates the point Vikings GM Rick Spielman makes frequently – that building and maintaining an NFL roster is truly a year-round, never-ending process.

Williams may be just a training camp body who is discarded before the 2013 regular season commences. Or he may be a member of the 53-man roster when the Vikings suit up in Week 1. Or he may be somewhere in between, we don’t know yet. What we do know is that Williams measures in at 5-10, 180 pounds. He’s 26 years old and is technically an undrafted rookie because this is his first NFL contact. But he’s played at a high level in the CFL for 3 seasons, collecting 11 INTs and one all-star honor for the Edmonton Eskimos in that time.

Edmonton released Williams, who attended the same school as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier (Alcorn State), from his contract specifically so he could pursue an opportunity in the NFL. That opportunity will be with Frazier and the Vikings.

NFL teams signing standout players from the CFL is nothing new. Of late, players such as DE Cameron Wake and CB Brandon Browner have successfully made the transition. Wake has 43.0 sacks and has missed just 2 games in 4 seasons with the Dolphins while Browner has 28 starts and 9 INTs for the Seahawks in 2 seasons. Just this offseason, the New England Patriots have signed 2 former CFL players – DE/OLB Jason Vega and DE Armond Armstead.


Tags: ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 577 Comments »