Sunday, July 5, 2015

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Free agency is right around the corner and one of the biggest offseason mysteries seems to now be resolved.

The NFL Players Association has notified NFL agents that the 2013 salary cap is to be at exactly $123 million, which is only a 1.7% increase from last year.  The formulas, accounting, nuances, and calculations that go into figuring out salary caps is a bear, but 1500 ESPN‘s Tom Pelissero has enough general details to give us an idea of where the Vikings stand.

The salaries that count against the cap are the accumulation of the top 51 salaries on the roster.  That is important to keep in mind, as often fans think signing street free agents or undrafted rookies is a waste of cap space when they may not actually count against the cap at all.

The cap is set at $123 million and the Vikings have $118 committed to their top 51 contracts, which leaves about $5 million left over.  However, a few factors are going to boost that number.  They have about half a million, actually just a little under, of dead money charged against them.

First, the Vikings received a $1.643 cap credit as a result of last offseason’s penalties against the Redskins, Cowboys and Saints for how they conducted business during the uncapped year.  Secondly, the Vikings chose to carry over about $8 million in unused space from last season.

That means, as of today, the Vikings are expected to have about $14.2 million in cap space when free agency opens.  That number puts the Vikings a little better than average compared to the other 31 franchises and in decent shape to make a run at a player or two.

That number could actually grow significantly, as Pelissero points out, by making some moves concerning their current roster.  The team is expected to jettison wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who is owed a $2.425 million roster bonus on March 16th, which would clear about $3.25 million in additional cap space.

Also, veterans like Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield, and Kevin Williams are certain to at least be approached about contract restructurings that could free up a significant amount of cash.  Jared Allen alone carries a cap number in excess of $17 million.

General Manager Rick Spielman has gone out of his way to temper the expectations of fans when it comes to free agency, claiming that the team is likely to be about as inactive as last year.  That is tough to believe when looking at the cap space available to them and some of their pressing needs.

Maybe, just maybe, the Vikings are planning to create more of a free agency stir than what is anticipated.

Of course, they may also just be trying to free up enough space to finally make Percy Harvin a happy camper.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

There is really no consensus as to which wide receiver is the best in this class, but California product Keenan Allen is at the top of most lists it seems and for good reason.

Standing at 6′ 2″ and weighing in at 215 pounds, Allen has established himself as one of the most physical and feared wide outs in football over the last three years.  Even as a freshman Allen managed to be a solid starting option at Cal and took major steps over his next two seasons, establishing himself as one of the nation’s best wide outs despite getting very little help from the quarterback position.  He even dominated against  some of college’s best competition like Stanford, USC, and Oregon in 2011.

His senior year didn’t exactly go as planned due to quarterback issues and a sprain that caused him to miss three games and the Scouting Combine.  For this reason, it will be worth keeping an eye on his April 9th pro day to see just how he is coming along with the PCL injury.

Allen’s size and strength make him a very powerful downfield option that is capable of bullying defenders and running through their tackle attempts.  He also has a knack for going across the middle and making catches, even when it might result in major contact, which is (as you have probably figured out by now) my favorite trait in a receiver.

Allen hasn’t run a pre-Draft 40 yard dash yet, but he plays with excellent speed as evidenced by all of his game tape, and certainly won’t be knocked by any NFL scouts for his speed.  The guy has elite acceleration and very adequate straightline speed that is actually a bit surprising for a guy of his size.  Don’t be surprised if he runs below a 4.5 at his pro day.

The combination of speed and strength is the type that will keep defensive coordinators awake at night.  Corners that tried to jam Allen in college were often disappointed in the results, as he is strong enough to dismiss them and fast enough to still get down the field for a big play.  However, if defensive backs play off the line of scrimmage then Allen has the ability to take a short route and elude tackles for a big play.  He is the type of guy that is capable of beating you in a variety of ways, which is exactly what the Vikings need to take their offense a step or two forwards.

If front offices let the tape speak for itself then I can’t see anyone else dethroning him as the top receiver this year.  He is a do-it-all guy that can take the top of a defense, is surprisingly efficient at picking up yards after the catch, can win jump balls, is said to have great character, and has displayed proficiency on special teams.  The injury is poorly timed for him, but if it isn’t thought to be a long term issue then this might just be the wide receiver the Vikings have needed so desperately for so many years.

The Vikings will have to invest their first rounder to get their hands on Allen, and even then he may not be there when they pick, but considering the shape of this passing game it would be somewhat of a no-brainer.

We know the Vikings met with a lot of players and their representatives in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine this week.  What we don’t know is who all those players were and how interested the Vikings really are in them.

Quinton Patton and Manti Te’o are among the players known to have met with the Vikings, but we can now add defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to the list by his own admission.  He is also going to visit with the team in Minnesota prior to April’s Draft.

“It went pretty well and I’m going to visit the franchise probably April 1 or 2,” Richardson said of the Vikings. “They were pretty interested in me, but I want to go a little bit higher than that.”

In my first version of my 2013 mock draft I had the Vikings selecting Richardson, coming out of Missouri, as I felt like he was a perfect fit for what the Vikings need to do on defense moving forward.  Since then I have been mocking him much higher and so have most other draftniks out there.

Richardson’s stock is currently so high that I’m not even certain the Vikings could trade up to get their hands on him if they were willing to sell the farm, but there is still plenty of time for things to develop and stranger things have certainly happened.

The NFL Scouting Combine’s importance to how team’s view certain prospects can, and will, be debated until the end of time but there is little denying that it marks the beginning of the offseason.  Players, coaches, executives, and agents converge on Indianapolis and a lot of the groundwork is done over the course of the event.

The Combine is covered wall-to-wall by NFL Network and others, but I just wanted to offer up a few simple observations now that the DVR is rid of all Combine related recordings.

Alex Smith Trade:  Today, news became semi-official that the Niners will ship quarterback Alex Smith to the Chiefs in exchange for their second round pick this season and a conditional pick next season.  A number of Vikings fans have expressed interest in Smith over the last year, so this news is important in that the Smith-to-Minnesota speculation is finally dead.  Second, the move is expected to start a domino effect around the league that could see Matt Cassel playing (maybe even starting) elsewhere, could make Geno Smith and Matt Barkley fall deeper into the Draft than expected, and could set the tone for potential trades involving Matt Flynn or Nick Foles or Ryan Mallett.  Lastly, one can’t help but wonder if the Niners and their arsenal of draft picks might be interested in trading for some big names like Derrelle Revis and/or Percy Harvin.

Vikings Create An Odd Impression:  The Vikings met with a number of agents in Indianapolis, including those that represent the team’s pending free agents.  Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN recently told the Twitter world that the meeting between Vikings brass and agents were “awkward” because the team gave no indication as to their intentions or interest, but instead just asked agents where they stood in terms of money.  This sounds like Spielman just being Spielman, just trying to keep his intentions unknown, but the clock is ticking towards the beginning of free agency and the Vikings need to start taking care of some business.

Trying To Limit Winfield… Again:  Antoine Winfield was expected to be a part time player last year, and the year before that, but it just hasn’t ever happened.  Winfield has had to stay in the starting lineup due to Chris Cook’s inability to stay on the field and inconsistencies at the other starting spot.  Leslie Frazier told reporters that he wants to see Winfield play less and that makes every bit of sense, because Winfield is at his best int he nickel position and needs to take limited snaps to stay healthy.  Still, Frazier knows all too well that it is a lot easier to say than to do this, and this could be an indication that the Vikings might pull the trigger on another early cornerback in the Draft.  Dee Milliner, Johnthan Banks, Xavier Rhodes, and Desmond Trufant all deserve consideration at the #23 spot where the Vikings pick.  Frazier’s comments can also be translated to:  “We want Winfield to play part time and get paid like it.”  Winfield is expected to cost the Vikings $7.25 million in cap space this season.

Defensive Line Dominates:  This class is incredible when it comes to depth at positions along the defensive line.  I can almost guarantee there will be tackles and ends available in the second round or beyond that carry first round grades for a number of teams.  The Vikings have some needs along the defensive line, especially at defensive tackle, and if you do the math you have to figure a defensive lineman is the odds-on favorite to be the Vikings best player available when they are on the clock.  Either Kevin Williams or Jared Allen could conceivably see their future replacement drafted on day one.

Te’o Sideshow:  A lot was made of linebacker Manti Te’o’s forty time this week, but the most unattractive thing about this prospect has to be the hoards of cameras and reporters that follow him around.  The guy is a walking circus ever since his fake girlfriend story hit the internet and that can’t appeal to many teams, regardless of his perceived talent level.  Alec Ogletree, Kevin Minter, and Arthur Brown all could end up drafted ahead of Te’o who was considered a possible first overall selection just a few months ago.

Depth Creates A Buyer’s Market:  The Vikings may want to trade backwards from the 23 spot come Draft Day, in an effort to pick up more draft choices, but they may have trouble striking a deal because so many others may be looking to do the same.  It seems to be an overall consensus that this class contains enough depth that teams will feel confident that they are getting quality players in the third or fourth rounds, and those mid-round selections are going to be highly coveted.  A team that is looking to actually move forward might be able to drive the price down by talking to multiple teams and getting themselves the best deal.  Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, and defensive back all seem to be positions of particular depth in this class.

Adam has been absolutely killing it with his ‘Draft Target’ posts. Come April 25th, there will likely be no one the readers here at VT haven’t heard of the way he’s been rolling these things out. But I can’t let him have all the fun, right? Plus, I need to get my studying on as in a few days I will be representing Vikings Territory for the second time in #MockOne (Don’t know what #MockOne is? Check it out here.)

Xavier Rhodes. This is a name you may want to get familiar with in the next couple months headed up to the draft. The lengthy Cornerback from Florida St. has definitely began to catch the eyes of draftniks out there. And with a stellar performance today at the final day of the 2013 NFL Combine, he is likely to attract even more attention.

Rhodes (22) graduated from Norland High School in his hometown of Miami, Florida. In 2009, Xavier only played in two games, one for Boston College and the other for Georgia Tech, due to a hand injury that kept him from participating the majority of the season. In 2010, he moved to FSU where he impressed “as a promising young star” and won various rookie and freshman awards. In his next two years at Florida State, Rhodes solidified his role as one of the best corners in the nation and was on watch lists for both the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards.

Read any scouting report for Xavier Rhodes and I promise you’ll find the word ‘big’ within the first thirty words. Rhodes measured in at the combine at a whopping 6’1″ tall and 210 lbs. His size and large frame allow him to be an excellent press corner who is always pressuring the receiver. Don’t be mislead by his size, though. Rhodes ran a 4.43 40 at the combine today. He also had the highest vertical jump and broad jump of any defensive backs at the combine showing great leg strength and explosion. This ability to get off the ground coupled with his lengthy stature allows him to compete for balls with receivers. Rhodes is also well-known as being one of the best (if not the best) cover corners in the nation.The only real, consistent knock on Rhodes is that he isn’t amazing in run support and could work on his tackling.

There are bigger needs for the Vikings than Cornerback, no doubt about it. But, there are a few reasons why I think this pick would be really good for the Vikings.

First and foremost, I’m not completely sold on taking a wide receiver late in the first round (yet…). To me, the value just isn’t there and you could likely find someone comparable to the receivers who will be first off the board in the second and third rounds. Secondly, I really like what our secondary would look like with a guy like Rhodes added to the squad. Picture it – a physical, big-framed giant on each side, Cook and Rhodes (if Cook can stay healthy…), Antoine Winfield and Josh Robinson in the mix on occassion and the bruiser Harrison Smith lurking around in the backfield waiting to destroy someone. Doesn’t that sound awesome?! I just think the value is there at Cornerback with a guy like Rhodes, especially when this year’s draft is so deep at other defensive positions.

Xavier Rhodes could be a player who makes the Vikings secondary one to be feared for years to come in the NFC North – a division that is ripe with good quarterback play and big receivers.

If Xavier Rhodes is available when the Vikings are on the clock come April 25th (and that’s a big ‘if’ considering his stellar performance at the combine) it will be very interesting to see if the Vikings surprise people and go with the Florida State DB.

Check out the video below for some good tape on Rhodes. And feel free to leave some comments with some guys that you think would be worth looking at in our “Draft Target” series.

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