Sunday, April 26, 2015

Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Vikings might not think they need to upgrade their starting quarterback position, but if the one playoff game they were able to play last season proved anything, it is that they desperately need a better backup option.

The Vikings have been linked, in passing, to Chiefs soon-to-be-displaced quarterback Matt Cassel ever since news broke that the Chiefs were swinging a trade for Alex Smith.  Cassel was believed to be a candidate for release as recently as Wednesday, but now the Chiefs appear to have held off on that with hopes of finding a trade partner.

One of those trade partners might be the Vikings.  The rumors continued to filter through the likes of Twitter and other unreliable sources of information, but it also started to get some attention from more main stream media outlets, and it appears as though this might have some legs behind it.

“Continue to hear Vikings really like Cassel,” NFL Network‘s Jason La Canfora tweeted late on Wednesday.

This is about the most quarterback-less offseason I can remember, as the Draft and free agent class are both greatly lacking any star power, but there are still some options that exist that would not require any picks to obtain.  Recently released Ryan Fitzpatrick and free agent Tyler Thigpen are both available, as is veteran signal caller Jason Campbell.

Cassel is currently set to make $7.5 million in 2013, the same salary the Vikings were in line to pay Antoine Winfield, but I would assume a new contract would be a top priority if they did decide to trade to obtain Cassel as a backup to Christian Ponder.  His 2014 salary is scheduled to increase to $9 million, according to Rotoworld.  

We are now two days deep into free agency and the Vikings have yet to sign any players that didn’t play for them last year, but at least the rumor mill is starting to heat up.

I was kind of leaning towards dismissing reports of the Minnesota Vikings having interest in middle linebacker Brian Urlacher as an attempt to drive up the price of his services, with hopes of getting Chicago to overpay just like the Bears did to Minnesota in regards to right tackle Phil Loadholt.

I’m no longer leaning in that direction.

According to a report from Chicago, which we got from the cool new (to us, anyways) Vikings site SportingSota, Urlacher is actually scheduled to visit the Vikings now.

There are not any details regarding a timeline for the visit, but I suspect we’re going to find out real soon just how interested the Vikings actually are.  It is hard to imagine Urlacher being much more than a temporary stopgap at the position, and maybe a mentor to younger linebackers, but he certainly has a well established track record of beating NFC North teams.

At 34 years old, however, and clearly into his regression, that track record may prove to be in the past only.

“Look forward to the Draft.”

“Look forward to the Draft.”

“Look forward to the Draft.”

I have to keep repeating these words to myself through these opening days of free agency because, to be honest, I am not really enjoying myself so far.  The latest bit of information, which I buried in my previous post but will highlight seperately here, is sure to cause some excitement from Vikings fans because of the name value.

I am not one of those fans that is excited.

The Vikings have reportedly been in contact with Chicago Bears longtime middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune who cites a Vikings source.  Urlacher is reportedly seeking a salary in the range of $5,5 million.

Given the price tag and his age of 34 it really seems odd that the Vikings would be interested, especially in light of their recent release of Antoine Winfield, but despite their obvious need for a new starting middle linebacker.  Urlacher, who will actually be 35 in May, has proven to be one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game, but his best days certainly appear to have come and gone.

Maybe the Vikings are just trying to drive up the price for Urlacher, as the Bears are still trying to retain their local hero, as payback for the Bears doing the same to them with right tackle Phil Loadholt.

When the Vikings signed veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield to a contract extension in 2009 the unique triggers in the deal, which de-escalated his salary if he were relegated to the nickel position primarily, should have been all the motivation the team’s front office needed to greatly upgrade the position and ensure Winfield stays put with a manageable salary.

Instead, the Vikings did little to add real firepower to the cornerback position and Winfield’s 2012 playing time meant his salary would be $7.25 million in 2013, which is obviously a lot to pay your average 36 year old corner.

The thing is, however, Antoine Winfield is not your average anything.

Ever since signing with the Vikings nine seasons ago, Winfield has been an example to every Vikings player to ever pass through the locker room, showing them how an NFL player ought to act off the field and how a great one ought to play on it.  He has defied logic by being the greatest tackling cornerback the NFL has ever seen despite his small stature.  He has played through emotional and physical pain.  He has neutralized some of the best running backs, wide outs, and even quarterbacks the Vikings ever played.  He has delivered speeches that resonated with his entire defense.  He has been an on-field coach and an off-field angel in the Twin Cities.  He has, almost single handedly, won some very memorable football games for us Vikings to remember and cherish forever.

His release sparked an outrage within the Viking fan community.  I tried to take emotion out of it when explaining the financial reasons for myself being upset, but still concluded that the Vikings front office was to blame.  After details of how the departure was orchestrated, however, I think the front office deserves blame for a lot more than simply the fact that Winfield was released.

Dan Wiederer of Access Vikings was the first to release details of how Winfield was informed of Rick Spielman’s decision.  Wiederer says that Winfield was at Winter Park working out on Tuesday morning when he was asked to go see Spielman in his office upstairs.  The release was described as “awkward” and “cold,” which is not terribly unusual in the business of the NFL, but it seems that this would be a situation that might warrant some extra tact.

Wiederer described Winfield as being confused and disappointed with how things played out.  Despite previous reports that indicated Winfield refused to take a pay cut to stay with the team, the report says that Winfield was never formally approached about restructuring or reducing his salary, which is why he and his agent were so taken by surprise with the move.  The report said Winfield felt like he deserved better, and all of us would likely agree with him.

Tuesday was a day full of re-signings for the Minnesota Vikings and one big release in Antoine Winfield.  With a bunch of cap space and plenty of holes in the roster, Wednesday was sure to see some fireworks, right?

Well, not exactly.

The biggest real news to come out on Wednesday was some contract details regarding some of the players that have re-signed.  We have already talked about Phil Loadholt’s $25 million deal (click here) and Jerome Felton’s three year deal (click here), but local beat writers have learned details about the other contracts given out on Tuesday:

JAMARCA SANFORD, S:  The Vikings special teams ace, who has a knack for causing fumbles, got a nice pay bump when he signed a two year deal worth up to $5 million.  The deal included a half million dollar signing bonus and a half million dollar roster bonus.  His cap hit is expected to be $2.25 million this season and $2.75 in 2014.  The money suggests that the Vikings will once again rely on Mistral Raymond to battle Sanford for the starting gig across from Harrison Smith, but it isn’t enough to rule out an upgrade if one presents itself at the right level of value during free agency or the Draft.

ERIN HENDERSON, LB:  Henderson had spent his whole career with the Vikings and when he became a free agent last offseason the front office let him dangle on the open market for an extended period of time.  This year they took care of business a lot quicker by signing him to a two year deal, worth $4 million, on the first day of free agency.  The contract includes half million dollar bonuses nearly identical to Sanford’s, but has $250,000 incentives built into each year of the deal.  The Vikings still need linebacker help, with starter Jasper Brinkley visiting with the Giants and Cardinals, but Henderson coming back provides them with versatility and depth.  Henderson is only 26 years old.

JOE BERGER, C:  The backup lineman signed a veteran minimum one year deal, so he will earn a salary just south of $1 million.  Berger is 30 years old and brings with him the most experience of any current backup along the offensive line.  Fellow lineman Geoff Schwartz, who played quite well in place of Brandon Fusco at times last season, is not expected to return.

There are still unknown contract details and cap adjustments, but it is believed that the Vikings currently have $11-$13 million in salary cap space.  Their 11 draft picks will chew up some of that, but the Vikings still have plenty of cap room to play with, should they decide to do so.

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