Saturday, October 10, 2015

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One of the things Mike Zimmer has to do next season is improve on his 1-5 record within the NFC North Division (I know, I’m a broken record about this) and so I am happy to bring back the weekly “NFC North Roundup” segment.  It’ll allow us to keep track, throughout the offseason, of what our three worst enemies are up to.

Chicago Bears

The Bears blew apart their organization after another disappointing season that will possibly be Jay Cutler’s last in Chicago.  The newest head coach to join the NFC North is non-other than John Fox who was no longer welcome in Denver after their playoff performance left plenty to be desired.  Fox is obviously a well respected coach that is now inheriting a roster with turbulent times ahead.  The Bears players are already buying into their new coach, however.

“From everything I’ve heard from people that I trust in the league who are football guys, John Fox is the guy for the job,” Kyle Long recently said of the hire. “He’s a leader of men. He’s a players’ coach. And he’s somebody who really values having a strong locker room. [General manager] Ryan Pace couldn’t have done a better job getting the right guy.”

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From top to bottom, left to right, we will be surveying the NFL’s 2015 free agency class and attempting to predict what the Vikings will do to improve their depth chart.

For the first time in a long time, the Vikings have essentially no need at quarterback, with Teddy Bridgewater doing enough in his rookie season to have us all hopeful that he can become one of the greats.  As the Seattle Seahawks have proven, having a young and inexpensive starting quarterback can lead to an era filled with great things, and the Vikings are hoping to duplicate that success with Bridgewater at the helm.

Bridgewater should only count $1.6 million against the 2015 salary cap.  Christian Ponder, the third quarterback on the depth chart, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and it seems unlikely that the Vikings will try to stop him.

If any drama surrounds the Vikings quarterback position this offseason, it will likely involve veteran Matt Cassel.  He is scheduled to carry a cap hit of $4.75 million and is owed a half million dollar roster bonus on the seventh day of the new league year.  Conversely, the Vikings can opt out of the second half of this two-year deal and find a backup replacement, or even try to negotiate Cassel’s return on a lessened salary.

Matt Cassel was our starting quarterback to start 2014 and he is a highly regarded professional that certainly seems to fit the mold of “veteran mentor.”  Still, I can’t help but think the business sense will overrule the perceived upside Cassel brings to the table, and I expect he will be released with the possibility of a return under a new contract.

If Ponder leaves, the Vikings opt out of their Cassel contract, and they want to have four quarterbacks to kick off training camp then they will almost certainly be active in the second and third tiers of free agency.  That happens to work out fairly well, as a “first tier” free agent quarterback doesn’t seem to actually exist.

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Brian Heintz is no stranger to unforeseen challenges and obstacles in life. However, he is just as familiar with a determined, positive attitude. Maybe it’s the combination of these things that make Heintz such a well-suited and dedicated fan of the Minnesota Vikings.

Heintz grew up in Minnesota, a product of the East Side of St. Paul. He recalls his earliest memories involving the Vikings:

“My mom was always a big Vikings fan, and she got me into it,” he explained. “One of her many great parenting skills.”

In fact, the 29-year-old cannot remember a time when he wasn’t rooting for the team; at age five, he owned his first jersey—Tommy Kramer.

Years of memories surround the Vikings, but one stands out to Heintz as more special than the others: a year he attended the Vikings training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs in River Falls.

“As the players were loading onto team buses, Korey Stringer threw his glove out the window right at us. I got his glove and had Chris Walsh autograph it before they took off. RIP, Big K.”

Heintz experienced many great Vikings moments this season, as well. He attended eight games, and the Vikings won all but one of those contests. “Apparently, I should have gone to all of them,” he joked. Heintz went on to emphasize that the team’s final 7-8 record seemed pretty good, considering the challenges on offense.

“Leaving a few wins on the field is always tough,” he admitted, “but good for Teddy [Bridgewater] as far as situational football goes. Finally, a quarterback to invest in and get excited about that’s not [over the hill].”

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Here at VT we know that we attract a very diverse group of readers.  After all, people from all walks of life can become Vikings fans willing to endure all that comes with it.  Last week, our own Lindsey Young kicked off her series about this very topic by profiling a Dreamworks animator who has made his fandom a family affair.

Now, if you bleed purple and you happen to have an artistic side, then you might be able to convert your combined passions into something that can live on inside the new stadium.

The Vikings have announced that they are seeking proposals from Minnesota-based artists to help bring the new stadium to life through their work.

“One of the primary goals throughout stadium construction and operation is to utilize Minnesota companies and Minnesota people, and this partnership with Sports and the Arts fits that theme,” said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf. “This is an opportunity for Minnesotans and Vikings fans to further impact the design of this stadium with artwork that recognizes the history of the Vikings and celebrates the many attributes of this state and region. When fans see this art throughout the building, it will further emphasize that this stadium is for their benefit and enjoyment.”

The Vikings are keeping an open mind to all artistic ideas.  Paintings, sketches, drawings, objects, photography, sculptures, murals, and digital creations will all be considered.  They will begin accepting submissions on February 1st and the closing date will be March 31st.

If you are interested then I encourage you to CLICK HERE for more information.  If you get commissioned, then please do come back and share your story with us!  I just happen to know an up and coming reporter (Matt Blair’s words, not mine) that would like to interview you.

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The Minnesota Vikings have announced that they’ve signed former Toronto Argonaut Jalil Carter to a futures deal. This is their statement:

The Vikings have signed CB Jalil Carter to a reserve/future free agent after spending 2012-14 seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts and was a member of the 2012 Grey Cup championship team. Carter recorded 48 tackles in each of the previous two seasons with the Argos and added a career-best five sacks in 2014. Carter initially signed as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams where he attended training camp in 2011. Carter played safety his first 3 years at Akron before transitioning to WR for his senior season. As a receiver in 2010, Carter recorded 30 receptions for 412 yards and two touchdowns.

Carter is a bit of a speed demon, having run a 4.38 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, but without a lot of other physical traits (after adjusting for weight) to his name. Average-to-below average agility means he may be better suited to outside coverage (and at 6’1″ it’s possible), though the Vikings may simply be interested in his kick returning. There aren’t a lot of scouting reports on Carter out there because he declared for the draft as a receiver, and that’s what the Rams signed him as in 2011—not something he did in the CFL or evidently with the Vikings. Definitely someone to look at later and get a better picture.

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