Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Blog Page 137

The free agency free-for-all is less than a week away and the Vikings have finally started to show signs of life here recently.

On Wednesday, they informed running back Matt Asiata that he would be tendered as an exclusive rights free agent.  As a result, Asiata will play under a one year deal worth $570,000.  According to the Pioneer Press, Asiata’s agent first learned of the team’s intentions during the NFL Scouting Combine, but the move hardly comes as a surprise to anyone involved.

Asiata is 26 years old and finally got to see some real NFL action towards the end of last season when both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were injured.  He ended the season with 44 carries for 166 yards (3.8 yard average) and three touchdowns.  All three touchdowns came in one game against Philadelphia, less than two months after he tragically lost his father.

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The Minnesota Vikings want to re-sign Jerome Simpson, per Chris Tomasson at the Pioneer Press:

The Vikings want to re-sign free agent wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who has aired his desire to return. Whether that happens will come down to money.

A source said Wednesday the Vikings want to bring back Simpson for a third season. There had been doubts about that happening after Simpson was arrested last November on suspicion of DWI.

Unsurprisingly, the money will define desirability, but there is definitely an amount that the Vikings would say “yes” to. Jerome Simpson is being pursued by other teams, but should have his price reduced due to consistently average numbers and a worrisome off-field record with two different teams.

Jerome Simpson was the Minnesota Vikings’ leading receiver until the 14th game of the season, where Greg Jennings overtook him. Simpson, previous of the Cincinnati Bengals, has been on the same team as head coach Mike Zimmer, but they worked on opposite sides of the ball.

If the Vikings re-sign Simpson to the same price as before ($2.1 million in cap space, or $1.35 base salary, $250k in LBTE incentives and $500 in guaranteed signing bonus) it should be a good deal for both parties. Simpson isn’t a stellar receiver, but he’s a legitimate starting talent that can be phased into extremely good depth should Cordarrelle Patterson or Jarius Wright take over.

Just like with Jamarca Sanford or Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings fans shouldn’t let previous poor performances blind them to good performances last year (or in Sanford and Loadholt’s case, the last two years), especially as Simpson suffered a back injury throughout most of the year. He’s not a super star, but he was never sold (or paid) as one. Not everyone on a team needs to be special for a team to have an excellent offense, and Simpson can be great value, especially as a rotational player.

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Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press reports that the Vikings are taking a “strong look” at Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll, who they drafted in 2010:

A source said Wednesday the Vikings are expected to take a strong look in free agency at Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll when he becomes a free agent Tuesday.

Carroll should be a cheap option in a free agency period that looks like it will be full of cornerbacks who may be worth less than their market value. Defensive Coordinator George Edwards has worked with Carroll the past two years as the linebackers coach.

The current defensive coordinator for Miami, Kevin Coyle, worked with Cincinnati under Mike Zimmer as the defensive backs coach from 2003-2011 and wants to sign Carroll as well, allowing him to test the market. Carroll might be seen as an average CB, which would be a big upgrade for the Vikings.

His first few years at Miami weren’t great, but the last few years have been solid. Pro Football Focus ranks him 52 out of 110 cornerbacks and ranks 35th of 81 qualifying cornerbacks in receptions given up per snap in coverage. A few Miami-specific draft evaluators have had good things to say about him, including Oscar Hazell:

In other news, Letroy Guion might reportedly be asked to take a pay cut:

Guion has been fairly poor in his time with the Vikings, and hasn’t been particularly great at being a nose tackle. While his true position in college was more of an under tackle, it’s fair to say he’s disappointed far more than he’s impressed. The Vikings are known to need help at nose tackle, and freeing up space to do that might be part of resolving that issue.

It might be better to cut Guion outright, however. Backup Fred Evans has outperformed him, as have the majority of nose tackles in the league. Even signing Guion for cheap seems like a waste of a roster spot.

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2013 proved one of the Minnesota Vikings’ best draft years to date. The Vikes grabbed first-rounders Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 23, 25 and 29, respectively. Patterson delivered an outstanding rookie year, making his mark offensively and guaranteeing to be one of the top receivers in the game.

On defense, though, in an area where Minnesota has historically struggled, Rhodes impressed fans with his speed from Day 1.  He logged a 4.43 40-yd-dash at the NFL combine, and that explosiveness carried over into games.  Rhodes was not perfect—and has plenty left to improve upon—but he showed the kind of promise that hasn’t been seen from a defensive rookie in MN for quite some time.

Rhodes tallied 48 tackles in his debut season. Let’s put this into perspective.  Former CB Antoine Winfield, one of the best in Vikings history, had 38 tackles as a rookie in 1999. Nobody wants to put the cart before the horse, but it is an interesting comparison to draw.

At 23 years old, Rhodes struggled a bit with penalties in the beginning—oftentimes, his close coverage and quickness crossed the line, drew a yellow flag. Toward the end of November, though, Rhodes’ playing style began to level out. Physicality no longer proved the only aspect of his game, and his numbers reflected the development.  Rhodes combined for 13 tackles and eight passes defended over three games. Prior to Thanksgiving, the CB had totaled only two passes defended all season.

“[Rhodes] is starting to make more plays now,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “He’s playing with more confidence. [I’m] seeing some things you’d like to see long-term […]he’s beginning to hit his stride now.”

The rookie developed a physical edge and dexterity to his game, and he looked to be finishing out the season with a bang.

“The next step is, some of those balls he’s knocking down, they can turn into interceptions,” Frazier said. “When I was watching one of those balls he got his hands on […] I was saying, ‘man, a year from now, that’s going to be an interception.’ He’ll have the confidence to not go up with one hand, but two and catch the ball. This is where he is in his development, so hopefully he’ll keep growing.”

(photo credit: www.rantsports.com)
(photo credit: www.rantsports.com)

Unfortunately for Minnesota, Rhodes suffered an ankle injury on Dec. 15 against Philadelphia. The damage sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

If Rhodes had finished out the season, he would have no doubt continued to improve with each game.  You can be sure that he will come out for the 2014-15 season raring to go. The CB left on a high note, and that confidence and energy will carry through the offseason and into next year.

Rhodes will play a major role in the Vikings defensive scheme in 2014.  Especially with a new coaching staff led by former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, fans can expect big things from the second-year CB.  Zimmer can be credited with the turnaround of Adam “Pacman” Jones in Cincinnatihe is no stranger to guiding young athletes and pulling out every bit of potential.  He comes to Minny with the defensive mind that the team needs to succeed; we can expect Rhodes to thrive under new and rejuvenated direction.

In addition, Rhodes will likely not automatically inherit the starting slot, which may actually be to his advantage.  Fellow CB Josh Robinson missed several games last season due to injury, and he and Rhodes can be expected to duel it out for the starting position when they both return healthy.  That early motivation is good for any player, and a sense of competition will hopefully increase performances and consistency.

The 2014 NFL season is a mere six months away … and Xavier Rhodes is ready to make an impact.

 

 

 

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Mock drafts in March—or any time of year, really—are largely pointless exercises. Some of the most accurate mockers in the business are proud of getting a third of their selections correct, which underscores the difference in evaluation and information mockers have between themselves and 32 NFL teams.

So, why not have fun? As long as we keep within certain parameters (only choosing players when they’re reasonably available) and create particular rules (no drafting quarterbacks—in this scenario, all the QBs the Vikings would be willing to spend a pick on at that time are gone and the rest are undesirable or too poor a value), it’s useful to see how different scenarios can play out.

I’m well known as an advocate of taking a quarterback early—even trading up to do so—but it’s well known that a number of fans would rather not. Signing an average quarterback and fixing the defense would go a long way (although it is unlikely that they’d be able to fix it in one draft class).

In order to make sure that this is closer to a team-specific mock and not a wish list, I’ll use Drafttek and Matt Miller’s 7-round mock draft as an availability model so that I don’t pick players that would have been gone. When the two disagree on a player being gone (they disagree on whether or not Khalil Mack will go by #8, for example), I’ll use my own judgment.

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