Thursday, January 29, 2015
Blog Page 176

[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!]

The Vikings are about as needy at the receiver position as any team in the NFL.  That is why, at least on the surface, it might seem odd that they are very rarely being linked to one of this Draft class’s most dynamic pass catchers Tavon Austin.

The biggest reasons Austin is being overlooked by Vikings observers is his small frame that is likely going to prevent him from ever being a true #1 wide out in the NFL.  At 5′ 8″ and 174 pounds, Austin is built for the slot and flanker position, which the Vikings already have nailed down Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright.

Austin, along with quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Stedman Bailey, put on quite the show during his time at West Virginia.  In 2012, his senior season, Austin had the best season of his career.  He had 114 catches for 1,289 yards with 12 touchdowns, while also gaining 643 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

I am not big on using “player comparisons” as a way of evaluating rookie prospects, as it sometimes creates a false sense of expectation, but it is hard not to describe Austin’s skill set without pointing to Harvin’s production since entering the league.  He is incredibly fast, agile, and quick.  He turns on a dime and plays bigger than he is when contact is made, and seldom seems to miss an opportunity to make a play.  Like Harvin, he is plenty capable of playing as a scat back and return man, with the versatility to move all around the field and keep defenses on their toes.

At the same time, Austin will be knocked for the same things Harvin was dinged on coming out of Florida (minus the character worries, though) such as his small size and durability concerns.  Other than that, however, there is very little to worry about when evaluating him.

I will admit that the Vikings aren’t the most likely landing spot for Austin, even though #23 seems about right for him to come off the board, but the guy has such incredible talent that I would be surprised if there was an NFL team that has completely dismissed the idea of drafting him at some point.  On one hand it might seem like there is no spot for him on the Vikings, but on the other hand it is hard to watch his tape and not find yourself assuming he would be a playmaker in any offense.

Where things could get really interesting is if the Vikings do end up swinging a pre-Draft trade that ships Harvin out of town, like some have speculated will happen, because drafting a guy like Austin would suddenly make a whole lot more sense.  After all, he is an awful lot like Harvin, except without the headaches… or the migraines.

 

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One year and one day ago, the Minnesota Vikings were in the middle of a battle to secure funding for their new stadium, and gambling was proposed as the best way to get it.

Despite never ever wanting to see the Vikings leave Minnesota I penned an article entitled “Weigh The Gambling Option Carefully, Minnesota” where I discussed the historical gap between gambling revenues promised for such projects and what the actual numbers end up being.

If a person is too poor to buy that new Silverado,” I said in closing the article, “there isn’t a financial adviser in the world that would advise that person to head to the casino to raise funds for the vehicle.  Perhaps, if the tax revenue isn’t there and a $323 million surplus is already spent, then the State should consider not placing such a risky bet… with your money.”

As it turns out, it was decided that the public money supporting the stadium project would be raised in large part by gambling, the most volatile of all possible funding mechanisms and things are not off to a good start.

The revenue generated to date is far below what was projected.  According to 1500 ESPN, as of February 1st only 130 sites were offering the electronic pulltabs devised to fund the stadium, and it was projected to be up to 900 by this time.  Furthermore, those sites are generating significantly less revenue on a daily basis than was projected, causing estimates to drop from $206 a day to $100.

As of right now, the stadium project is costing more than the State is bringing in.

Governor Mark Dayton and other lawmakers are concerned about this issue, but many see little reason to panic, claiming the games simply need to be marketed better and need more time to gain attention.

Dayton could find himself in an interesting position, as the champion of the Vikings stadium project and gambling revenue source, as he may need to search for an alternative funding source for the stadium if things continue to unfold this way.

One of those sources of revenue, and perhaps the most likely  could end up being the Personal Seat Licenses that he so staunchly opposed not that long ago.

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[Note From Adam:  I am happy to present with the first of (hopefully) many articles presented by Branden Lemke.  Branden has been a Vikings blogger for a long time, having started the hit site “Lemke’s Lot” when he was just 16 years old where he wrote hundreds of articles and conducted numerous player interviews.  After that, he joined me at “Vikings Gab” for a while before taking some time away from blogging.  I am thrilled that he is back at it now though, and that he contacted me to see if he could contribute here at VT.  The answer was simple:  “Of course!”  Please welcome Branden with his first article, and we will all look forward to plenty more!]

Before I jump into the topic of free agency, I feel like I should introduce myself to you readers. My name is Branden Lemke, and I am 21 years old. I’ve worked with Adam in the past for previous sites, and am looking forward to writing with him again, and Brett for the first time. I used to run a Vikings blog called “Lemke’s Lot”, in which my articles consisted of both delivering breaking news, and pure speculation in terms of the NFL Draft, free agency, etc. I especially love writing offseason articles, because there’s always hope for your team to get better over the course of an offseason, and I like to explore realistic possibilities in which the Vikings could be looking to upgrade their team.

Vikings fans have already dealt with offseason drama this year, and it’s only the beginning of March. Of course, the number one story of this offseason so far coming out of Minnesota has been Percy Harvin. Are the Vikings going to keep him, or are they going to trade him? There seems to be several issues between Percy Harvin and the Vikings, including Percy wanting “Megatron” money. The only question is, are these issues able to get resolved in a way that will keep Harvin in purple? The Vikings aren’t going to give Percy Harvin a Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald salary, so what they end up doing with Percy in the end has a major effect on the moves they make in free agency and the draft. Either way, the Vikings will be looking for wide receivers this offseason, among other positions, so here are a few names I think the Vikings may consider adding:

(The order the players are listed in is not necessarily based on priority)

1. WR Brian Hartline- Miami Dolphins

I haven’t heard much Brian Hartline to Minnesota speculation, but I think Hartline would be a good fit, especially if we were to somehow find a way to re-sign Harvin. As much as I’d love to see a receiver like Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings in a Vikings uniform, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. The Vikings aren’t the kind of team that spends a lot of money in free agency, and although the price tag may be a little high for Hartline, he would be a good #2 wideout in this offense, and could compliment a guy we bring in through the draft like Keenan Allen or Quinton Patton. Hartline, who has struggled with inconsistency in the past, proved to me last year he can be the kind of factor the Vikings need. He pretty much WAS the Dolphins passing game in 2012, catching 74 passes for 1,083 yards. He only scored one touchdown, however, and his career high is only three in one season (2009). The upside is he is young (26), and has potential to be a downfield threat and a playmaker in the style of offense the Vikings run.

In a normal year I tend to stick with the same pick for the Vikings for at least a month or so in my mock draft, but this year seems very different.  I don’t know if it is how late the Vikings are picking, or if this is just a difficult class to properly tier, but I have now mocked four different players to the Vikings over the last two months.

Sheldon Richardson, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Manti Te’o were all previous selections in my mock draft versions but today’s update brings up yet another name.

Keenan Allen.

It just so happens Allen was featured in my “Draft Target” series last night so click here to read all about him.

Click here to see how I mocked the first round in its entirety.

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.

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