Saturday, January 31, 2015
Blog Page 180

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacksrunning backs,fullbacks,tight endscentersguardsoffensive tackleswide receiverssafeties, cornerbacks, and linebackers.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

Well, I have to start this one with a disclosure.  The lines between a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker continue to blur more and more with each passing season.  We have already done the linebacker rankings in a previous post, but there are plenty of 3-4 defensive ends on today’s list that would be best suited as outside linebackers if the Vikings were to sign them.  Still, I wanted to keep these lists true to the current positions these guys are playing.

Okay, with that being said, onto the defensive end situation.  The Vikings seem very solid with Jared Alllen, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen each continuing to play at a high level.  There has been talk that the Vikings might be best served to try and deal the aging Allen this offseason, but I think it is far more likely that they will try to extend his contract and ease the damage he does to the salary cap.  The Vikings have talented pass rushers with intriguing developmental guys already in place behind the top three.

I wouldn’t expect them to throw a ton of money at this position during this offseason, but it never hurts to take a look at what might be available (while also scoping out an outside linebacker or two):

Top Tier

I’m only putting guys in this category if I think they could possibly be upgrades over one of our current starters, and the guy I think that most represents that type of talent is defensive end Michael Johnson of the Bengals.  At age 26, Johnson is the exact age you want your big money free agent to be, and he is a Pro Bowl defender against both the run and the pass.  He is likely to get slapped with the franchise tag.

Last year, the Jaguars shocked everyone by selecting a punter in the third round of the NFL Draft instead of using the pick to try and find solutions for any one of their other pressing needs.  No punter had been drafted that high in over 15 years.

As a rookie, Bryan Anger was a top ten punter with an average of 47.8 yards per punt.  He had a net average of 40.8 yards per punt.  He landed an impressive 31 punts, of his 91 total, inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.  The product out of Cal may always cause Jaguar fans to twitch, since they ignored quarterback Russell Wilson while selecting him, but he certainly had a high quality rookie season.

Louisiana Tech’s punter Ryan Allen is even better.

The senior beat out Anger and others for the Ray Guy Award in 2011 and continued his dominating college career in 2012.  Last year he averaged 48 yards per punt and put on an absolute show at the Senior Bowl with a 52.4 yard average on five attempts.  Allen led the nation with a net average of 43.5 yards and placed 44% of his punts inside the 20 yard line.  He earned an All-American First Team nod for his season-long proficiency at his position, and also became the first punter ever to win the Ray Guy Award in back-to-back seasons.

So, with Chris Kluwe already on the roster, why I am listing Allen as potential target for the Vikings?

For starters, Kluwe’s value and standing has arguably taken a hit in recent seasons due to an increase of inconsistencies, as well as an increase in salary.  Off the field, Kluwe’s ventures have soured some of the fan base, and even his special teams coach has made comments suggesting that Kluwe’s antics can be exhausting.

Kluwe is now 31 years old, coming off of a surgery to repair his left meniscus, is entering the final year of his career, and is scheduled to make $1.4 million in 2013.  If the Vikings can find a way to upgrade at any position, even punter, while also saving money then they should not hesitate.

I am not saying the Vikings should use a third rounder on Allen, by any means, but I am saying that this is a kid they should keep a close eye on as day three of the Draft progresses.  After all, it was just last year that the Vikings sent a decorated veteran packing after selecting rookie kicker Blair Walsh, and it couldn’t have worked out better.

Punters are people, too!

(But, they are punters, so don’t expect a highlight reel to show up here like we would have for virtually any other player of any other position in the game of football.  Sorry.)

If I didn’t know better, I would say that Rick Spielman’s recent comments about Manti Te’o indicate that, at the very least, he is intrigued by the possibility of drafting Notre Dame’s star linebacker.

We have previously discussed the choice Te’o would present the Vikings if he were available while they are on the clock in April, and Spielman sounds like he is tuning in to the media coverage of the whole “fake girlfriend” thing to keep tabs on the situation.  He admitted to watching Dr. Phil for the first time in his life when Te’o’s prankster culprit, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, was being interviewed.

That tells me he is at least a little interested in Te’o.

“In the end, you’ll sit there and discuss all that,” Spielman said of the bizarre story. “Every team will make their own determination. How do you compare what happened, because he’s an extremely talented football player, against a guy who may have a drug issue or may have an arrest record or may have some other off-field issue? Everybody’s going to have, just like on any player, their difference of opinion. We’ll go through that process as well.”

He also says that the Vikings are aware of some details that have not yet been reported by any media outlets, which displays that they are doing their homework on the young linebacker.

Spielman says that the Vikings will evaluate the Te’o’s “whole body of work” and that the odd story, as well as his poor play in the championship game, will only factor into their evaluation as a part of the whole.

Of all the players in this draft class, I suspect steam will pick up greatly in the next few week’s as far as connecting Te’o to the Vikings, and that might be exactly what Spielman wants to see happen.

What we know, however, is that the Vikings are either interested or pretending to be interested.

 

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As we churn through this exciting offseason there is so much information and opinions flying about that it is almost too difficult to keep it all straight.  It certainly is too difficult to go back and try to find something you read two months ago.

Thus, we have put together a one-stop shop for all of your offseason news, opinions, rankings, and rumors.

We call it the Offseason Tracker and you can visit it by clicking here or the button at the top of the screen.  We’ll keep it up there for the whole offseason, and it’ll be growing bigger on a daily basis.

Check it out and let us know if there is anything we should add to it to make it more useful.

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks,tight ends, centers, guards, offensive tackles, wide receivers, safeties, and cornerbacks.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

Outside of Chad Greenway on the strong side, the Vikings have reached somewhat of a crossroads at the linebacker position.  Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson were not the world’s best starters at their respective positions in 2012, and each are scheduled to be free agents next month along with backup Marvin Mitchell.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Vikings re-signed one or both of their starters at some point this offseason, but there are also plenty of opportunities to think about outside of the current roster.  The Draft has some interesting prospects, but free agency also contains some plausible options:

Top Tier

Perhaps the best linebacker set to be a free agent is one coming from our rivals in Green Bay.  Brad Jones filled in very well for the injured Desmond Bishop last season, and it is clear that he should remain a starter somewhere.  He could be a solid fit for the Vikings in the middle, and stealing from a divisional foe is always and added bonus.

It can be hard to spot decent individual talent on the Riaders, but weakside linebacker Phillip Wheeler earned himself a decent contract by sticking out during Oakland’s miserable season.

The Ravens already know that Ray Lewis is a goner, so that makes it even more crucial to re-sign Dannell Ellerbe, who was one of the NFL’s better linebackers this season.

With the starting duo staying healthy this season Larry Grant of the Niners did not get to see extensive action like he did in 2011.  Still, if Grant can go elsewhere and play like he did two seasons ago as a starter, then he will soon be name hear a lot about.

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