Friday, March 27, 2015
Blog Page 208

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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.

[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!]

There is really no consensus as to which wide receiver is the best in this class, but California product Keenan Allen is at the top of most lists it seems and for good reason.

Standing at 6′ 2″ and weighing in at 215 pounds, Allen has established himself as one of the most physical and feared wide outs in football over the last three years.  Even as a freshman Allen managed to be a solid starting option at Cal and took major steps over his next two seasons, establishing himself as one of the nation’s best wide outs despite getting very little help from the quarterback position.  He even dominated against  some of college’s best competition like Stanford, USC, and Oregon in 2011.

His senior year didn’t exactly go as planned due to quarterback issues and a sprain that caused him to miss three games and the Scouting Combine.  For this reason, it will be worth keeping an eye on his April 9th pro day to see just how he is coming along with the PCL injury.

Allen’s size and strength make him a very powerful downfield option that is capable of bullying defenders and running through their tackle attempts.  He also has a knack for going across the middle and making catches, even when it might result in major contact, which is (as you have probably figured out by now) my favorite trait in a receiver.

Allen hasn’t run a pre-Draft 40 yard dash yet, but he plays with excellent speed as evidenced by all of his game tape, and certainly won’t be knocked by any NFL scouts for his speed.  The guy has elite acceleration and very adequate straightline speed that is actually a bit surprising for a guy of his size.  Don’t be surprised if he runs below a 4.5 at his pro day.

The combination of speed and strength is the type that will keep defensive coordinators awake at night.  Corners that tried to jam Allen in college were often disappointed in the results, as he is strong enough to dismiss them and fast enough to still get down the field for a big play.  However, if defensive backs play off the line of scrimmage then Allen has the ability to take a short route and elude tackles for a big play.  He is the type of guy that is capable of beating you in a variety of ways, which is exactly what the Vikings need to take their offense a step or two forwards.

If front offices let the tape speak for itself then I can’t see anyone else dethroning him as the top receiver this year.  He is a do-it-all guy that can take the top of a defense, is surprisingly efficient at picking up yards after the catch, can win jump balls, is said to have great character, and has displayed proficiency on special teams.  The injury is poorly timed for him, but if it isn’t thought to be a long term issue then this might just be the wide receiver the Vikings have needed so desperately for so many years.

The Vikings will have to invest their first rounder to get their hands on Allen, and even then he may not be there when they pick, but considering the shape of this passing game it would be somewhat of a no-brainer.

We know the Vikings met with a lot of players and their representatives in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine this week.  What we don’t know is who all those players were and how interested the Vikings really are in them.

Quinton Patton and Manti Te’o are among the players known to have met with the Vikings, but we can now add defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to the list by his own admission.  He is also going to visit with the team in Minnesota prior to April’s Draft.

“It went pretty well and I’m going to visit the franchise probably April 1 or 2,” Richardson said of the Vikings. “They were pretty interested in me, but I want to go a little bit higher than that.”

In my first version of my 2013 mock draft I had the Vikings selecting Richardson, coming out of Missouri, as I felt like he was a perfect fit for what the Vikings need to do on defense moving forward.  Since then I have been mocking him much higher and so have most other draftniks out there.

Richardson’s stock is currently so high that I’m not even certain the Vikings could trade up to get their hands on him if they were willing to sell the farm, but there is still plenty of time for things to develop and stranger things have certainly happened.

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