Sunday, October 22, 2017

Am I alone in thinking the first day of this year’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indy was uncharacteristically short on the unsubstantiated rumors we all crave?  To be honest, I am kind of disappointed.

Still, I found some items for you guys (and gals) to chew on this morning:

  • Click here to read Paul Allen’s humorous encounters with Matt Kalil and Darrell Bevell at the Combine.  Further down, you get to the real interesting stuff, where Allen claims everyone in Indy is talking and acting like the Rams trading out of the number two spot is already a done deal.  Both St. Louis and Minnesota have publically admitted they are open to trading backwards for the right deal.  Spielman wants to be “very active” in trading to “accumulate picks” on Draft Day (which scares the Tarvaris Jackson out of me).
  • At 6’ 4” and 240 pounds, UCLA’s Cory Harkey was the biggest blocking tight end to weigh in on Thursday.  For those of you that would love to see the Vikings find a suitable replacement for Jim Kleinsasser via a late round pick, keep an on this guy.
  • When the NFC North Champions re-signed tight end Jermichael Finley to a two year deal this week, it opened up the possibility of them franchising (and then trading) backup quarterback Matt Flynn to the highest bidder.  The Cleveland Browns, who are thought to be a prime Draft Day trade partner with the Vikings or Rams, are now rumored to have interest in making a play for Flynn instead of trading up to draft Robert Griffin III.
  • I don’t have a link to provide here, but it seems possible that the free agent wide receiver market could dry up pretty quick if the current abundance of “smoke” is any indications.  The Eagles like Desean Jackson.  The Chargers like Vincent Jackson.  The Steelers want Mike Wallace to be spend his whole career with them.  The Chiefs want “somewhere over Dwayne Bowe” back.  The Cowboys can’t re-sign Laurent Robinson until after free agency starts because of a technicality, but they want him to remain on the roster.  The Colts are really talking up Reggie Wayne.  Don’t believe everything you hear, folks, but I’m willing to bet a number of these guys don’t make it to free agency.  But, hey, there’s always Stevie Johnson.  Yay?

That’s about it for now.  Hopefully there will be some more items of interest produced on Friday.  Leslie Frazier will speak to the press on Friday, and Matt Kalil will be officially interviewed by the Vikings on Friday, so I’m sure we’ll have some interesting things to pass along.

Rick Spielman confirmed on Thursday that the Vikings are not going to use their franchise tag on any of their pending free agents this offseason.

Considering the talent, or lack thereof, of the players set to possibly become unrestricted free agents the decision should come as no surprise to anyone.

I feel like I have been pretty supportive of outside linebacker Erin Henderson over the years, but Pro Football Focus’s high rating of Henderson’s 2011 performance has led to some outlandish speculation that the Vikings should use the tag on him.

In the end, however, Henderson was an average player on a horrible team.  He is in no way worth the money he would get from a franchise tag, but a contract extension should be in the works as long as Henderson hasn’t overvalued himself like PFF has.

Spielman also made clear that decisions on the Henderson brothers would be handled individually, and their relation would have no bearing on the front office’s evaluation of their value.

“That’s tough business decisions,” Spielman said. “But that’s the hardest part, is trying to take the human element out of it and just trying to do the best business decision you can make.”

It also sounds like the Vikings will finalize decisions on their roster and pending free agents by the end of next week, which means one very important thing:  I need to finish up my “Offseason Preview” segments real quick like.

Free agency starts on March 13th and the Vikings are expected to be active prior to that date releasing, re-signing, and restructuring their existing contracts to solidify positions and clear cap space.  That process is getting underway this week in Indy, as nearly everybody is there, including agents for the players in question.

“We’re talking to everyone’s agent, those guys, and (finding out) if they’re interested in that or not interested in that,” Spielman said. “We might not be interested in restructuring. We may be just be ready to move on, too.”

Steve Hutchinson, Cedric Griffin, and Anthony Herrera continue to be hot topics as these decisions loom.

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Rick Spielman has done a great job of being one hundred percent non-committal on about every single subject this offseason.  Thursday, he did such a good job of this that he even managed to become non-committal about something that the team had previously been pretty definitive about.

The Vikings have numerous troubles at the cornerback position, so I am surprised that this is the year that Spielman is willing to acknowledge the idea of moving Antoine Winfield to safety.

 “We’ve talked about that a little bit,” Spielman said. “But we still feel that he has the quickness and effective style to be an effective ‘nick’ (nickel cornerback) as well. Antoine has been a very smart player and been a great player for us since he’s come in. But also you have the age concerns a little bit and the durability concerns – which is normal for a player his age.”

“He was playing good outside last year, but I just think as a guy gets older, his roles change,” Spielman said. “Antoine is still an excellent football player. What that role is has yet to be determined. That’s what the coaches do.”

In January, Antoine Winfield made it very clear that he has no interest in moving to safety.  I, personally, think it would be a mistake to move him away from where he has proven to be most productive, the nickel position.

Still, the fact that a Vikings official is publicly discussing the idea makes it seem like a slight possibility.

The first day of the NFL Scouting Combine is in the books.  It started with weigh-ins and measurements of the offensive linemen and tight ends.  Overall, it was pretty uneventful as nobody showed up three inches shorter than listed by their college and nobody had freakishly short T-Rex arms.

For the Vikings and their fans, it seemed all eyes were on the top left tackles in the class, which of course includes USC standout Matt Kalil.  Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, however, left the door wide open to consider other prospects to protect Christian Ponder’s blind side.

“There are some very good left tackles coming out in this draft, not only Kalil, but there’s a lot of other guys that are going to be able to play left tackle in this league,” Spielman said. “You want to look at their ability to protect the quarterback’s blind side. Does he have the athletic skill set and does he have the feet and does he have the arm length to do everything to make him competitive at left tackle?”

While Spielman made it clear he has an open mind about the Vikings plans this April, he also didn’t kid anyone about how he views Kalil as a prospect.

“His brother turned out to be an extremely good player, a Pro Bowl player,” Spielman said. “Kalil is very talented at left tackle. He has all the feet and skillset that you’re looking for. He has the arm length. He has the nasty demeanor. The finish, when you watch him on tape, to finish run blocks. I feel he’s going to be a very good left tackle in this league as he grows in the position and moves forward.”

Spielman went full circle again, in an effort to keep the world guessing about their strategy, by suggesting that perhaps left tackle is overrated as a position.

“There’s the adage that you go back and forth on – is the left tackle that important or is it more important to have playmakers on offense? Because as your quarterback evolves, he learns the system, he gets the ball quicker out of his hand and all of a sudden that left tackle doesn’t need to be a Pro Bowl left tackle. He can be a functional left tackle because the quarterback evolves and he’s got playmakers. I just remember Aaron Rodgers and how the media were criticizing their offensive line when Aaron Rodgers took all those sacks his first year as a starter. Now, their offensive line has gotten better, but Aaron Rodgers has also gotten better … and they’ve got tremendous playmakers around him.”

Kalil himself spoke with the media on Thursday.

“For my dad, ‘Let’s play football’ means let’s go do kick steps and let’s work o-line drills,” Kalil said of growing up in a football family. “My first time going to Servite (High School in Anaheim), I tried to play tight end as a freshman and my dad went on the field and said ‘No, he’s playing left tackle.’ That pretty much ended that dream.”

“I would have been a sweet tight end,” Kalil said. “Maybe like an Anthony Munoz catching touchdowns.”

Kalil is trying to use his time as Indy to show that he has bulked up a bit and will be an improved run blocker.

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With as many twists and turns that have occurred surrounding the Vikings stadium situation it should come as no surprise, nor should it be easily dismissed, that a bill proposing to legislature the all-but-dead Arden Hills location as the site was the first to be introduced.

All the momentum has, by all appearances, been behind the plan to keep the Vikings in Minneapolis by placing a stadium near the current site of the Metrodome.

Electronic pull tabs and bingo games pay the public portion of this proposal, according to the Daily Norseman,  and the entire bill can be read by clicking here.

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