Friday, July 31, 2015

Photo Credit: Joe Lemke (used with permission)

Since being drafted No. 17 in the 2006 NFL Draft, Chad Greenway has been a Minnesota Viking.

In a Nov. 2012 interview, Greenway expressed that he hoped to play the entirety of his career in purple and gold:

“I certainly want to retire a Viking […] I’d love to just play it out here and be able to have an entire tenure in Minnesota.”

Two years later, Greenway’s leadership, comradery and positive attitude in the locker room continue to be an asset to the team; his contribution on the field upheld its reputation, as well. Greenway missed four games due to injuries this season; in the 12 that he started, however, the linebacker tallied 93 tackles. According to league stats, he leads the NFL since 2007, with 984 tackles.

Greenway’s loyalty to Minnesota and athleticism have not changed; but there is no denying that other things have—namely, younger, talented players making an impact on the roster. As the Vikings packed up their gear and prepared to head into the offseason, Greenway demonstrated no sense of urgency to clear out his locker.

For No. 52, there is some uncertainty if he will return to this locker room next season.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Mike Zimmer had a nice and tidy post-season presser that didn’t make too many waves.

He is proud of what they’ve accomplished.  He wants to see improvement.  He is humble in front of the cameras.  He has a plan to get Cordarrelle Patterson up to snuff.  He respects Chad Greenway.  He’s taking a little time off before getting started on his 2015 preparations.

One of the unavoidable topics brought up, however, is one that will largely shape this offseason for the Minnesota Vikings and greatly impact Zimmer’s plans for 2015.

When asked about the possibility of an Adrian Peterson return next season, Zimmer stated exactly what we would expect him to state.

“Adrian was always great with me. I think he’s a good person,” Zimmer said. “I think obviously he’s a great running back, and if it works out that way and things work out and he gets his life in order — that’s the most important thing, he gets his life in order, he gets the opportunity to come back — then I will be in his corner whatever the decision is made.”

Zimmer then said some words that caught the eye of those expecting an offseason trade.

“I think he would add value to any team, to be honest with you. I think the kid’s a heck of a football player.”

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Earlier this year (December 4, before his last four games and omitting the hot streak he finished the season on) we looked at how Teddy Bridgewater compared to some of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game, as well as many former Vikings quarterbacks. Since then, Teddy had been on fire to close the season and finished the final five games with the second-highest completion rate in that time (behind Tony Romo), the seventh-highest yards per attempt, the eighth-highest passer rating and the seventh-highest adjusted yards per attempt (out of 30 quarterbacks who threw the ball at least 100 times in that span). In those five games, he ended up as Pro Football Focus’ second-highest graded quarterback, behind only Aaron Rodgers.

It’s safe to say that the statistics in the second-half of his season have buttressed those in the first half, providing Bridgewater with more statistical support in these kinds of comparisons.

As a refresher, I’ll quote the original piece to describe the methodology, then show you the updated tables:

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings have announced that they signed the entirety of their practice squad to reserve/futures contracts. That means linebacker Justin Anderson, receiver Kain Colter, quarterback Pat Devlin, defensive tackle Isame Faciane, receiver Donte Foster, center Zac Kerin, guard Jordan McCray, tight end Ryan Otten and running back Dominique Williams.

When the Vikings promoted Josh Kaddu from the practice squad, they had one vacancy they didn’t fill.

Futures contracts are not that different from league-minimum salary contracts, except it doesn’t take effect until the beginning of the league year in March (meaning bonuses and salary are not doled out until then, the team simply has the players’ rights). Those contracts don’t count until the salary cap and roster limit until March as well. These players will fill out training camp depth charts, when rosters can get as big as 90 players.

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Just two short weeks ago, while prioritizing my view on the offseason needs of the Minnesota Vikings, I placed inside linebacker at the top of the list and wrote this sentence:

Audie Cole and Michael Mauti have plenty of fan support, but it just seems like they are not destined for stardom.

Well, maybe I jumped the gun a little there.  Maybe, just maybe, I underestimated how much perception could change over the course of two (or one, really) NFL football game.

In Week Seventeen, against an uninspired and lackluster Chicago Bears team, Audie Cole filled in for Chad Greenway and the results were genuinely impressive.  In fact, I would personally go so far as to say Cole had one of the best linebacker performances we’ve seen since Antoine Winfield’s prime (I still stand by my assertion that Winfield was more linebacker than corner).

Cole received a higher game grade (+7.8) from Pro Football Focus than Greenway ever has in his career and, from what I can tell, is the highest grade given to a player of the same position all year.  That, to say the least, is a pretty impressive “next man up” effort.

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