Wednesday, May 27, 2015
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adrian peterson

By most accounts, the 2014 offseason has been fulfilling for the Minnesota Vikings franchise and fans, and the NFL Draft was some Rick Spielman brilliance if general approval ratings are considered a fair unit of measurement.

Still, the offseason isn’t over, and most of us can scan this roster and find places we would like to see strengthened even further by Week One.  Additionally, with a new coaching regime and new schemes in place, it is especially difficult to pinpoint exactly where talent voids exist.  Even the most confident of analysts are lying if they tell you they know how this team will perform in 2014, and we can’t expect to get a great gauge for just how good (or bad) they are until week eight or possibly later.

Still, it would be very out of character for Rick Spielman to stop making moves at this point, and there is (say it with me) always room for improvement… or at least additional competition.

Here is a quick glance at a few guys that are currently looking for work that I think could make interesting additions to this roster in an attempt to elevate the position battles in training camp.  If these four guys don’t excite you, trust me, I understand.  There is a whole other wave of free agency that will flood the market just prior to the regular season, but for now we can really only speculate on the guys we know are available.  Here you go:

1.  La’Rod Stephens-Howling, RB, Age 27

Behind Adrian Peterson, the Vikings running back depth chart seems wide open, and those roster spots will be much debated when training camp and preseason rolls around.  With a new regime in place, it remains to be seen if Jerome Felton can even be considered a sure things this year.  The Vikings currently have five running backs and two fullbacks listed on the roster and I think there is room for another addition or two, especially given the likelihood of a preseason injury impacting at least one of these guys.

La’Rod Stephens-Howling is a guy the Vikings reportedly showed some interest in prior to the draft.  I’m not sure if that included an evaluation of his health or not, as he injured his ACL in the regular season opener last year, but his skillset is exactly what you want to have out of a second or third string running back.  He’s a versatile guy, capable of pass protection and catching passes, while also being able to contribute on special teams if need be.

If he can participate in training camp drills, I see no reason not to give this guy a chance to compete for a spot on the final 53.

Mark Craig of the Startribune doesn’t seem to think the Vikings need to rush things at the running back position. But, with Toby Gerhart gone and Matt Asiata as the next man up, I’m just a dainty bit concerned. My curiosity as to what GM Rick Spielman might have up his sleeve pertaining to the backup tailback position has got the best of me. In Craig’s recent article, he shares an interesting quote from Spielman about the possibility of adding another ball carrier.

“I know you can’t go into the season with just two running backs,” Spielman said. “So that’s an area that we’ve talked about a couple of running backs that are currently out on the market. But we’ve also honed in on a couple of backs in the draft as well.”

 

On December 26, 2012, Chase Ford was signed by the Vikings to join the practice squad. The 6-foot-6 255 pound tight end from the University of Miami was originally a 2012 undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles.

With only 16 total receptions in his junior and senior seasons at Miami, Chase was a bit of an unknown prospect until he got noticed after a solid week at the East West Shrine Game. Miami’s tight ends are known for their outstanding athleticism and Chase is no exception. He is a natural pass catcher with fluid body control and good speed for a big body. Chase has huge hands, a tall frame and terrific hand and eye coordination allowing him to snag passes even in tight coverage.

 Last week Darren Sproles was “all the rage” when Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that multiple teams had expressed an interest in the ultra-explosive multi-purpose running back. Originally expected to be released by the Saints, Sproles was instead traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fifth round pick.

 Norv Turner and Sproles had success together in San Diego for four seasons, so naturally the Minnesota Vikings were among the teams linked to the speculation and trade rumors.

 The Vikings obviously weren’t interested enough to offer their fifth round pick for Sproles…  and so, with the departure of Toby Gerhart to Jacksonville via free agency, Adrian Peterson could be looking at a heavy work load as it stands. 

Every year that Rick Spielman has been with the Vikings has produced at least one ambitious and exciting move.  Sometimes they have been in the form of player trades (Jared Allen and Percy Harvin), free agent signings (Brett Favre), or Draft Day moving and shaking (Matt Kalil and Cordarrelle Patterson).  Even during the seemingly ho-hum offseasons he has produced at least one splash move that gets the fanbase to collectively giggle with glee.

Today’s cuts, as outlined earlier by Arif, are reportedly going to leave the Vikings with a whopping $41 million in cap space.  Meanwhile, Spielman is still armed with a full compliment of draft picks.

Right now, most Vikings fans seem to think they have Spielman pegged, that he will predictably spend conservatively in free agency and explore all options to move around throughout Draft Weekend.  They think he’ll bargain hunt, perhaps throw his new coach a bone by signing Michael Johnson, and then lean on Norv Turner to pick which quarterback prospect to target in May.

I don’t think it’ll be that predictable.

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