Saturday, July 30, 2016

Antone Exum

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Crowning Mr. Mankato
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

This 10-part series focuses on the biggest questions facing the Vikings as they head into Mankato for their training camp festivities. Be sure to answer the first eight questions HEREHEREHEREHEREHEREHERE, HERE, and HERE.

Who will be this year’s ‘Mr. Mankato?’

The Minnesota Vikings are back on the National Football League’s map after an impressive 2015 season. They’re dark-horse contenders for the Super Bowl and a near-lock to battle for a second-straight NFC North title. On both sides of the football, the roster is loaded with up-and-coming stars, from Anthony Barr to Teddy Bridgewater.

Joining them at training camp, which begins next Thursday, are a slew of rookies, under-the-radar players, and fresh faces. Their names won’t jump off the page, but they will have a chance for recognition elsewhere — as candidates for the annual ‘Mr. Mankato’ award. Each year, ESPN 1500 bestows the honor on one deserving player who surprises and impresses at training camp. Last year, it was Stefon Diggs, and the year before, it was Adam Thielen.

This offseason, a few candidates stick out as the ‘cream of the crop.’ Who has a chance to walk away with the award at the end of training camp?

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Vikings SS Michael Griffin
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings were supposed to sign George Iloka in free agency. When general manager Rick Spielman had his shot at the Bengals’ star strong safety and passed, fans groaned. “But Harrison Smith needs a star player next to him,” they said. “We can’t survive another year with Andrew Sendejo back there,” they complained.

It was a surprising turn of events for the Vikings, who used the free agency period to shore up deficiencies along the offensive line and re-sign key veterans; one of those being Sendejo. The oft-criticized, muscle-bound safety has started 26 games for the Vikings since 2013 and returned on a four-year, $16 million contract this offseason.

He joined Antone Exum and Anthony Harris on the depth chart, leaving Smith without his long-sought-after partner in crime. Spielman simultaneously addressed the scarcity at the position and raised eyebrows by signing Michael Griffin, a nine-year veteran, off the street. Griffin,  who’d spent his entire career with the Tennessee Titans, was released after the 2015 season and didn’t have a ‘home’ prior to March.

But Spielman took a chance, and now, the 31-year-old veteran has a real shot at starting opposite Smith this season. While he’s not the answer at the position, Griffin is a proven commodity with the specific skill set and experience to do two things for the Vikings: create competition at strong safety and open the playbook for the limitless Smith.

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VT QOTW

Bold Vikings Predictions for the 2016 Season
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

With the news cycle at an offseason low, it’s time to start thinking big. The Minnesota Vikings begin organized team activities (OTAs) next week, marking the high-point in what’s been a frustratingly quiet period since the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Draft.

We’re tired of waiting for the action to begin, though; pull out the crystal balls and put on your thinking caps. The Vikings Territory team — and a special guest — are sharing their bold predictions for the 2016 season. Will Rick Spielman make a surprising trade? Does Moritz Böhringer crack the starting lineup? Read after the jump and see what we think!

What’s your way-too-early bold prediction for the 2016 season?

Vikings Sign Seventh-Round Pick Jayron Kearse
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Minnesota Vikings rookie safety Jayron Kearse is the second draft pick to sign with the team after agreeing to a four-year, $2.4 million deal with the Vikings. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, Kearse will sign his contract, which includes a $64,224 signing bonus, on Thursday.

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Image courtesy of Vikings,com

Last week, it was all about the offensive and special teams free agents that could potentially land in Minnesota this offseason. This week, it is all about the defense.

For a unit that ranked fifth in points allowed last season, one would think that the Vikings do not have much to improve upon for 2016. However, improving in a few areas this offseason with free agent signings could help propel Minnesota’s defense into one of the NFL’s best in more categories than just points allowed.

Finding a safety to play next to Harrison Smith is priority number one on this defense’s offseason checklist, as well as improving the play at few other positions. The Vikings, who spent the fourth least amount on free agents last offseason, will likely bring in players who put a smaller dent in their wallet and shy away from the free agents looking for their big payday.

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