Friday, November 27, 2015

christian ponder

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From top to bottom, left to right, we will be surveying the NFL’s 2015 free agency class and attempting to predict what the Vikings will do to improve their depth chart.

For the first time in a long time, the Vikings have essentially no need at quarterback, with Teddy Bridgewater doing enough in his rookie season to have us all hopeful that he can become one of the greats.  As the Seattle Seahawks have proven, having a young and inexpensive starting quarterback can lead to an era filled with great things, and the Vikings are hoping to duplicate that success with Bridgewater at the helm.

Bridgewater should only count $1.6 million against the 2015 salary cap.  Christian Ponder, the third quarterback on the depth chart, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and it seems unlikely that the Vikings will try to stop him.

If any drama surrounds the Vikings quarterback position this offseason, it will likely involve veteran Matt Cassel.  He is scheduled to carry a cap hit of $4.75 million and is owed a half million dollar roster bonus on the seventh day of the new league year.  Conversely, the Vikings can opt out of the second half of this two-year deal and find a backup replacement, or even try to negotiate Cassel’s return on a lessened salary.

Matt Cassel was our starting quarterback to start 2014 and he is a highly regarded professional that certainly seems to fit the mold of “veteran mentor.”  Still, I can’t help but think the business sense will overrule the perceived upside Cassel brings to the table, and I expect he will be released with the possibility of a return under a new contract.

If Ponder leaves, the Vikings opt out of their Cassel contract, and they want to have four quarterbacks to kick off training camp then they will almost certainly be active in the second and third tiers of free agency.  That happens to work out fairly well, as a “first tier” free agent quarterback doesn’t seem to actually exist.

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(photo used with permission)

Brian Heintz is no stranger to unforeseen challenges and obstacles in life. However, he is just as familiar with a determined, positive attitude. Maybe it’s the combination of these things that make Heintz such a well-suited and dedicated fan of the Minnesota Vikings.

Heintz grew up in Minnesota, a product of the East Side of St. Paul. He recalls his earliest memories involving the Vikings:

“My mom was always a big Vikings fan, and she got me into it,” he explained. “One of her many great parenting skills.”

In fact, the 29-year-old cannot remember a time when he wasn’t rooting for the team; at age five, he owned his first jersey—Tommy Kramer.

Years of memories surround the Vikings, but one stands out to Heintz as more special than the others: a year he attended the Vikings training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs in River Falls.

“As the players were loading onto team buses, Korey Stringer threw his glove out the window right at us. I got his glove and had Chris Walsh autograph it before they took off. RIP, Big K.”

Heintz experienced many great Vikings moments this season, as well. He attended eight games, and the Vikings won all but one of those contests. “Apparently, I should have gone to all of them,” he joked. Heintz went on to emphasize that the team’s final 7-8 record seemed pretty good, considering the challenges on offense.

“Leaving a few wins on the field is always tough,” he admitted, “but good for Teddy [Bridgewater] as far as situational football goes. Finally, a quarterback to invest in and get excited about that’s not [over the hill].”

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The Vikings have a lot of big decisions on the not-so-distant horizon that could majorly impact their 2015 salary cap situation, much of which was outlined nicely here, but the first set of decisions in the offseason process is usually which internal free agents are signed or tagged.

We have an entire offseason ahead of us to debate the merits of each individual player, and their potential replacements, but for now I wanted to give our readers a heads up as to which Vikings are set to see their contracts expire at the end of this season.  This information comes from RotoWorld, but may be incomplete or slightly inaccurate as not all contract nuances are known ahead of time.

We’ll have prioritized lists down the road for you to feast on, but for now we are simply looking at the roster in alpha-order.

MATT ASIATA (RFA), RB:  Asiata has some touchdowns to his name, but his uninspiring running style causes Vikings fans to reminisce about not only Adrian Peterson, but maybe even Toby Gerhart.  With that being said, his restricted status leaves little reason to not at least bring him along to Mankato next summer.

JOE BANYARD (ERFA), RB:  Outside of costly fail on a blitz pickup, Banyard has been an impressive enough player in his limited action to warrant a closer look and perhaps an increase in opportunity.  Again, the Vikings hold all the cards in “negotiations” here (not really negotiations when its an exclusive rights free agent) and should let Banyard compete for a job in 2015.

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The Vikings have announced their inactives for their season opener.  They are:

TE Marqueis Gray, FB Zach Line, LB Mike Mauti, QB Christian Ponder, CB Shaun Prater, LB Brandon Watts, and OL David Yankey.

Regarding the Rams:


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The Vikings open the 2014 season with a much-anticipated matchup against the St. Louis Rams.  The time to obsess only over our Vikings roster is over and we must now be aware of the teams that stand between us and the 2014 playoffs.

With the opener almost upon us, I asked Nathan Kearns to answer a few questions about the Rams and what we can expect to see.  Nathan is an Editor over at the Ramblin Fanas well as a die-hard Rams fan, and helps us understand our first real enemy of 2014.

I asked Nathan to make a prediction at the end of this, but first he was kind enough to answer five questions about this Rams team:

1.  Sam Bradford’s situation is unfortunate on so many levels, and even fans of other teams can sympathize with him and the Rams organization, but what can we expect to see out of the Week One passing attack with Shaun Hill at the helm?
Pop in a tape from Week 8 through Week 17 of the St. Louis Rams 2013 season and you will get a pretty solid idea. Much like when Bradford went down last season, Jeff Fisher and company will revert back to a conservative offense that relies heavily on the running game. Shaun Hill is a more accurate thrower than Kellen Clemens, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams take a few more shots down the field. However, for the most part, it will be a run-oriented offense, with a mix of play-action and short throws to move the football down the field.

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