Saturday, January 31, 2015
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kevin williams

Today, it was revealed that defensive tackle Kevin Williams was part of a move that seemed obvious to us all months ago, as he restructured his contract with the Vikings which will gain the Vikings about $2.5 million in cap space.

His previous deal had already paid out all guarantees and we’ve known for a long time that Williams was essentially a year-to-year at-will employee, and the Vikings could have cut him at any point this offseason with no cap penalties had they decided to do so.  The Vikings could have done just that to avoid his $7 million salary that he was scheduled to make in both 2013 and 2014.

Instead, Williams was apparently willing to take a paycut in return for some guaranteed money.

His new deal runs through this upcoming season only, and the $4.9 million salary is not only considerable, but is also fully guaranteed.  This pretty much makes it a certainty that he will be a Vikings for one more season, at the least.

Some will consider this move a sign that Williams is in his last year with the Vikings, but I’m not sure it means that.  Williams will be 34 years old next offseason, and the Vikings may simply be able to let the market establish itself for an aging tackle on the decline, and still opt to sign him if he is willing to play for a reasonable salary.  He will potentially join defensive linemen Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen as free agents next offseason which could mean a significant change to the defensive line is on the horizon.

For now, however, it appears the D-Line is staying mostly intact.

What I don’t understand, and never will, is why it took so long for the Vikings to work out an obviously needed deal with a lifelong Viking.  The move has seemed so obvious for so long.  Even Williams himself brought up the issue about 10 months ago.  This issue of over-cautiousness (or procrastination) on Rick Spielman’s part has really annoyed me this offseason, not only because we saw other teams land more quality players in free agency, but because the same type of mentality led to what I will always consider a black mark in Vikings history.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

Last season the Vikings put Letory Guion in front of a relatively untested Jasper Brinkley, who played in front of young group of safeties.  As a result, the defense experienced their fair share of struggles in the middle of the defense.  The safety position was upgraded greatly when the Vikings selected Harrison Smith in the first round last year and it is widely believed the Vikings will find their starting middle linebacker in the Draft this year.

Still, with Kevin Williams getting older and carrying a large cap hit, the Vikings should be considered to be in the market for some help at the defensive tackle position, as well.  A large run stuffer that can conjure up memories of Pat Williams would be a nice addition and Georgia’s John Jenkins could be a nice fit.

At 6′ 4″ and 346 pounds, Jenkins is a huge and athletically gifted run stopping nose tackle that commanded double teams at Georgia.  His broad frame and good arm length provides opposing runners with a large obstacle to try and surpass, and he is not going to be moved off of the line of scrimmage, so they have to go around.  He also has the size and brute strength to disrupt the pocket on occasion,  but is unlikely to be a dependable pass rusher at the next level despite an intimidating bull rush.

Similar to Pat Williams, Jenkins is occasionally going to take offensive linemen by surprise with his agility and quickness.  Not only is he quick at the point of attack, but he can move around pretty well between the tackles for a guy of his size.

After transferring out of Gulf Coast Community College, the senior played two years in Georgia.  In 2011, he had 28 tackles, seven for a loss, and 10 quarterback pressures.  In 2012, he notched 50 tackles, 2 for a loss, and a sack.  He has played against elite talent with varying results.  He had a nice performance matching up against this year’s top guard Chance Warmack, but struggled greatly against D.J. Fluker in the SEC Championship Game.

I know that teams running a 3-4 defense will value a guy like Jenkins more than 4-3 teams (or the hack bloggers that cover them), but I honestly view Jenkins as more of a second round talent instead of the first rounder many believe him to be.  Part of that, at least for 4-3 teams like the Vikings, is because he has to be an assumed two-down player.

His positional value may indeed cause him to be drafted in the first round, but if teams aren’t overly impressed with his game tape then he could fall further than expected.  Combine stretches of being invisible on tape with questions about his work ethic and conditioning, not to mention a two game suspension for academic reasons, and he might actually slip to the middle of the second round or later.  At that point, and not really any earlier, I would consider Jenkins to be a great target for the Vikings to pursue.

UPDATE:  As soon as I posted this I came across this recent noteworthy article about Jenkins.  He is apparently working hard and has dropped his weight all the way down to 332 pounds.

 

Kevin Williams is notoriously quiet when it comes to talking with the press or getting overly animated about the football business.

On Monday, however, he couldn’t contain his confusion as to why the Vikings would trade one of their best young playmakers.

You’re like, ‘What’s going on? We’re going backwards at this point in (my) career,’ ” Williams said to the Pioneer Press. “Last year, we counted on a lot of young guys and played well, but to get rid of one of your top offensive players, I don’t even know who we have at receiver. Jarius Wright is the only guy we’ve got. Hopefully we have a plan in place and it works out for us.”

Williams went on to talk about Harvin as a competitive teammate but gave no indication, as seems to be a trend with Vikings players, that he ever crossed any sort of line in the form of a tantrum.

“Nobody had any problems with Percy,” Williams continued.  “He went about his business, did his work. Sometimes, his passion for what he did on the football field got taken out of context. He was real passionate about what he did. That’s good for ballplayers.”

Williams also said that he has not been approached about a change to his contract status, he is under contract for $7.5 million annually for 2013 and 2014, and could potentially see his long term replacement drafted with the first round pick gained from Seattle in the Harvin trade.  Once that replacement is in hand the Vikings may then want to talk about restructuring his contract, or else that rookie might end up replacing him sooner rather than later.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

It is no secret that the Vikings could use some help at defensive tackle.  Kevin Williams seems to be slumping and, at age 32, one can’t help but wonder if it is all downhill from here.  Letroy Guion and Christian Ballard have yet to establish themselves as reliable starters, and Fred Evans is nothing more than a suitable stopgap.

The Vikings could likely get by for another season with this group, but the popular theory is that they will use the NFL Draft to try and get a jump start on upgrading.  Todd McShay of ESPN recently mocked North Carolina tackle Sylvester Williams to the Vikings, a suddenly trendy pick, so I figured now was as good of a time as any to profile Williams for you all.

At 6′ 3″ and 313 pounds, Williams was impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine, including a 5.03 forty time and 27 reps on the bench press, confirming what we already knew:  Williams is the perfect combination of speed and strength that teams look for in a defensive tackle.

Williams is a prospect that comes with a story, having personal troubles during his high school years, but managed to catch on with a small school before making himself known under the bright lights at North Carolina.  He is known as a raw and emotional player, for better and worse, that plays with a nastiness that sometimes spills over into the realm of undisciplined.

He is known for his swim move, which gets him into the backfield on a fairly regular basis, but it is also a worry that you seldom see him use any other moves to bet beyond his blocker.  He plays with an enormous amount of strength and a reach that casts a wide net for taking down running backs or making plays on the ball.  His strength and burst could allow him to play either tackle position for the Vikings, and maybe even defensive end on running downs, but he should probably be assigned learning the three-technique from day one as his primary responsibility.

Williams has been knocked for inconsistencies, especially against more elite blockers, and it is certainly a concern to see any player disappear for long stretches.  Both his work ethic and conditioning has been alluded to as a possible worry by a number of experts and draftniks, but I have yet to hear anything solid to suggest this is really concern.  Hopefully someone from the Vikings had the presence of mind to do some digging on this matter when former North Carolina defensive lineman Tydreke Powell spent some time with the Vikings in 2012.

What I really love about Williams, and I think is being overlooked, is the fact that he improved in 2012 despite the fact that star lineman Quinton Coples left for the NFL.  One would think that Coples leaving would have an adverse impact on Williams, but he nearly tripled his stats for tackles for a loss and sacks from 2011 to 2012.  Williams is still growing and improving as a football player, and the fact that he could become even better and more refined is going to be very intriguing to front offices around the league.

In a normal year there might be more buzz surrounding Williams, but this is a very deep class at defensive end, and there are certainly a handful of tackles the Vikings will have higher on their board than Williams.  Picking at #23, however, puts them in a position to consider the scenario in which Williams is the best defensive tackle available to them when they are on the clock.

I’m not certain he will even be one of their top 23 ranked players in this draft, but that doesn’t discount the idea that he would be an attractive option, especially given that they could conceivably allow him a season or two to learn and grow behind their current veterans at the position.  I think that the Vikings will have to trade back from #23, or Williams will have to fall to their second round pick, if McShay’s prediction is to come true but it certainly isn’t impossible to envision them making this selection at some point.

 

Free agency is right around the corner and one of the biggest offseason mysteries seems to now be resolved.

The NFL Players Association has notified NFL agents that the 2013 salary cap is to be at exactly $123 million, which is only a 1.7% increase from last year.  The formulas, accounting, nuances, and calculations that go into figuring out salary caps is a bear, but 1500 ESPN‘s Tom Pelissero has enough general details to give us an idea of where the Vikings stand.

The salaries that count against the cap are the accumulation of the top 51 salaries on the roster.  That is important to keep in mind, as often fans think signing street free agents or undrafted rookies is a waste of cap space when they may not actually count against the cap at all.

The cap is set at $123 million and the Vikings have $118 committed to their top 51 contracts, which leaves about $5 million left over.  However, a few factors are going to boost that number.  They have about half a million, actually just a little under, of dead money charged against them.

First, the Vikings received a $1.643 cap credit as a result of last offseason’s penalties against the Redskins, Cowboys and Saints for how they conducted business during the uncapped year.  Secondly, the Vikings chose to carry over about $8 million in unused space from last season.

That means, as of today, the Vikings are expected to have about $14.2 million in cap space when free agency opens.  That number puts the Vikings a little better than average compared to the other 31 franchises and in decent shape to make a run at a player or two.

That number could actually grow significantly, as Pelissero points out, by making some moves concerning their current roster.  The team is expected to jettison wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who is owed a $2.425 million roster bonus on March 16th, which would clear about $3.25 million in additional cap space.

Also, veterans like Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield, and Kevin Williams are certain to at least be approached about contract restructurings that could free up a significant amount of cash.  Jared Allen alone carries a cap number in excess of $17 million.

General Manager Rick Spielman has gone out of his way to temper the expectations of fans when it comes to free agency, claiming that the team is likely to be about as inactive as last year.  That is tough to believe when looking at the cap space available to them and some of their pressing needs.

Maybe, just maybe, the Vikings are planning to create more of a free agency stir than what is anticipated.

Of course, they may also just be trying to free up enough space to finally make Percy Harvin a happy camper.

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