Laquon Treadwell Jersey

In 2016 and 2017 with the Broncos, Taylor combined for 29 catches for 351 yards and two touchdowns.

This is a depth signing, and maybe the Vikings are hoping they get some luck as they search for a third wide receiver behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

Before the draft, the Vikings have Thielen, Diggs, Taylor, Laquon Treadwell, Chad Beebe, Brandon Zylstra and Jeff Badet under contract.

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We’re a little over a week away from the start of the 2019 NFL Draft, which is scheduled to kick off next Thursday night from Nashville.

Each NFL team, including the Vikings, will look to fill roster needs for the long-term by adding fresh talent to the organization.

While it remains to be seen which direction Minnesota will go, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and his staff have some wiggle room with eight total draft picks.

Derrik Klassen of ESPN recently wrote that while offensive line might be Minnesota’s biggest need, he believes that the Vikings also could look to invest in a running back.

Dalvin Cook’s talent has never been a question in the NFL. However, he has suited up for only 15 of the team’s 32 games over the past two seasons due to an ACL tear in 2017 and lingering hamstring issues in 2018. In an ideal world, the Vikings can move forward with Cook as the clear feature back, but it would be foolish to be confident in Cook’s health at this point.

Furthermore, the backup group of Michael Boone, Roc Thomas and Ameer Abdullah is not a depth chart the Vikings should be aiming to start the season with. Even if they just take a late-round swing, the Vikings need to add a running back.

Cook led the Vikings with 615 rushing yards in 2018 despite missing five games with the aforementioned hamstring injury.

The 2017 second-round pick has 969 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his career and has averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry, but has missed time in the past two seasons due to injury.

The trio of running backs behind Cook on Minnesota’s roster didn’t see much action in 2018 since Minnesota had Latavius Murray then, but the veteran signed with New Orleans this offseason.

Boone and Thomas combined for 19 carries for 77 yards and no touchdowns in limited reps this past season, while Abdullah didn’t have a carry after joining the team midway through the season.

The Vikings might have the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL, but where does the group stack up as a whole?

Conor Orr of The MMQB recently looked at, and ranked, the wide receiver situation for each NFL team and appears to think highly of the Vikings.

Orr has Minnesota with the third-best collection of receivers in the league, as he used the quartet of Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell and Chad Beebe to evaluate the Vikings group.

I would make a comment like, man if they could only get more out of Treadwell, but how many targets are there going around? Both Thielen and Diggs are incredibly productive and hover at the 70% catch mark.

Thielen and Diggs each topped 100 catches and 1,000 yards in 2018, becoming the first pair of Vikings teammates to accomplish that feat.

The Vikings are led by Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, fan favorites who make up perhaps the best wide receiver duo in the league. And neither is going anywhere for a while. Thielen signed a multi-year extension on Monday, and Diggs signed one this past June. After the stars, there are plenty of candidates who could earn snaps going forward. Former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell enters his fourth season in the NFL, and Chad Beebe impressed in training camp and limited snaps in 2018. Brandon Zylstra looks to build off the rookie season he mainly spent on special teams. Jeff Badet spent the 2018 season on the practice squad. Minnesota added Jordan Taylor, who was recently with Denver, on Monday.

Ben Gedeon Jersey

The Vikings likely will get one starting linebacker back Sunday, but another could be sidelined.

Anthony Barr is expected to return against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium after missing three games with a hamstring injury. However, Ben Gedeon missed his second straight day of practice Thursday because of a concussion suffered in Sunday’s 25-20 loss at Chicago.

Also missing practice Thursday were safety Andrew Sendejo (groin), who has missed five straight games, tight end David Morgan, who sat out against the Bears, and wide receiver Chad Beebe (hamstring). Beebe had been limited in Wednesday’s practice.

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Barr was a full practice participant for the second straight day. He said on Monday he expects to return against the Packers.

Returning to practice as a full participant Thursday was defensive end Stephen Weatherly, who sat out Wednesday because of a shoulder injury and an issue not related to injury.

Listed as limited Thursday were wide receiver Adam Thielen (calf, low back) and guards Mike Remmers (low back) and Tom Compton (knee).

If Gedeon can’t play against the Packers, he would be replaced by Eric Wilson. Wilson took over for Barr after he suffered a right hamstring injury Oct. 21 against the New York Jets.

“The fact David had kind of a unique skill set as a tight end that we were able to do some things with, that has affected us a little bit,’’ said head coach Mike Zimmer.

Before being hurt Nov. 4 against Detroit, Morgan had played 30 percent of the snaps in the first nine games as Minnesota’s second tight end. With Morgan out against Chicago, the Vikings rushed for just 22 yards, their second-lowest total of the season.

If Morgan can’t play against the Packers, the Vikings could play a second straight game with just two tight ends. Against Chicago, starter Kyle Rudolph played 61 of the 67 offensive snaps and rookie Tyler Conklin was in for just nine snaps.

One option could be to elevate tight end Cole Hikutini from the practice squad. Hikutini got into four games last season as a San Francisco rookie.

Playing the MIKE means playing alongside fourth-year VIPER Khaleke Hudson, a star in his own right, that’s shown his own ability in his time in Ann Arbor to move with impressive lateral speed. And now that spring practice has begun, Hudson is thinking the unthinkable thanks to what Ross is showing with the early returns in: Devin who?

“Josh – he’s a good dude, he’s a great athlete,” Hudson said. “He’s good sideline-to-sideline, he’s a hard hitter. He reads offensive linemen very well, and he’s where he has to be all the time.

“I feel like there won’t be a drop off at all, actually. I feel he’ll come in and do the same thing Devin Bush was doing – maybe even better.”

Certainly, spring hype is one thing — production is another. But Bush garnered similar hype as he was being groomed to replace Ben Gedeon, and Ross has often drawn comparison’s to Bush’s style of hard-hitting.

We will see in person how warranted the hype is in a few weeks, with an open practice having recently been announced for April 6 at The Big House, one week before the annual Spring Game on April 13, also to be held at Michigan Stadium.

Second-year linebacker Ben Gedeon played a career-high 44 percent of the defensive snaps Sunday in the Vikings’ 24-16 victory over San Francisco. He is starting next to Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks for the second year in a row, but as a rookie Gedeon played only about 25 percent of the time on defense.

A fourth-round pick out of Michigan in 2017, Gedeon knew there was going to be a chance for more playing time this season, and he ran with that in the lead up to the season opener. Against the 49ers, he was one of five players who had four tackles on defense, and he also had a special teams tackle.

“I’ve learned a lot, that experience is super important, and I’m hoping to build on it and get better this year,” said Gedeon, who had three tackles in last December’s 16-0 victory at Green Bay. “Just how to prepare for games, technical stuff, fundamentals and learning from all of the older guys in the position group, as well.”

Gedeon said one of his biggest hurdles coming into the NFL last year was adjusting to the pace of play, especially on pass coverage. That will be a huge challenge this week if Aaron Rodgers plays this week, no matter if his mobility is limited or not.

Gedeon, 23, said that adjustment was a big focus for him over the offseason.

“That is something I was working on pretty hard. Play faster, know the defense better so I’m going to be able to play faster this year,” he said. “I wanted to go in there, work as hard as I could and wherever I could help the team is where I wanted to be.”

Gedeon said linebackers coach Adam Zimmer helped him with another huge learning curve.

“The schemes, everything we do here defensively. It always takes a little bit of time to feel comfortable in the schemes,” Gedeon said. “You can play fast after you learn all the schemes.”

Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck said having junior receiver Tyler Johnson back healthy after he missed the final two games of 2017 is a big boost to the offense.

Late in the 24-17 victory over Fresno State, Johnson made an incredible catch off a throw from Zach Annex­stad, who had scrambled all over to pull off the play. It was as good of an offensive play as the team has had in years.

Fleck said that shows how impressive Johnson can be, but he also expects a lot out of one of his offensive leaders.

“I think Ty has got to continue to be more consistent, and he will tell you the same thing, but he makes big-time plays in big-time situations and that’s what great players do,” Fleck said. “We put ourselves in some tough positions with a few drops and a fumble [Johnson’s third-quarter fumble led to Fresno State’s first score]. However he continues to keep his oar in the water and never gave up.”

Johnson ranks fifth in the Big Ten in both receptions per game (5.5) and receiving yards per game (75.0).

Interestingly, Johnson, who averaged 17.2 points as a senior playing basketball for Minneapolis North, said a few close family members helped him to decide on football in college.

“It was actually a tough decision, you know I think I talked to my little brother or my mom or somebody like that and basically it just came down to the opportunity to play at a high level and being the first one in my family to do that,” Johnson said.

Dalvin Cook Jersey

When the Minnesota Vikings signed Gary Kubiak, and in turn, Rick Dennison to revamp their offense, a young man named Dalvin Cook must have smiled.

With all due respect to the Minnesota Vikings new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, let’s put him aside for a moment and discuss Gary Kubiak and offensive line coach Rick Dennison and the new offense they are installing.

The 2019 Minnesota Vikings will run to set up the pass. This is a successful formula that is as old as the league itself.

Dalvin Cook

The crucial variables to this successful formula will be Dalvin Cook’s health and his supporting staff, meaning the Viking offensive line and Minnesota’s second and third team running backs.

To illustrate just how unbalanced –and unsuccessful–the Vikings were last year as an offense, compare their numbers to the 2017 season.

In 2018, the Vikings ranked 27th in rushing attempts and 30th in yards on the ground. By way of the passing game, they ranked 6th in attempts and 13th in yards. That’s 1493 rushing (4.2 average), and 4036 passing.

They ended the season 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs.

In 2017, the Vikings ranked 2nd in rushing attempts and 7th in yards. By the pass, they were 21st in attempts and 11th in yards. That’s 1957 on the ground (3.9 average) and 3753 in the air.

The Minnesota Vikings were 13-3 and one game away from the Super Bowl.

How does this happen? The 2018 team had a better rushing average than 2017, the quarterback clearly threw for more yards, and the Minnesota defense, while taking a dip, remained one of the league’s best.

The answer begins on third down. While that credible Viking defense remained at number one in opponent third-down conversion from 2017 to 2018, the Minnesota offense went from 3rd in the NFL in 2017 to 26th in 2018.

That means the Viking offense found itself–time and time again–in third and long situations when it needed to create and sustain offensive drives.
Zone Blocking: Not Rocket Science

To understand the “run game coordinator” title that the Minnesota Vikings have given offensive line coach Rick Dennison, you must examine Dennison’s (and Gary Kubiak’s) history with a zone running scheme that dates back to before Hall-of-Fame running back Terrell Davis came to the Denver Broncos and won consecutive Super Bowls with an ancient John Elway as his quarterback.

We won’t review each season of this system. Needless to say, it has brought so much success for Kubiak and Dennison that it has enabled them to bring their blueprint to other coaching opportunities.

Suffice to say, the Broncos’ championships, in ‘97, ‘98, and then on another go-around in 2015, should speak volumes.

In a zone blocking scheme, the offensive line usually moves as a unit laterally, with each lineman blocking an area (a zone) instead of just a designated defender. This creates seams or gaps in the defensive line and formation.

The running back is then responsible in “seeing” a gap, making his cut and getting north into the second level of the defense.

Easy enough, but what it relies on is again what could be problematic for the 2019 Vikings: Dalvin Cook’s health and the quality of his teammates.

Kubiak and Dennison must see Cook as a unique athlete. He has sound physical and mental traits to fuel a zone running attack and the rare ability to break a game open with nearly every open seam he spies. Cook also has great value in the power game, as he runs extremely well in tight places, a talent not all backs possess.

It’s possible that Kubiak and Dennison saw Latavius Murray as a bit of a square peg in their offensive round holes, as Murray has a tendency to run high as a back. Kubiak doesn’t mind big backs (see Arian Foster), but what he covets most is quick feet, quick decisions, and a standard turbo button.

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has fought through a ton of adversity in his first two seasons. As of now, Cook is set for a big 2019 season. His rookie season was cut short due to a torn ACL, which opened the door for his backups to shine. Jerick McKinnon stepped in and showed a ton of promise, as did Latavius Murray. Following the 2017 season, McKinnon walked away from Minnesota and headed out west to join the San Francisco 49ers.

Cook returned from injury in 2018 as the lead back in Minnesota. With McKinnon gone, there were expectations for Cook to thrive as the primary ball-carrier. However, he missed five games with a hamstring injury and finished the year with just 133 carries. Murray filled in nicely for the Vikings, but he has since left town and joined the Saints down in the bayou.

Now, Cook is the only true threat in the backfield as the Vikings prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft.

The Vikings will most likely add another running back prior to the season, whether it be via the draft or free agency. However, a lot will fall on the shoulders of Cook. He will be the veteran leader in the locker room. Not to mention Roc Thomas, one of the young options on the roster, was recently charged with felony marijuana possession. Ameer Abdullah recently re-signed with the team, but he only garnered one carry in 2018. In seven games with Minnesota, Abdullah had zero rushing attempts and one reception. That said, Abdullah does not seem like a realistic option in 2019.

One positive takeaway from Dalvin Cook’s injury history is that he hasn’t had a heavy workload. With just 207 career carries, there is a lot of tread still left on the tires. Of course, that does not come without concern. Cook needs to stay healthy and show that he can be the top back in an NFL offense.

Nothing is set in stone right now, but Dalvin Cook appears to be in prime position to finally take a big step in 2019. The Vikings have to hope he will return to his rookie self and handle a bigger load while avoiding injury and sustaining solid numbers. Minnesota is also expected to improve their offensive line in the NFL Draft, further helping the run game.

Mike Hughes Jersey

Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, many assumed that the Minnesota Vikings would be using their first-round selection on a guard or a tackle to help improve a weak offensive line. However, this is not what ended up happening.

Instead, the Vikings went ahead and chose to use last year’s first-round selection on UCF cornerback Mike Hughes. It was not a choice that many saw coming from Minnesota. But with Mike Zimmer as their head coach, maybe it was something that actually shouldn’t have been so shocking.

This year, the Vikings find themselves in a similar position as they prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft. Minnesota is in need of upgrading their offensive line, but the temptation of using an early-round selection on a cornerback continues to exist with Zimmer as the team’s head coach.

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During three of the last four years, the Vikings have used either a first or a second-round pick on a corner. Minnesota added Trae Waynes with their first selection in 2015, then the Vikings went ahead and picked Mackensie Alexander during the second round in 2016, and finally Hughes was taken by Minnesota with their first-round pick last year.

Interestingly enough, the Vikings have only drafted one cornerback outside of the first two rounds since 2015. So if Minnesota is going to add another a corner in this year’s draft, their recent past indicates that they will do so with a selection in either the first or second round.

Since Waynes and Alexander are entering the final seasons of their contracts, the Vikings do currently have a slight need for another cornerback.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has never been shy about his affinity for cornerbacks. After the Vikings made a somewhat surprising decision to select UCF corner Mike Hughes with their first-round draft pick last year, Zimmer explained the team’s choice by stating that, “you can never have too many cornerbacks.”

It doesn’t seem likely that Minnesota will be using their first-round selection on a corner again this year (one never knows with Zimmer though), but they do appear to be taking a good amount of interest in a young defensive back from Kentucky.

Derrick Baity is a 6-foot-2, 197 pound corner who started 41 games during his four-year career at Kentucky. In his four seasons, Baity accumulated six interceptions and 25 pass deflections to go along with 148 total tackles.

He’s not considered among the top cornerback prospects in the 2019 draft class, but he’s definitely someone that the Vikings could end up using one of their late-round selections on.

During Kentucky’s recent Pro Day, Zimmer spent some time meeting with Baity and giving him some pointers. The Vikings also met with the young corner at this year’s East-West Shrine Game.

Baity certainly has the build that Minnesota looks for in their corners. But his cover skills still need some polishing and that is something that Zimmer would probably love to help improve.

With Mike Hughes coming off an ACL tear and both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander entering the last year of their current contracts, it seems likely that the Vikings are going to strongly consider drafting a cornerback this year.

Mike Zimmer frequently reminds reporters that a team can never have enough corners.

He did so a year ago when Minnesota tabbed Mike Hughes with the 30th overall pick. He reinforced the message after Hughes delivered a pick six in his NFL debut, becoming Minnesota’s only rookie to accomplish the feat in his first pro game.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, Hughes suffered a torn ACL in Week 6, bringing a promising campaign to a screeching halt.

Hughes and Trae Waynes (first round) and Mackensie Alexander (second round) have all been added with early picks since Zimmer’s arrival. The DB guru also helped develop 2013 first-round pick Xavier Rhodes into a Pro Bowler and All-Pro.

Matthew Coller of SKOR North noted the importance of cornerback play to both participants in Super Bowl LIII on his way to writing about an athleticism metric that has been developed by website Relative Athletic Score.

The New England Patriots were widely praised for their defensive scheme against the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl, but talent and depth at the defensive back position certainly played a role. Pro Football Focus ranked the Patriots No. 2 in coverage in the NFL only behind the Chicago Bears, who sported the league’s best defense. The Rams, who slowed down Drew Brees and the Saints in the NFC Championship, had the fourth best coverage grade by PFF’s metrics.

Relative Athletic Score combines height, weight and wingspan with performance at the NFL Scouting Combine to grade athleticism on a scale of 1 to 10.

Waynes has the highest RAS among current Vikings at 8.58, followed by Rhodes at 8.37.

Turns out this is Zimmer’s type of year for cornerbacks in the draft. Many of the projected picks between the first and third rounds have athletic profiles with similarities to the current crop of corners in Minnesota.

Anthony Barr Jersey

Anthony Barr really compared signing with Jets to marrying wrong woman originally appeared on nbcsportsboston.com

The AFC East has been the division of spurned suitors lately.

First, it was Antonio Brown reportedly nixing a trade to the Buffalo Bills to join the Oakland Raiders instead. On Tuesday afternoon, it was Anthony Barr pulling a Josh McDaniels on the New York Jets, changing his mind after accepting their offer in free agency the night before and opting to re-sign with the Minnesota Vikings.

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Barr publicly addressed his 180 on Thursday afternoon, explaining the decision with an analogy that’s pretty depressing for Jets fans.

“I had conversations with my agent and my family trying to figure out what we were going to do. … It was like OK, I think we can do New York,” Barr told NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano. “I said that and I hung up the phone and I instantly just didn’t feel right, it just didn’t feel right. Something just didn’t feel right. In my heart, I knew I wanted to be, all along I’ve been saying it for the last year and a half as I’ve gone through this process, I wanted to remain a Viking.”

“It was like you’re about to go down the altar and marry the wrong woman. I think I’m making a bad choice. I did what I felt was right for myself.”

We can understand Barr’s last-minute objection. Sure, the Jets signed running back Le’Veon Bell, but they’ve won five or fewer games in three straight seasons and haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 2010. With the defending champion New England Patriots atop the heap, the AFC East power structure likely isn’t shifting anytime soon. Barr also has spent his entire career in Minnesota and feels loyalty to the team that drafted him.

That means it’s back to the drawing board for the Jets, who may have landed a keeper in Bell but let another one get away in the four-time Pro Bowler Barr.

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Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr has added to his enemies list.

Two seasons ago, he garnered the ire of Aaron Rodgers and Packers fans when he landed on the Green Bay QB after a legal hit and knocked Rodgers out for much of the 2017 season.

This offseason? Barr had agreed in principle to join the Jets as a free agent, only to reverse course and stay with the Vikings.

Jets CEO Christopher Johnson was asked about Barr during the league meetings, which started Sunday. Johnson made it clear he wasn’t happy about how things went down, though he couched his disappointment.

“We want people on our team who want to be New York Jets,” Johnson said, according to the New York Daily News. “Not everybody wants to be in New York. If he didn’t want to be here, that’s fine. It’s disappointing when someone backs out on an agreement, but we want people who are all-in.”

The Vikings played the Jets in 2018 and aren’t slated to play them again until 2022, so I imagine whatever bitterness exists now will have dissipated by then.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says a lot of that is Barr doing the greater good for the team and opening things up for his teammates.

“A lot of that is him sacrificing himself for being able to have other guys be able to be free on rushes and blitzes and things like that. That’s why he’s such an unselfish guy,” Zimmer said Thursday. “We understand that no team that we play is ever going to say, “We’re not going to worry about Anthony Barr.” That’s part of it, and sometimes we do it anyway. That’s just part of it. We’re always going to try and scheme the best way to win on that particular Sunday.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the stats sometimes, but there’s likely some truth to what Zimmer is saying. If other teams are game planning to take Barr out, that’s likely opening something up for somebody else.

Then there’s Oakland. The Raiders picked good to great top-5 players in 2014 and 2015. But then they changed management and no longer wanted said good to great players.

But at least they got three No. 1s as part of the deals that unloaded 2014 No. 5 overall pick Khalil Mack and 2015 No. 4 overall pick Amari Cooper.

That’s a heck of a lot more than the discombobulated Giants have to show for two top-10 picks in 2015 and 2016.

Last fall, they dumped 2016 No. 10 overall pick Eli Apple for a fourth-rounder this year and a seventh next year. And this week, they let massive underachiever Ereck Flowers — the ninth overall pick in 2015 — walk. He joined the rival Redskins.

Washington gave him a one-year deal for $4 million. Hardly the second contract you’d expect for a top 10 pick who has yet to turn 25.

Food for thought when discussing Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr and whether his sack stats are flashy enough on one of the league’s top defenses.

In 2014, the Vikings had the eighth overall pick. They wanted Barr. Cleveland wanted cornerback Justin Gilbert bad enough to trade up one spot.

Five years later, Barr has more Pro Bowls (four) than Gilbert had starts (three) in his two seasons with the Browns.

Everson Griffen Jersey

Everson Griffen has had an interesting offseason with the Minnesota Vikings being the subject of trade talks and potential salary cap casualty talk, but he ultimately wound up restructuring his deal to return to the team. With that being said, it seems as if there was legitimate smoke to the rumors that he could have been on the move, and it would have addressed a major position of need.

Speaking on the Access Vikings podcast hosted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, beat writers Andrew Krammer and Ben Goessling discussed a trade that was reportedly on the table that would have sent the veteran defensive end to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for guard Kevin Zeitler. The deal fell through when Cleveland agreed to a trade with the New York Giants that landed them pass rusher Oliver Vernon (and then was coupled into the trade for Odell Beckham Jr.), but it appears that the Vikings did attempt to upgrade their offensive line through dealing their veteran star.

“With Everson Griffen, you brought him up, I had heard this offseason that they tried to go after Kevin Zeitler with Everson Griffen, and that’s around the same time that the Giants decided to offer up, and probably for a while had been talking about giving up Olivier Vernon. So that was a defensive end for a guard swap that the Vikings were well-positioned to make, but couldn’t. But if you’re the Vikings, that would have been a steal. I have heard they tried to do that, but it fell apart when the Browns decided to send him to New York,” Krammer said on the podcast.

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Zeitler, 29, is set to make $10 million in 2019, so a swap of Griffen and Zeitler would have actually not only saved the Vikings about $1 million in cap space, but they also would have added one of the more highly-regarded guards in the league to their offensive line unit. Griffen, 31, would later restructure his deal after Anthony Barr signed and his cap hit now stands at around $8 million for the 2019 campaign.

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The restructured deal kicks the can down the road for what Griffen’s contract could do to the team’s cap number, as his cap hit for the 2020 season sits at $13.9 million and hits for 2021 and 2022 coming in at $14.4 million and $15.5 million, respectively. That said, the dead cap hit in those years goes from $800,000 down to $400,000 down to nothing from 2020-22, so they can get themselves out of that deal fairly easily.

Griffen, a fourth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, is entering his 10th season in the NFL, all with the Vikings. During that time, he has racked up 66.5 career sacks in 73 career starts (132 games played). However, last season was a bit of a struggle for the veteran pass rusher, as he missed five games to tend to a mental health issue and posted his lowest sack total since the 2013 season with 5.5 sacks on the year.

Heading into the 2019 offseason, there were some who believed that Everson Griffen had already played his last snap in a Minnesota Vikings uniform.

Griffen had a large cap hit for 2019 looming and he was coming off of one of the least productive seasons of his NFL career. So the defensive end playing elsewhere in 2019 began to actually seem like a legit possibility.

Griffen will be sticking around with the Vikings for at least another season though after the two sides recently agreed to a restructured deal. But the new terms of his contract apparently came after Minnesota attempted to trade the veteran pass rusher to the Cleveland Browns earlier in the offseason.

According to the Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer on Wednesday, the Vikings wanted to acquire Browns offensive guard Kevin Zeitler and Minnesota was using Griffen as part of the trade package they were offering.

Cleveland eventually decided to send Zeitler packing, but not to the Vikings. Instead, the Browns traded the offensive guard and a 2019 fifth-round draft pick to the New York Giants in exchange for pass rusher Olivier Vernon and a 2019 fourth-round selection.

Vernon is three years younger than Griffen and this likely played a big part in Cleveland not taking Minnesota up on whatever they were offering for Zeitler.

Everson Griffen is seeing his name being brought up as a possible cap casualty as the Minnesota Vikings look for ways to free up salary cap space for the 2019 offseason. Those rumors are not unfounded, as it appears the front office is drawing a bit of a line in the sand about the future of the veteran defensive end.

Multiple media reports on Tuesday have stated that the Vikings have submitted an offer to restructure his deal in the aftermath of the Anthony Barr contract, which is set to pay the linebacker $13.5 million per season. ESPN’s Courtney Cronin gives a detailed explanation below. A decision should be coming soon, as his salary for 2019 locks in at midnight on Friday.

“It’s been quiet on the Everson Griffen front (on Tuesday), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work going on behind the scenes. I’m told that Griffen and his representation have been approached with the terms of a restructure from the Vikings and that the defensive end has expressed a desire to remain in Minnesota, but doing so will probably have to come via different terms than the way his contract is currently structured with $10.9 million of his base salary set to become fully guaranteed on Friday. As of right now, the ball is in Griffen’s court as to whether he wants to accept the new terms the Vikings laid forth or aim to continue his career elsewhere. It’s possible that these talks could continue on past the 3 p.m. start of the new league year on Wednesday. Theoretically, the Vikings could structure Anthony Barr’s new deal to fit under the cap in 2019 to buy them time to work through talks with Griffen, but in the end, whether the DE takes a restructure is likely going to determine his future in Minnesota.”

Griffen, a fourth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, is entering his 10th season in the NFL, all with the Vikings. During that time, he has racked up 66.5 career sacks in 73 career starts (132 games played). However, last season was a bit of a struggle for the veteran pass rusher, as he missed five games to tend to a mental health issue and posted his lowest sack total since the 2013 season with 5.5 sacks on the year.

He signed a contract extension with the team during training camp in 2017 that came in at four-years, $58 million through the 2022 season. Should the Vikings decide to release or trade him, it would free up $10.5 million in cap room with a dead cap hit of $1.2 million.

The NFL is a business, and sometimes a harsh one despite the good faith in which contracts are signed. The Vikings would likely love to have Griffen back on some sort of renegotiated deal, but given his production, point in his career and the price tag, not everything currently matches up and it does appear that he at least has lost a little bit of a step. They have a tough decision to make in terms of what his worth to the franchise is and it would not be a shock to see them start to tune down his role as they did with Brian Robison, but it would be really hard to justify keeping him around at almost $11 million.

Kyle Rudolph Jersey

The Vikings have virtually no salary-cap space at the moment, with Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune reporting that the club is expected to have just $5.24M in room when free agency opens on Wednesday. Goessling takes a position-by-position look at some of the difficult decisions Minnesota will have to make in order to free up some cash, and one of the most notable names involved in his piece is tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Per Goessling, it is believed that the Vikings are in talks with Rudolph about taking a pay cut in 2019, the final year of his current contract. Rudolph is due a $7.275M salary, and roster/workout bonuses would increase the club’s cash outlay and corresponding cap hit to $7.625M. The Vikings could shed that entire figure from their books by cutting Rudolph and would absorb no dead money by doing so, but there is not much by way of proven talent behind Rudolph on the depth chart.

Rudolph has started all 16 regular-season games for the Vikings in each of the past four seasons, but he will turn 30 in November and had offseason ankle surgery last year. He earned Pro Bowl nods in 2012 and 2017, and he has been a solid contributor and red-zone threat throughout his career, but his raw statistics have never been particularly eye-popping. (Though, he did have 840 receiving yards in 2016, from 132 targets.) Nonetheless, his overall body of work and his recent run of durability suggest he could at least match his 2019 pay if he were to hit the open market — especially since blocking tight end Nick Boyle just earned a three-year pact paying him $6M per year from the Ravens — so he may choose to refuse a pay cut. Either way, the Vikings will be in the market for a pass-catching tight end, either in free agency or the draft.

Goessling’s entire piece is worth a read, as it includes his thoughts on the Minnesota futures of other notables like Everson Griffen, Mike Remmers and Laquon Treadwell.

When Super Bowl festivities spread across the Twin Cities 14 months ago, Kyle Rudolph was too salty to enjoy many of them. His Vikings had come within a game of being the first team to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium, and the tight end wanted little to do with many of the events surrounding the big game.

A year later, with U.S. Bank Stadium on the big stage again, Rudolph’s weekend is full: He joined Vikings teammates Everson Griffen and Trae Waynes as judges for a high school dunk contest at East Ridge High School on Friday, hours after assisting Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun in an American Cancer Society charity game.

On Sunday, when he plays in a celebrity basketball game at St. Thomas, the 6-6 Rudolph has no plans to post up — “I’m just going to run up and down and shoot as many threes as I possibly can,” he said. And he’ll be one of the Vikings at the stadium Saturday for the national semifinals, when Michigan State tries to advance to the national championship game a day after hearing a speech from former Spartan Kirk Cousins.

“There’s a basketball player still deep inside of me,” said Rudolph, a three-time conference player of the year at Elder High School in Cincinnati. “To have the Final Four in Minneapolis, and to have these festivities that come along with it, is a lot of fun.”

Rudolph and his Vikings teammates were only several of the notable figures caught up in hoops hysteria as the Final Four’s footprint continued to spread across the Twin Cities on Friday. While fans were welcomed inside U.S. Bank Stadium for open practices and a college all-star game Friday afternoon, made-for-TV events such as the one at East Ridge and the 3-on-3 tournament that opened Friday in the Mall of America provided opportunities for players outside the Final Four spotlight to showcase their talents.

Gophers forward Jordan Murphy — fresh off a double-double in the College Senior All-Star Game on Friday afternoon — was part of the four-player Big Ten team competing for a $100,000 prize at the 3-on-3 event, where fans ringed four levels around the Mall of America’s east rotunda to watch players from 32 conferences who’d recently concluded their college careers play 10-­minute games to 21. Former Gopher Nate Mason was part of the Big Ten team that won the first edition of the tournament a year ago.

At East Ridge, students banged thundersticks and packed the gymnasium as part of a de facto school assembly, where the Raptors cheerleaders and dance team performed and the school’s robotics team shot T-shirts out of a cannon it had designed. East Ridge guard Chloe Stoehr competed in the girls’ three-point competition, while Rochester John Marshall’s Matthew Hurt was knocked out in the semifinals of the boys’ competition and DeLaSalle’s Tyrell Terry reached the finals.

Raptors forward Courtney Brown Jr. took part in the slam dunk competition, where Arizona recruit Terry Armstrong won the title after being the only player to complete a dunk in the final round.

“Seeing these kids and some of their athleticism is pretty incredible,” said Rudolph, who dunked for the first time when he was in eighth grade. “Not all of them get dunks in, but the explosion off the ground and the difficulty of the dunk — if you get it down, you’re getting at least an eight [out of 10].”

On Saturday, when the stage shifts to U.S. Bank Stadium, Rudolph will have no hesitation about soaking up the scene.

“I can sit back and enjoy this Final Four, and get to take in the festivities, unlike the Super Bowl,” he said. “I was so angry we were only a game away, and that was something we should have been playing in. This is just fun to sit back and enjoy from a fan’s perspective.”

Linval Joseph Jersey

The return of Shamar Stephen in the middle of the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line could allow Mike Zimmer to alter his defense in 2019.

Stephen, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2015, the same year that Anthony Barr was a first-round pick, spent last year in Seattle before returning to Minnesota with a free-agent contract this week.

“He went on vacation for a year, but we were able to get him back and he was another critical piece that we wanted to really hone in and focus in on once we kicked off this free agency,” general manager Rick Spielman said.

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It won’t be much of a vacation for Stephen when the season rolls around. Although he returns to a familiar defense, he will no longer have another defensive tackle in front of him on the depth chart. Sharrif Floyd is no longer able to play, Tom Johnson remains a free agent, and Sheldon Richardson, who spent last year in Minnesota, signed with Cleveland in free agency. The Vikings certainly could draft a defensive tackle in the early rounds next month, but Stephen’s familiarity has him as the front-runner to be the three-technique next to nose tackle Linval Joseph, as well as having the ability to rotate for Joseph if necessary.

But Stephen’s return could spark an alteration to Mike Zimmer’s defense, too.

“One of the things I felt like all along this year that if going into next season we have maybe a little bit more size in the middle, that would help the linebackers and some of the secondary guys, help solidify some of the running game,” Zimmer said. “We’re talking about doing some different things defensively this year, and being able to have a guy with Shamar’s versatility along with Linval [Joseph] inside, I think it will help us change some of the packages that we run.”

He may be a key piece to the defensive line after Richardson’s departure, but Stephen prefers to do his work in the background, whether that’s playing nose tackle or three-technique.

“It’s not even an issue. I’m comfortable at three and nose,” he said. “I’ve been playing it my whole life so I feel comfortable there. I’ve got great coaches that can help me. Dre [Andre Patterson] is probably one of the best fundamental, technique-wise to teach me what I need to do, so I’m not worried about it at all.”

Patterson regularly receives praise from Vikings defensive linemen and other coaches as the best defensive line coach in the NFL, and Stephen is certainly looking forward to his mentoring once again.

He has seen what Patterson’s work has done for him and others on the defensive line.

“Really, it’s just his passion to make everyone better players each and every year. You have elite players every year and you see them grow even more and more,” Stephen said. “For instance, Danielle [Hunter] he’s become a great player. Before then, he was, what, a fourth-round draft pick and he’s become an elite player, top pass rusher. He has guys that are producing every year and he gets the best out of you every day. For me, that’s perfect for me and I feel comfortable around a guy like Coach Patterson.”

The Vikings addressed a roster need in free agency this week with the addition of right guard Josh Kline.

A veteran who has started 46 straight games, Kline has split the first six seasons of his career with Tennessee and New England. Kline’s play at right guard for the Titans over the past three years helped Tennessee rank in the top half of the league each season.

But now that Kline is in Minnesota, where does he fit into the Vikings offensive plans? Chad Graff of The Athletic recently wrote that Kline could slot in right away as a starter with his new team.

Kline’s addition provides a bit more clarity to what the Vikings’ starting offensive line could look like, though there’s still some uncertainty and likely more additions on the way.

Pat Elflein will likely remain at center with Kline at right guard. If the Vikings draft a guard in the first round, they’ll likely keep Riley Reiff at left tackle and Brian O’Neill at right tackle. If they draft a tackle in the first round, they could slide O’Neill to left tackle and Reiff to left guard, opening a spot for the new addition at right tackle.

Kline becomes the second player on the Vikings roster who has won a Super Bowl, joining Linval Joseph for that honor. Kline won Super Bowl XLIX with the New England Patriots after the 2014 season, but doesn’t look at himself as a vocal addition to the locker room.

“I prefer to lead by example and by actions,” Kline said. “I’m not someone who really speaks up unless I have to. I just want to be a team player and just help this team out any way I can. If that’s my actions showing the younger guys how I’m working and what I’m doing as a good teammate, that should help out. If I have to pull some younger guys aside and give them some perspective, then I’ll have to, but we’ll see what comes with that because I haven’t met any of the offensive linemen yet. It’s going to be a great room from what I hear and from what I saw on tape.”

An undrafted free agent out of Kent State, Kline has appeared in 79 career games in six seasons and has made 64 starts.

The 29-year-old said Thursday in a conference call with Twin Cities media members that he is familiar with Minnesota’s offensive scheme and is looking forward to exploring his new home.

The first proposal would add fouls for pass interference to the list of reviewable plays. The second would include fouls for pass interference but also would add fouls for roughing the passer and unnecessary hits against a defenseless receiver. Importantly, neither would allow review of plays in which no fouls were called, meaning they could not be used in the future to address the kind of controversial missed pass interference call that occurred late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game.

Seifert also noted there are also “seven club proposals relating to replay” that will be looked at, along with a host of other proposed rule changes submitted by NFL teams.

Kirk Cousins Jersey

The biggest reason the 2018 Vikings missed the playoffs, according to many fans and pundits, was Kirk Cousins’ alleged inability to play under pressure.

Where Case Keenum in 2017 overcame bad pass protection by sensing and adjusting to pressure, Kirk Cousins in 2018 lacked the pocket presence to win games in spite of poor blocking. Or so the narrative goes.

But that narrative is wrong. Kirk Cousins in 2018 had an above-average PFF grade under pressure and had the seventh-best passer rating under pressure. And while those stats are not very predictive of how Cousins will play in 2019, they do tell us that the 2018 Vikings weren’t losing games because of Cousins’ pocket presence, because Cousins was at least statistically above average under pressure.

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But beyond the stat sheet, Kirk Cousins’ pocket presence showed remarkable improvement in 2018. I re-watched every Kirk Cousins drop back in 2018 and have put together over 100 plays from last year to show just how:

This touchdown throw came with the Vikings down eight points, with 30 seconds left in the game, and with all 300 pounds of Mike Daniels torpedoing into Cousins’ frame.

Cousins didn’t flinch. Under heavy pressure in every sense of the word, Cousins delivered the game-saving touchdown.

That unflinching toughness was on display throughout the year, but especially in the Eagles game, where even the cameraman was not sure Cousins was getting these throws off:

The Bears blitz on this third down play, and both edge rushers beat their blockers. Cousins immediately feels the pressure, steps up in the pocket and hits Diggs in stride for 11 yards and a big first down.

It’s a subtle thing, but it makes a world of difference for edge rushers and offensive tackles. And it’s a big part of what makes Tom Brady or Drew Brees so deadly from the pocket.

It’s also an area Cousins has had to improve on – you can see from Cousins’ film in Washington how often he failed to climb the pocket and left himself a sitting duck for sacks and strip sacks.

Cousins reads the full field here in just three seconds, but unfortunately for him, the Patriots have everyone locked down in coverage. While working through his progressions, Cousins sets and resets his feet to be ready to quickly fire the ball to the next read. Sensing the penetrating DT, Cousins sidesteps left without missing a beat, and then feeling the edge pressure, resets and delivers for the checkdown right before getting hit.

Yes, the end result is just a short completion, but it’s that footwork and composure that makes the best throws under pressure possible.

And it wasn’t just on the checkdowns – Cousins’ demonstrated great footwork and the ability to reset his feet or subtly slide in the pocket throughout 2018:

Still, while Cousins may have gotten better at reacting to pressure, his old habits are sometimes dying hard.

Speaking of old habits, in 2017, Kirk Cousins threw nine interceptions when under pressure, which was tied for most in the NFL. In 2018, that number shrunk down to five, (and two of those picks weren’t his fault – one came after a Treadwell drop; the other was the Saints’ pick-six where Diggs stopped his route right as Cousins threw to him).

But despite the improvement, pressure still clouded Cousins’ decision-making at times:

Last year, after re-watching all of Kirk Cousins’ Washington drop backs, I wrote that “Cousins’ worst attribute is his pocket presence,” that he “doesn’t have a good feel for the impending pass rush,” that “[h]is decision-making completely falls apart once he starts to feel pressure” and that his “throwing mechanics and footwork also go completely out the window” under pressure.

That might have been true in the past, but Cousins showed substantial improvement in 2018: he responded more quickly to pressure, climbed the pocket fairly regularly, slid away from or eluded would-be sack attempts, and extended plays beyond the pocket every game.

Obviously, he’s no Tom Brady. He still sometimes got caught standing like a statue at the top of his drop. He had his fair share of bad throws and bad decisions under pressure. And too often he lacked the downfield aggressiveness to keep the Vikings ahead of the chains.

But Cousins’ pocket presence was not the reason the Vikings missed the playoffs last year. The 2018 Vikings had far too many flaws that were far too complicated to pin the blame on Cousins’ pocket presence – especially because Cousins’ pocket presence last year was actually surprisingly solid.

The Minnesota Vikings have reportedly agreed to terms with quarterback Sean Mannion to act as the team’s backup quarterback to Kirk Cousins.

One of the biggest question marks on the roster of the Minnesota Vikings heading into the 2019 NFL season was concerning who the franchise would have as the backup quarterback to Kirk Cousins.

That question was answered on Sunday, Apr. 7 when reports emerged that the team would be signing free agent quarterback Sean Mannion to perform that duty, replacing the exiting Trevor Siemian.

Of course, Kirk Cousins hasn’t missed a game in the last four seasons, playing in all 16 regular season contests since the start of his 2015 NFL season. He is one of the more durable and dependable starting quarterbacks in the league, so there is a chance the backup may never step on the field.

Star Tribune beat writer Ben Goessling confirms that the deal is for one season, but has not revealed the financial details on Twitter.

Adam Thielen Jersey

MINNEAPOLIS — In past offseasons, the Minnesota Vikings have doled out contract extensions to a handful of players ahead of when their current deals were set to expire. It’s the way the franchise rewarded the likes of Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs during the 2018 offseason.

Another Viking who could be in line for an extension this offseason is Adam Thielen. The wide receiver signed a four-year deal worth $19.246 million in 2017, which will earn him around $8 million next season.

Speaking on SKOR North, an ESPN radio affiliate in the Twin Cities, Thielen’s agent, Blake Baratz, indicated a belief that an extension for the two-time Pro Bowl receiver could be reached this offseason and that it wouldn’t come via a holdout by Thielen if both parties couldn’t come to an agreement.

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“Adam’s not that type of person,” Baratz said of the receiver holding out. “I would never condone a player to hold out or be disruptive if it wasn’t for a very valid reason, and [what’s not] a valid reason, to me, is both sides working in good faith to come to a conclusion that makes sense for everybody.”

Thielen’s record-breaking season and career highs in catches (113), yards (1,373) and touchdowns (9) have lead many, including his representation, to believe he has outplayed his current contract.

“This team has a lot of really good things in place for it, and I know they want to take care of Adam and I know they want Adam there and I know they want to reward Adam,” Baratz said. “What exactly that looks like and when that happens, I can’t speak to yet, but I’m cautiously optimistic that everyone will come around and do the right thing. There’s not — no one’s being greedy. Everyone understands the situation and it’s really in their court. He has a couple of years left on his deal but he’s earned a significant pay raise. Not to mention what he’s done on the field, he might be one of the best people in the entire National Football League and represents the city and the organization and state and frankly, the entire region unbelievably.”

Added Baratz: “We’re all hopeful that it’ll get done.”

At the start of last training camp, Diggs inked a five-year deal worth $72 million with a $15 million signing bonus. While it isn’t clear whether those figures are what Thielen and his representation are eyeing, a similar deal would put the 28-year-old receiver among the top 10 highest paid at his position.

“In a perfect world, we’d like to get something done,” Baratz said. “We’re going to sit down here and have conversations in these coming weeks and we’ll see where that leads us. I think everyone knows that Adam deserves a new contract. It’s not as simple as just doing a high-level extension in a vacuum. There’s other pieces and the Vikings have done a phenomenal job of managing their salary cap. Rob Brzezinski is one of the best in the game at what he does. It’s not just ‘How do we reward Adam Thielen?’ It’s how do we put our 53-man roster together that also allows for us to have continued success into the future. And I understand that. I have a job to do and Rob and Rick and the Vikings have a job to do, and we respect what each other does. It doesn’t mean we always have to agree, but we respect what each other has to do as our profession.”

Prior to 2018, an argument could be made that the Minnesota Vikings had NFL’s the best wide receiver duo on their roster in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. But after this past season, there should be no doubts about Diggs and Thielen being regarded as the absolute best receiving duo in the league today.

Apparently this still isn’t the belief for everyone though. NFL Media’s Gil Brandt is among those who aren’t on board with Diggs and Thielen being considered as the league’s top wide receiver duo heading into the 2019 season.

Brandt recently ranked his top 11 NFL receiving duos for 2019 and the Vikings’ pair of pass catchers came in second on the list. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry of the Cleveland Browns are currently the best wide receiver duo in the league according to his ranking.

Beckham and Landry are certainly talented, but let’s not award them with any titles just yet considering they haven’t even played a meaningful game together.

Diggs and Thielen are entering their fifth season as teammates in Minnesota and it doesn’t appear that they have even hit their peak yet. It’s not a crazy thought to have that these two current members of the Vikings make uo the best receiving duo the franchise has seen since the days of Cris Carter and Randy Moss during the early 2000s.

In their last 32 regular season games together, Diggs and Thielen have combined for 379 catches, 4,616 yards, and 31 touchdowns. Last year, they became the first two Minnesota wide receivers to both finish a single season with at least 1,000 yards since Carter and Moss did it in 2000.

The NFL Draft is fun and flashy for the first few rounds, but teams know that the hard work takes place in rounds four to seven. That is where all the scouts’ information and their hours of intense study and evaluations really become important for teams like the Minnesota Vikings.

Nothing is more satisfying for a scouting department than to find a starting caliber player when the draft is waning down on that last Saturday. It may not hold the drama and excitement of the earlier rounds, but Day 3 of the draft is extremely important to NFL teams.

The Vikings are no exception to this, as they’ve uncovered plenty of talent in the later rounds.

In part four of this ongoing series, we will take a look at a large offensive lineman from Florida, a big-bodied wide receiver from Notre Dame, and a hard-hitting safety from the West Coast, and gauge the Minnesota Vikings’ interest in them.