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.

(There are still Super Bowl aspirations in Minnesota despite missing the playoffs in 2018, leading to a key offseason of decisions and moves –Don’t miss any of the action! Sign up for our FREE Vikings newsletter here!)

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.

Stefon Diggs Jersey

This is the second installment of a position-by-position preview of the 2019 NFL draft. Today: Wide receivers.

Wide receiver not only offers some of the better talent in the NFL draft, but it also has good depth.

Although teams lately have avoided investing first-round picks in the position while finding stars – such as Stefon Diggs of Minnesota and Michael Thomas of New Orleans – later on, they’ll be tempted to grab some of this draft’s exceptional pass-catchers early.

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As many as five receivers could be selected in the first round or early in the second. Among the projected elite are D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown of Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry of Arizona State, Marquise Brown of Oklahoma and Kelvin Harmon of North Carolina State. It is reminiscent of 2015, when six receivers were chosen in Round One.

“This is a markedly better and deeper group than last year’s class,” NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote on NFL.com. In 2018, only two receivers were first-round choices: Maryland’s D.J. Moore and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones said “there’s no pressure” in his contract negotiations with the NFL team.

Although Jones has two seasons remaining on a five-year, $71,256,045 contract extension, the Falcons pledged to work out a new deal with the former Foley High School and Alabama standout in 2019.

“My agent is in the process of them talking about it,” Jones said in providing ESPN’s Vaughn McClure with an update on the negotiations. “It hasn’t came to me. I’m good. I’m comfortable with how everybody’s doing it. There’s no pressure on my end, and none on their end. If they’re going to get it done, we’ll get it done.”

The average annual value of Jones’ contract — $14,251,209 — now ranks 11th among NFL wide receivers. Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns tops that rating at $18 million. Between Beckham and Jones are the Oakland Raiders’ Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans, Los Angeles Rams’ Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins, Kansas City Chiefs’ Sammy Watkins, Browns’ Jarvis Landry, Cincinnati Bengals’ A.J. Green, Green Bay Packers’ Davante Adams and Minnesota Vikings’ Stefon Diggs.

Jones’ current contract calls for a base salary of $9.6 million in 2019 and $11.426 million in 2020.

Jones has led the NFC in receiving yardage in each of the past five seasons. He’s earned Pro Bowl selection annually and made first-team All-Pro twice during that span.

Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football: Devin White, LB, LSU

Why: The Lions have one of the worst linebacking corps in the NFL. They can’t cover anyone over the middle of the field. They need to add a player who can become the leader of their defensive unit at the position. If they do so, perhaps they’ll finally be able to compete with some of the top teams in their division.

Devin White was extremely productive this past season, logging 133 tackles. A projected running back, White is still learning the position, which is crazy considering how great he was in 2017.

Cherepinsky’s full mock

Maurice Moton, Bleacher Report: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

Why: The Detroit Lions break the ice at cornerback with Greedy Williams. In a division with Aaron Rodgers throwing to Davante Adams and Kirk Cousins throwing to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, general manager Bob Quinn must strengthen his secondary.

Cornerback Darius Slay performed at All-Pro and Pro Bowl levels over the last two seasons, but 2017 second-rounder Teez Tabor has yet to develop into a consistent starter. The front office released Nevin Lawson, who opened games with the first unit since 2015.

Greedy Williams and Slay could become one of the NFL’s top cornerback tandems in the near future. We’re already familiar with the veteran’s work, recording 11 interceptions over the previous two campaigns. At 6’2″, the incoming rookie comes into the league with ideal length. Assuming he adds bulk to his 185-pound frame, the All-American cornerback should be able to handle all upper-echelon wideouts.

Williams picked off eight passes in two seasons at LSU. He ran 4.37 40-yard dash time but didn’t stand out during the position drills at the Combine. He also cut his workouts short because of cramps in his calves. Don’t allow his underwhelming workouts negate what he’s shown on tape. The cover man knows how to sniff out a route and won’t allow big plays over the top.

Draft, develop and re-sign. That has been the Vikings philosophy under Spielman and it’s worked well (Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer have notched 48 wins in five seasons together). That philosophy has allowed the Vikings to maintain a core of players that includes Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Rhodes, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith and Adam Thielen, among others. Because the Vikings draft and develop as well as they do, they don’t have to get into the free agent market and the trade market very often to try and splash. While this philosophy has not yet propelled the Vikings to a Super Bowl win, it does have the Vikings in position to compete annually for a division title.

Without question, this is the position group that Vikings fans are thinking about most this offseason. Yes, this is a group that will be expected to improve in 2019. But let’s also remember that it’s a group with a solid foundation. Riley Reiff has been a solid free agent signing and has position flexibility, which will help the Vikings be flexible in this year’s draft. And then Pat Elflein and Brian O’Neill have been solid draft picks the past two years. So in those three, the Vikings have a solid foundation and now they’re in the process of putting together a group of players who can compete for two vacant starting spots and as well as important depth spots, such as swing tackle and backup center.

This will be a true position battle this spring and summer at TCO Performance Center. And it’s fair to assume to competition will be robust and plentiful. Chad Beebe, Laquon Treadwell and Brandon Zylstra are three names to watch in terms of returning players. There is still time to sign a free agent or two before the offseason program begins. And then there’s the draft and undrafted free agency, as well. This position battle is wide open and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds as well as how many receivers the Vikings decide to keep heading into the regular season.

Harrison Smith Jersey

The veteran cornerback’s name has come up in trade rumors this offseason. But is this a move the Minnesota Vikings should consider making?

Despite the fact that Xavier Rhodes has only been in the NFL for six years, he is actually one of the longest tenured members of the Minnesota Vikings. Everson Griffen, Kyle Rudolph, and Harrison Smith are the only players on the team’s current roster that have been with the Vikings for a larger amount of time than Rhodes.

Drafted in the first round by Minnesota in 2013 when Leslie Frazier was the team’s head coach, the 28-year-old has developed into one of the top corners in the league today. Especially during the last few years when he has had the opportunity to learn from one of the top defensive minds in the game in current Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.

During the last three seasons, Rhodes has been voted to a pair of Pro Bowls and he was selected as a First-Team All-Pro in 2017.

Many figured he would continue to take steps forward and further develop in 2018. However, Rhodes had a bit of an odd year last season and his level of play wasn’t exactly the same as what he had put out on the field in 2016 and 2017.

With Minnesota in need of cap space this offseason and the veteran corner owed more than $10 million in 2019, his name has come up a few times in trade rumors this year.

It doesn’t sound like the Vikings have been the ones actively calling around and trying to trade Rhodes this offseason though as it has only been reported that other teams around the league are who has initiated contact with Minnesota about possibly acquiring the corner.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport recently reported that the Vikings don’t appear to be interested in any trade offers for Rhodes this year. But is this actually something Minnesota should consider?

Would the Vikings be better off keeping Rhodes on their 2019 roster or should the team attempt to trade their top corner and get some legit compensation while his value is still at a relatively high level?

A lot of experts have the Vikings taking an offensive lineman at No. 18. But with the strength of this class being on defense, specifically the defensive line, do you think the Vikings would consider taking a defensive lineman in the 1st round if a top 10 talent falls to them?

Yes, I do believe the Vikings would take a defensive lineman at No. 18 if that is what their board dictated when they were on the clock. We all know GM Rick Spielman’s philosophy by now. He is not going to bypass a higher-graded player for a lower-graded player solely because of need. With that being said, team need is factored into the process of building a draft board. So if two players at different positions have the same grade, they are prioritized based on several factors, including team need.

Draft, develop and re-sign. That has been the Vikings philosophy under Spielman and it’s worked well (Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer have notched 48 wins in five seasons together). That philosophy has allowed the Vikings to maintain a core of players that includes Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Rhodes, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith and Adam Thielen, among others. Because the Vikings draft and develop as well as they do, they don’t have to get into the free agent market and the trade market very often to try and splash. While this philosophy has not yet propelled the Vikings to a Super Bowl win, it does have the Vikings in position to compete annually for a division title.

Without question, this is the position group that Vikings fans are thinking about most this offseason. Yes, this is a group that will be expected to improve in 2019. But let’s also remember that it’s a group with a solid foundation. Riley Reiff has been a solid free agent signing and has position flexibility, which will help the Vikings be flexible in this year’s draft. And then Pat Elflein and Brian O’Neill have been solid draft picks the past two years. So in those three, the Vikings have a solid foundation and now they’re in the process of putting together a group of players who can compete for two vacant starting spots and as well as important depth spots, such as swing tackle and backup center.

We all know the need to upgrade the offensive line in the upcoming draft. However, I’m also looking for the Vikings to get a legitimate No. 3 receiver to mix in with Diggs and Thielen. What are your thoughts on this? Do we get one via the draft, look at the undrafted free agents or are we waiting for other teams training camp cuts in August?
— Peter Philip
Sandhurst, United Kingdom

This will be a true position battle this spring and summer at TCO Performance Center. And it’s fair to assume to competition will be robust and plentiful. Chad Beebe, Laquon Treadwell and Brandon Zylstra are three names to watch in terms of returning players. There is still time to sign a free agent or two before the offseason program begins. And then there’s the draft and undrafted free agency, as well. This position battle is wide open and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds as well as how many receivers the Vikings decide to keep heading into the regular season.