Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Posts about Vikings off the field

Fusco leads Vikings players in performance-based bonuses

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: March 24, 2014 - 5:41 PM

The NFL management council released the amount of bonuses paid to NFL players this season, and right guard Brandon Fusco tops the list of Vikings with $237,000 added to his 2013 salary, which was $594,000.

After Fusco, the highest bonuses went to safety Andrew Sendejo ($188,500), cornerback Marcus Sherels ($186,750), safety Robert Blanton ($170,000), cornerback Josh Robinson ($154,000) and linebacker Audie Cole ($133,600).

Defensive end Everson Griffen, linebacker Marvin Mitchell, tight end Rhett Ellison and wideout Jarius Wright also made more than $100,000.

The system is designed to reward players who were low draft picks and don’t make a lot of money, but play a lot.

Each team doles out $3,460,000 to players, under the collective bargaining agreement.  All players get some money based on playing time, but there’s a wide range.

Justin Trattou, a seldom used defensive end, got the lowest among Vikings, $2,250.

Jared Allen, whose total pay from the Vikings was $16,865,186 got a bonus of only $9,280. Adrian Peterson, with a compensation package in 2013 of $13.9 million, got slightly more than $7,000.

According to nfl.com, the performance-based pay is computed using a player index that includes totals plays divided by adjusted regular season compensation. That index is then compared to other players on the team.

A complete list of all NFL bonuses, first reported by ESPN, is available here.

Matt Cassel to re-sign with Vikings

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: March 7, 2014 - 8:08 PM

Quarterback Matt Cassel, set to become an unrestricted free agent this weekend, is re-signing with the Vikings, according to two NFL sources.

Cassel's new contract is for two years. He would be considered a bridge to the next Vikings quarterback, likely a draft choice this season.

Jason LaCanfora of cbsports.com reported the deal was worth $10 million. For comparison sake, the Jaguars signed another "bridge" quarterback, Chad Henne, to a two-year deal on Friday that is worth $8 million, including $4.5 million guaranteed.

The agreement was first reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (@rapsheet).

Cassel, 31, opted out of a two-year contract he signed with the Vikings in 2013 that was worth $7.4 million.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has said, during the offseason, that the team would like to sign a veteran quarterback in free agency and also draft a college quarterback.

Teams are allowed to begin negotiating with unrestricted free agents who weren't with their teams last year on Saturday, but cannot sign them until Tuesday.

Cassel last spoke with reporters after the Vikings’ season-ending 14-13 victory over the Lions in the last game at the Metrodome on Dec. 29, saying: “I love playing for the Vikings. The fan base here is absolutely amazing. The team was special. It was a great team to play for. I really enjoyed my time with my wife, myself, my kids, a great community and everything else that goes along with it. So, would I love to be a Minnesota Viking? Absolutely, without a doubt.”

The Vikings have the eighth pick in the NFL draft on May 8. Of the first 11 teams drafting, five others have a need at quarterback. Four college quarterbacks — Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Blake Bortles of Central Florida, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Derek Carr of Fresno State — are projected to be top-10 picks.

Cassel played in nine games for the Vikings last season, starting six. He was 25th in the NFL in passer rating (81.6). In a Dec. 15. victory over Philadelphia he had the best performance by a Vikings QB this season — 26-for-35 for 382 yards and two TDs.

Ponder is also under contract through 2014. The 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft, he signed a four-year contract for $10.15 million that is fully guaranteed. His signing bonus of $5.8 million is paid out evenly over the four years.

Cassel was a backup to Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer at USC, and is the only modern-era quarterback who never started a college game to have started an NFL game.

The Patriots drafted Cassel in the seventh round (230th overall) of the 2005 draft, and he was a backup to Tom Brady for four seasons in New England. In 2008, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game, and Cassel played the rest of the season, leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record. With his four-year contract expiring, the Patriots gave him the franchise tag early in 2009 and traded him to Kansas City for linebacker Mike Vrabel and a second-round draft choice.

Cassel's big season with the Patriots paid off. The Chiefs signed him to a  six-year, $63 million contract that included $28 million in guaranteed money. He started in 2009, and in 2010 made the Pro Bowl as Kansas City won the AFC West. He injured his hand after 10 games in 2011, however, and after starting in 2012 he eventually lost his job to Brady Quinn.

Vikings set to release John Carlson

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: March 4, 2014 - 6:00 PM

The Vikings are expected to release tight end John Carlson, two NFL sources have confirmed.

The team tried to restructure Carlson’s contract for a second straight offseason but the two sides couldn’t reach a deal. Carlson is expected to be released on Wednesday.

Carlson, 29, finished the season on injured reserve because of a concussion he suffered in Week 14 against the Ravens. Carlson told the Star Tribune in February that he planned to continue his football career next season. The concussion was his third in six NFL seasons.

The Litchfield, Minn. native signed a five-year deal worth $25 million in 2012. In two seasons with the Vikings, Carlson played 27 games and had 40 catches for 387 yards and a touchdown.

Most of his production occurred after tight end Kyle Rudolph broke a foot in Week 9 last season. Carlson had 283 yards and a touchdown in a five-week span as the starter before suffering the season-ending concussion.

The move is expected to save the Vikings around $2 million in salary cap space.

NFL free agency begins next Tuesday, although teams are allowed to negotiate with agents beginning Saturday.

Cassel officially opts out of Vikings contract

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: February 7, 2014 - 11:02 AM

Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel officially opted out of the final year of his two-year contract today, Pro Football Talk reported, citing a league source.

Cassel signed a two-year, $7.4 million deal before last season to back up Christian Ponder. By the end of the season, Cassel was the team's starter.

By exploring the free agent market, Cassel stands to get a long term contract for more money.  The Vikings could still re-sign him when free agency begins March. 8.

Peterson replaced by Lacy for Pro Bowl

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: January 15, 2014 - 11:44 AM

Adrian Peterson will miss the Pro Bowl because of injuries he suffered late in the Vikings' season.

Peterson has foot and groin issues and will miss the game in Hawaii on Jan. 26.

Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy replaces Peterson. There will be no AFC-NFC battle this year, rather the teams will be drafted from the Pro Bowl pool by Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice.

Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson was a late addition to the team as well, as a kick returner.

On Wednesday, Patterson was named to USA Football's "All Fundamentals Team" for players who "exhibit exemplary football techniques for youth players to emulate."

The Vikings have named Mike Zimmer coach, so make sure to check startribune.com for the latest stories, videos and photos from the big day at Winter Park.

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