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.
With their fifth-round pick -- the 155th overall -- the Vikings took UCLA punter Jeff Locke in a move that seems eerily reminiscent of last year's decision to draft kicker Blair Walsh.
That decision to take Walsh ultimately meant the end of veteran Ryan Longwell's time with the team. Will the decision to take the left-footed Locke mean Chris Kluwe's time with the Vikings is over?
Locke compiled a career 44.23 punting average in his career at UCLA. As a senior he was named first-team all-Pac-12 and was an honorable mention all-America by SI.com while being a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. He led conference punters with 34 punts inside the 20-yard line (21 of which were downed at or inside the 10) and added 68 touchbacks on 86 kickoffs.
Kluwe is coming off a season in which his 39.7-yard net average was the best in his eight-year career with the team. Kluwe, of course, is also well-known for his very public stances on the issues of the day. Kluwe is due to be paid $1.45 million this upcoming season.
Every three or four years, a former Packers star decides to come west and bail the Vikings out of a gigantic jam.
Ryan Longwell filled a gaping hole at kicker in 2006 and went on to post six successful seasons. Brett Favre stepped in for a QB-starved outfit in 2009 and led it to within seconds of a Super Bowl. And now former Packers receiver Greg Jennings has signed on with a Vikings team that's bone dry at receiver and hasn't had a legitimate No. 1 wideout since Sidney Rice was catching passes from Favre in 2009. Jennings' deal is for five years, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Jennings doesn't fit Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman's normal parameters for a free agent. Jennings will turn 30 in September and has missed 11 games because of knee and core muscle injuries over the past two seasons.
But here's what Jennings is: Productive. Although he caught only 36 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, he did post 1,100-yard seasons from 2008 to 2010.
Jennings will be introduced during a press conference at Winter Park at 7:15 p.m. We'll have more later this evening.
After a season in which, including playoffs, he made 36 of 39 field goal attempts and hit all 10 of his tries from 50 yards or beyond, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh has only one thing left to do: visit Hawaii later this month for the Pro Bowl.
Walsh expressed excitement about the trip Monday and also revealed his intentions of bringing long snapper Cullen Loeffler to Oahu as his guest.
“He deserves it. That was a mutually founded thing,” Walsh said.
Walsh and Loeffler are still holding out hope that the Vikings long snapper will get a late invite by the NFC coaching staff to play in the game. But even if he doesn’t, Loeffler will join Walsh on the trip.
Last year, San Francisco’s Brian Jennings was the NFC’s invited long snapper, an easy choice given that 49ers kicker David Akers and punter Andy Lee played in the game.
Loeffler had previously held out hope of getting a special invite to Hawaii in years past when punter Chris Kluwe and former kicker Ryan Longwell were Pro Bowl alternates.
Said Loeffler: “The deal was, ‘Hey look, if we make it we’re taking you with us regardless.’ And so, really Kluwe informed [Blair], ‘Hey, this is how it works.’”
Futures contracts signed
All eight practice squad players were signed to futures contracts Monday, giving the Vikings exclusive rights to them when the 2013 league year begins in March. Those players are defensive tackle Chase Baker, running back Joe Banyard, tight end LaMark Brown, cornerback Bobby Felder, tight end Chase Ford, guard Tyler Holmes, tackle Kevin Murphy and receiver Chris Summers.
The draft is coming! The draft is coming!
Only 105 days remain until the Vikings go on the clock for the first time during the 2013 NFL Draft. As a result of Saturday’s playoff loss in Green Bay, the Vikings will own the No. 23 pick in the first round.
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