Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Hey, they're actually going to have this draft thing. It's started and, believe it or not, they're picking players.
The Chiefs, as expected, took the safe route with a left tackle at the No. 1 overall pick. But in a surprise move (at least to those of us who are now 0-1 in mock drafts), they took Central Michigan's Eric Fisher instead of Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel.
Making the pick for the Chiefs was new GM John Dorsey. He's one of seven new GMs in the league this year. They'll be making eight of the top 14 picks, with the Jets' John Idzik making the ninth and 13th picks, assuming there are no trades, of course.
Fisher fills a need for the Chiefs and allows them to now trade disgruntled Branden Albert, their 2008 first-round draft pick.
Here's what new Chiefs coach Andy Reid said before about the comfort of taking a left tackle No. 1 overall:
“This is what I think: They’ve been fairly safe picks over the years. So if it comes down to equal here or there, and you have to choose, it might be a fairly safe pick. The percentages, with that position – you evaluate the success rate with all the positions, you’ll come back to the offensive line and say, ‘Yeah, that’s a fairly safe pick, offensive tackle.’ ”
We'll be back after periodically through the top portion of the draft.
The question with Greg Jennings has never been about ability. Over seven NFL seasons, Jennings has caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 TDs. He’s a versatile weapon who is adept at both stretching the field from the outside or keeping defenses honest as a smooth-moving slot guy.
He is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the kind of proven and consistent playmaker that the Vikings’ receiving corps needs. Yet when free agency neared, the questions about Jennings circled.
At this point -- with Jerome Simpson and his 97 career catches as the top dog in the receiving unit – the Vikings are in no position to be picky. And that’s why, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that Jennings will visit Winter Park on Thursday, the Vikings would be wise not to let him leave without a purple jersey and a rubber-stamped contract.
This visit should be a business interview, a way of unifying a vision and hammering out the finer print of the contract details. The Vikings have had since late Friday night to communicate at length with Jennings’ agent, Eugene Parker. You can bet Parker has an asking price, one that’s moved over the past several days. And you can bet Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has a thought in mind for what he’d like to ultimately pay.
But as Spielman said Tuesday afternoon about the chaos and unpredictability of free agency, “This is a very fluid business.”
Indeed it is.
At this point, so many other free agent receivers are off the board. Mike Wallace is in Miami. Wes Welker has gone to Denver. Danny Amendola has landed in New England. Donnie Avery is a Chief. Brandon Gibson, reports say, has visits scheduled with the Jets, Dolphins and Titans.
The Vikings? They’ve always vowed to be patient in free agency, to make sure they find guys who fit their system, their character profile and their budget. But to this point, the Vikings have given out six contracts this week, all of them re-signings of players that were already on the roster.
The biggest move by far so far was Monday’s trade or Percy Harvin to Seattle, followed a day later by the surprise release of Antoine Winfield.
The Vikings have lost their top playmaker in the passing game and their linchpin leader on defense. In a pass-happy league, they’ve depleted their receiving corps and their secondary.
At some point, they need a splash to replenish the talent pool in a major way. And there’s no way they should allow themselves – nor had they ever planned to – to get to April’s draft with Simpson as their top receiver.
That’s why today’s reported visit with Jennings shouldn’t be a getting-to-know-you encounter. It should be a determined effort to provide third-year quarterback Christian Ponder a real weapon. Welker’s two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos was a huge power-shift move in the AFC, taking the league’s most prolific pass catcher over the past six years and moving him from one Super Bowl contender to another. But Welker’s contract may have also been a shifting of power in Jennings’ negotiating leverage. Sure, there have been the mammoth deals for receivers – six years, $67 million for Harvin; five years $65 million for Wallace; five years, $56 million for Dwayne Bowe.
But now, wouldn’t it make sense that Jennings’ price tag slides closer to that Welker ballpark. If so, the Vikings should be quietly celebrating. And they should be doing everything they can to make sure that Jennings is their guy.
Looking ahead to next season ...
The Vikings’ schedule for 2013 is set, thanks to their second-place finish in the NFC North.
The Vikings will play every team in the NFC East and the AFC North, will face the second-place teams in the NFC South (Carolina) and NFC West (Seattle), and will play each NFC North opponent twice.
The game against Pittsburgh in London on Sept. 29 counts as a Vikings home game.
Other home opponents are Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, Carolina, Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago. Road opponents are Dallas, N.Y. Giants, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Seattle, Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago.
Adrian Peterson’s pursuit of the NFL rushing record made him an easy choice for the Pro Bowl.
And the man who paves the way for Peterson, fullback Jerome Felton, is headed to Honolulu as well.
Peterson and Felton were joined on the NFC Pro Bowl squad by teammates Blair Walsh, a rookie kicker, and defensive end Jared Allen.
The teams were named on Wednesday night. The game is Jan. 27 in Honolulu; players whose teams make the Super Bowl will not play in the Pro Bowl, meaning there will be several replacements before the game.
Here are the complete rosters.
Peterson is 208 yards away from the NFL record of 2,105, set by Eric Dickerson in 1984, entering the season finale Sunday against the Packers.
“It just goes to show when you put your faith in God and you put in the work, you can accomplish great things,” said Peterson, who made a remarkable comeback from major knee surgery.
Said Felton, who was signed as a free agent before the season: “I felt like it was something I could achieve if I was able to land in the right spot and Minnesota has been that place for me. When you have a back like Adrian Peterson, running the ball is going to be your identity.”
Peterson and Allen, who has an NFL-high 115 sacks since 2004, were both chosen for their fifth Pro Bowls.
“This time around it’s extra special because I’ve had to battle through some injuries,” Allen said.
Walsh set an NFL record with nine field goals of 50 yards or longer, and heard about his selection from special teams coach Mike Priefer.
“ I got the news this afternoon from Coach Priefer, which was appropriate because he put a lot on the line when the Vikings drafted me and I owe him so much for the season that we’ve had,” Walsh said. “It’s been an unbelievable year and I hope that it’s not done for a long while yet.”
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