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.
The Vikings will re-sign another highly coveted unrestricted free agent before free agency begins on Tuesday. The team has agreed to terms with defensive end Everson Griffen on a five-year deal worth $42.5 million with $20 million guaranteed, according to three NFL sources. Griffen will make $27 million over the first three years of his deal.
Jared Allen's agent, Ken Harris, confirmed tonight that Allen would not be returning to the Vikings. Harris said there are five teams in the bidding for Allen, with three standing out.
Harris said the Vikings and Allen reached the parting of ways on Saturday night. Allen's six-year, $72 million deal expired last season.
As well, Jasper Brinkley (@Jasperhitman54) tweeted that he was rejoining the Vikings. He was the team's starting middle linebacker in 2012 before signing with Arizona for last season. When reached by phone, Brinkley said the contract was for one year.
Griffen was excited by his new deal.
“I’m going to rise to the occasion because that’s who I am," he said. "The Minnesota Vikings know that, and I’m ready to rise to the occasion and give them everything I’ve got.”
Griffen was considered one of the best defensive ends in free agency with Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, who the Vikings made contact with on Saturday when the three-day negotiating window opened.
Griffen has made just one start in four seasons with the Vikings as a backup defensive end to Brian Robison and Allen. Griffen has been a flexible option in the past as a defensive lineman that could play all four positions.
“They’re going to use me; I haven’t been used and it’s time,” Griffen said. “The money is always a good thing but at the same time I finally get to be used. Coach [Mike] Zimmer…coach Zimmer, yeah coach Zimmer is going to use me. The Minnesota Vikings are going to use me in every way possible. The only thing you guys can do is wait, just wait for this to erupt.
Griffen said family and Vikings Zimmer’s style were two important factors into his decision to stay in Minnesota. He is engaged and has an 18-month-old son, Grayson
“It doesn’t mean everything to everyone but it means the world to us,” Griffen said. “It’s special and happy to be there and be a part of the Minnesota Vikings.”
Griffen said Zimmer is the best fit because of his blunt mentality. He wants Zimmer to criticize and praise him when it’s warranted.
“I don’t need a coach to beat around the bush,” Griffen said. “I need a coach that’ll be in my face and tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I’m doing right. What I’m doing wrong, that’s all I care about. I don’t care what I’m doing right. When I’m doing right, I know what I’m doing right. When I’m doing wrong, tell me.”
The Vikings agreed to terms with quarterback Matt Cassel on Friday and have now filled their two biggest needs before free agency officially begins on Tuesday at 3 p.m CT.
“We’re not talking about losing; we’re talking about winning man,” Griffen said. “No, the Minnesota Vikings, we’re on the up rise right now. I just want to win and be great.”
Marcus Sherels, a backup cornerback who was second in the NFL in punt returning last season, has re-signed with the Vikings. Terms were not announced for the two-year contract.
The former Gophers standout, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010, played in 49 games for the Vikings over four seasons, starting seven at cornerback.
"It means a lot to me," Sherels said. "This is a place I wanted to be. This is a team that gave me a shot in the first place. I feel a sense of loyalty here, and I love being here. And love playing for coach Prief and all my teammates. I think we can build something special here."
His punt return average of 15.2 yards was second in the league last season behind Tandon Doss of Baltimore and set a team record. He had an 86-yard punt return against the Giants last season, the second punt return TD of his career. He also had his first career interception, against the Ravens on Dec. 8.
It was a big day for the Sherels brothers of Rochester as Mike Sherels was promoted to Gophers linebackers coach.
Carlson to Arizona
Tight end John Carlson, who was released by the Vikings on Wednesday, signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, the team said.
Carlson was a high school standout in Litchfield before playing college football at Notre Dame. He was signed to a five-year, $25 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) by the Vikings in 2012. Ian Rapoport of nfl.com reported Carlson's deal with Arizona was worth $4.65 million.
Vikings defense end Jared Allen could play his final game in purple on Sunday, but he’s more focused in taking part of the final game at the Metrodome at the moment.
“I'm trying to go out the way I want in this Metrodome and have this last game be something special,” Allen said. “Kevin [Williams] and I talked about it earlier this week, saying we just want to let loose and make it a game to remember, from a win standpoint, from our performances, the crowd, the energy level, all of that.”
Allen will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and did spend time discussing the uncertainty around his career. The 10th year veteran wants to play again next year, but the free agency process will be less stressful.
“When you’re younger you’re trying to figure out all this craziness, and when you look back you realize there’s a plan and it’s better than any kind I could’ve hatched,” Allen said. “So I’m just enjoying the ride, honestly. If this ends up being my last game here, then it’s been one of the greatest rides I’ve ever been on. It’s been a great six years.”
Allen has yet to play in a Super Bowl however, and he said that will play a big factor into what occurs in the offseason. He’s had four postseason appearances in his career, reaching the conference championship game once with the Vikings in 2009.
“Heck, everybody would love to retire like Ray [Lewis] and [Michael] Strahan, right?” Allen said. “Win a Super Bowl and call it quits. So that’ll be on my mind, and that’ll definitely be a place when you get older, like I said, the later you get in your career that becomes more the main focus of how do you get to a championship.”
Here's the injury update from both teams:
Vikings: LB Audie Cole (ankle), RB Toby Gerhart (hamstring), DT Letroy Guion (quadriceps) and CB Shaun Prater (ankle) and G Charlie Johnson (not injury related) did not practice Thursday. RB Adrian Peterson (groin/foot), RB Matt Asiata (ankle), LB Larry Dean (knee), DT Fred Evans (knee), CB Chris Cook (knee), S Harrison Smith (foot/groin) and CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle) were limited participants. FB Jerome Felton (knee), G Brandon Fusco (knee), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (chest) and CB Marcus Sherels (shoulder) were full participants.
Lions: TE Dorin Dickerson (concussion) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) went on injured reserve. CB Bill Bentley (concussion), S Louis Delmas (knee), WR Calvin Johnson (knee), LB DeAndre Levy (foot), S John Wendling (ankle), CB Chris Houston (toe), G Dylan Gandy (illness) and T LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) did not practice. S Louis Delmas, RB Joique Bell (knee), CB Jonte Green (shoulder), DE Israel Idonije (neck) and CB Darius Slay (knee) were limited participants.
The emergence of Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles has become one of the NFL’s most surprising stories this season, but the Vikings say their primary focus lies with the Eagles running game.
Specifically LeSean McCoy, who leads the league in rushing with 1,305 yards.
“This dude is making moves,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “He’s like a human joystick right now."
The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing, largely due to McCoy, who set a franchise record with 217 yards rushing against Detroit in Sunday.
McCoy has rushed for 150-plus yards four times this season, the only player in the NFL to reach that mark more than once. He’s also tied for third in the NFL in 20-yard runs with eight.
“Dynamic in every phase,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “Dynamic out of the backfield, dynamic when you have him bottled up. He’s Houdini. You think you have him bottled up and he’s right there. You look away and the next thing you know you’re looking back at the film and he’s 30 yards down the field. He’s a fantastic football player. I don’t know if he gets the recognition really that he should.”
Several Vikings players compared McCoy to Detroit's Reggie Bush because of his versatility as a receiver.
“Yeah, that’s fun,” linebacker Chad Greenway joked about having to cover McCoy out of the backfield. “He’s unbelievable. Reggie Bush-like. I think he’s got different skills than Reggie. But just a matchup nightmare.”
A slippery field that hampered both teams early turned the game into a track meet late.
Marlon Brown caught a 9-yard pass from Joe Flacco with nine seconds left to give the Ravens a 29-26 victory over the Vikings on Sunday in Baltimore.
There were 36 points scored in the final 2:05.
Corderrelle Patterson turned a short pass from Matt Cassel into a 79-yard touchdown with 45 seconds left to give the Vikings a 26-22 lead. But the Ravens drove down for the winning score, thanks a questionable pass interference call on Chad Greenway that nullified an Andrew Sendejo interception.
Jacoby Jones returned a pooch kick 77 yards for a touchdown with 1:16 remaining to give the Ravens a 22-19 lead as the teams combined for 29 points in a 1:20 span very late in the game.
The Vikings took a 19-15 advantage on Toby Gerhart’s 41-yard touchdown run with 1:27 left.
But Jones returned Blair Walsh’s short kick down the left sideline for a score as Walsh failed to push him out of bounds at the 35.
The Vikings then scored quickly as Patterson shocked the Ravens defense with his catch and run. As it turned out, 45 was too much time to leave the Ravens.
Snow hampered both teams for most of the game, and the Vikings lost star running back Adrian Peterson to a foot sprain in the first half. Backup Gerhart’s scoring run gave him 89 yards rushing.
The Ravens took a 15-12 lead by scoring on a 64-yard drive late in the fourth quarter.
Flacco threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta with 2:05 remaining in the game to give the Ravens a 13-12 lead, and Flacco hit Torrey Smith for the two-point conversion and a 15-12 lead. The conversion was an eight-yarder after the Ravens were penalized. Pitta’s touchdown, which came on a fourth-down play, was set up by a 36-yard pass interference penalty on Robert Blanton.
The Vikings claimed their first lead at 12-7 on an 8-yard scoring pass from Cassel to Jerome Simpson early in the fourth quarter, but Cassel’s conversion pass to Greg Jennings was off target.
The Vikings had three interceptions in a game for the first time since the opening game of the season. Greenway, Sendejo and Marcus Sherels had the picks.
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