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.
Sidney Rice said it was "a tough decision" for him to leave the Vikings in free agency during his introductory news conference with the Seattle media on Saturday. (A big thank you to Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times for passing along these quotes.)
"It was a lot of things," the wide receiver said when asked why he was changing teams at such a young age (24). "It was a tough decision. I love those guys over in Minnesota - my teammates and everything like that. But unfortunately I had to move on. I'm here, I'm a Seahawk and I'm looking forward from here on out, no looking back."
Rice, who had a Pro Bowl season in 2009 but missed much of last season after having hip surgery, said nothing from what happened last season contributed to his decision to leave.
"No sir," he said. "[I] came in around the 10th or 11th game off of my injury, was able to get in and make a couple plays. There's no bad blood between Minnesota. I just want to put that out there right now. It's a great organization. I'm still good friends with a lot of people around there. Like I said, it was just time for me to move on."
It was no secret that Rice wanted a contract extension after his outstanding 2009 season and was not happy when he did not get it. Rice reportedly signed a five-year deal with Seattle that could be worth $44 million and includes $18.5 million guaranteed.
Rice's news conference came on the same day that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said former Viking Tarvaris Jackson was his starting quarterback. Jackson also joined Seattle this week, agreeing to an $8 million, two-year contract. Rice and Jackson are good friends and Rice said the situation in Seattle will be better for the quarterback.
"It's going to be great for Tarvaris," Rice said. "I felt like in Minnesota, he was never let loose. He was never allowed to play comfortably like I know he can play, and I feel like he'll get that opportunity out here to prove all those guys that think he's not an NFL quarterback wrong."
Asked why Jackson wasn't comfortable, Rice said: "Just certain things. He was never relaxed. He was always uptight, afraid to make mistakes and things like that. But as I said, I'm looking forward to him getting out here and letting it loose."
Rice also said the fact that former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell now holds the same job in Seattle will help.
"It's great," Rice said. "It's always good to be around familiar people that you know well. Tarvaris is one of my closest friends ever since I came into the league. I used to hang out at his place all the time and vice versa, he used to come over to my place and it was like that. So I feel comfortable around him. Also, Bevell. I know the offense and didn't have to learn anything new. Made a couple of tweaks in the playbook but nothing I can't pick up right away so when I'm able to get out here, I'm ready to step right on the field and be effective."
Sidney Rice's days as a Viking are over and that likely means the team will be looking for a No. 1 wide receiver.
After being courted by the Vikings and Seattle the past two days, Rice has agreed to a five-year deal with the Seahawks according to multiple outlets. He can not sign the contract until Friday evening.
Rice's contract is reportedly for $41 million and includes $18.5 million in guarantees. The bidding for his services might have been limited but clearly he cashed in on the guaranteed money.
That was the big question when it came to the Vikings because Rice has only played one full season since entering the NFL as Minnesota's second-round pick in 2007. After appearing in 13 games in each of his first two seasons, Rice put together a Pro Bowl performance playing with Brett Favre in 2009.
Rice, who is 6-foot-4, 202 pounds, caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season and added 10 receptions for 184 yards and four touchdowns in two playoff games. Rice, however, injured his hip in the NFC Championship Game at New Orleans.
He elected to put off surgery, hoping he would recover, but ended up needing a procedure just before the regular season began. Rice missed the first half of last season and was limited to a career-low six regular-season games. He caught only 17 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, missing the final game because of a concussion.
Rice's decision to leave Minnesota does not come as a big surprise. Not only did Seattle likely offer more guaranteed money, but Rice also was unhappy last offseason when the Vikings declined to give him a contract extension. Rice will be reunited with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in Seattle.
Jackson agreed to terms with the Seahawks on Tuesday and Bevell was named the team's offensive coordinator this offseason after having the same job in Minnesota for the past five seasons.
The Vikings agreed to a one-year deal with Bears free-agent wide receiver Devin Aromashodu on Tuesday but he is a journeyman player looking for an opportunity and can't be considered a replacement for Rice. With Rice gone, Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin are left as the Vikings' top two wide receivers. Others at the position on the current roster include Emmanuel Arceneaux; Stephen Burton; Greg Camarillo; Juaquin Iglesias; and Jaymar Johnson.
The Vikings have been busy trying to complete a deal for quarterback Donovan McNabb, but now might have to take a long look at the free-agent market to upgrade at receiver.
Plaxico Burress, who has missed the past two seasons while serving a jail sentence, is on the market but ESPN reports he likely will end up with the Giants or Steelers. An NFL source said this summer that the Vikings were not interested in Burress.
The New York Jets already have retained wide receiver Santonio Holmes but Braylon Edwards remains on the market.
Donovan McNabb has been tied to the Vikings in national reports throughout the offseason. And now that teams can talk trade again, the quarterback's name has surfaced in what appears to be far more than speculation.
Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network reported on Twitter that the Vikings and Washington Redskins have parameters of a deal in place for McNabb but agreeing on financial terms with him could be tricky.
This followed an ESPN report that cited NFL sources as saying the Vikings are one of the few teams that have had trade discussions with the Redskins about McNabb. A key issue, however, would be for the Vikings to work out a restructured contract with McNabb. ESPN reports the Vikings cannot make a deal with Washington if they don't have a deal with McNabb and clearly LaCanfora is being told agreeing on the terms might be an issue.
What remains unclear is why the Vikings would trade for McNabb, who was benched twice last season by Mike Shanahan as the Redskins finished 6-10. It's clear that Shanahan isn't going to bring back McNabb and thus at some point the veteran is going to hit the open market.
The only issue would be if the Vikings are concerned the 34-year-old McNabb would sign with another team, such as Tennessee, and feel it's worth giving up a draft pick to not let that happen. The Redskins signed McNabb to a five-year contract extension that appeared to be worth $78 million last November. However, as ESPN's report points out, the only thing guaranteed was that McNabb would get an additional $3.5 million in 2010.
The contract also has a clause that enables Washington to release McNabb before the 2011 season with no more money due to him.
Many believe the Vikings will sign or trade for a veteran quarterback to help ease the transition of first-round pick Christian Ponder, especially since the rookie did not get the benefit of the offseason program. However, there are different opinions on who would be a good fit to play in front of Ponder for a short period before the rookie was ready.
Another name that emerged early in the offseason was Dolphins free-agent quarterback Tyler Thigpen. There are about six teams interested in Thigpen and the Vikings are believed to be one of them.
Jackson, Seahawks agree to terms
This will come as no surprise.
There are two reports that former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has agreed to terms with Seattle. He can't sign the contract until Friday.
The move reunites Jackson with Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who held the same job with the Vikings during Jackson's entire stint in Minnesota.
Reports also say veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will not return to the Seahawks.
The Seattle Seahawks are planning to make a major effort to sign Vikings free agent wide receiver Sidney Rice, according to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network.
Seattle has plenty of room under the salary cap and the fact former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell now holds the same job in Seattle means this move might make sense for Rice.
Rice could step in as Seattle's top receiver.
The issue is Rice would be joining a team that appears as if it is going to have a question mark at quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck is going to depart as a free agent, according to the Seattle Times, and the Seahawks have Charlie Whitehurst behind him. There also continue to be reports that soon-to-be former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will wind up with the Seahawks.
Rice and Jackson certainly seemed to get along during their time together in Minnesota, but it's not known if Rice would be excited about an on-the-field reunion with Jackson. It's quite possible he could be fine with it.
As for the Vikings, it was expected that trying to retain Rice would be one of their first orders of business today as NFL teams were allowed to begin negotiating with veteran players. Veterans can't be signed until Friday evening.
Where the Vikings might run into a tough situation is if Rice is offered a substantial amount of guaranteed money elsewhere. Rice had an outstanding 2009 season, playing in all 16 regular-season games, but in his other three years in the NFL he has never played the entire schedule. He missed much of last season after having hip surgery right before the start of the season.
During what proved to be a crazy Thursday in the NFL lockout, Vikings center Jon Cooper took to his Twitter account. "I wish they would show the players, what the players are voting on," he wrote. "Or maybe I'm just crazy."
Cooper was asked to elaborate on his frustration Friday morning after going through workouts on the University of Minnesota campus that are led by Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr.
"Being in the dark on something that really affects your life, it’s tough to sit back and watch and have people criticize you for it," he said. " I wish I knew what to say or what was going on because I get all my information from the news basically. Hopefully when something is about to get done we’ll get informed a little bit before, but as of now we get sporadic e-mails from the union or our player rep. But most of the stuff we find out is on ESPN or any website or whatever. That’s our basis of information. Then people are like, ‘Why don’t you guys just play.’ It’s like, ‘It’s not that simple.’”
ESPN reported today that players still want owners to budge on two key issues: The first is an opt-out clause seven years into the proposed 10-year collective bargaining agreement; the second is the ability to report to team facilities and vote in person on recertifying as a union.
The issue, according to ESPN, is the owners believe the NFLPA could recertify as a union by allowing the estimated 1,900 players to use electronic signatures. The NFLPA wants to adhere to the same thorough process that led to decertification. The owners, of course, approved the deal Thursday but the players declined to vote on it.
While Cooper would like more information, Kansas City quarterback Tyler Palko has tuned out the various media reports that are all over the map.
"Honestly, to tell you the truth I don’t even pay any attention to that stuff," he said. "There’s just so many media outlets and rumors and twitter. That’s why I don’t get on that crap. You don’t know what to believe anymore. Honestly, when I’m done here [working out] I go home, watch the Golf Channel, go hit some golf balls and my cell phone is there."
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, the 12th pick in the April draft, finds himself in an interesting situation. On one hand, Ponder wants (and needs) to get on the field as soon as possible. But he also knows that once a 10-year CBA is signed that that will be it. Most of Ponder's career will be played under the agreement and if five years into it it no longer appears to be favorable, there will be nothing the NFLPA can do. Especially if there is no opt-out clause.
“I can wait as long as possible," Ponder said. "Obviously, I want to get on the field, but I know the importance of getting a deal that’s going to last 10 years exactly how we want it. So if it takes another month or so or we lose some games so be it. We definitely want the best deal we can get.”
Jackson bound for Seattle?
Tarvaris Jackson will be a former Vikings as soon as the lockout comes to an end. What remains to be seen is where the free agent will end up signing. One team that is believed to be interested is Seattle, which could lose quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in free agency.
Jackson could compete with Charlie Whitehurst, playing for Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Bevell, of course, was Jackson's offensive coordinator with the Vikings for five seasons and that familiarity could be important considering how little time teams will have to get ready once the lockout ends.
"It seems like a pretty good opportunity," Jackson said when asked if Seattle would interest him. "I know the offense. That’s a plus. Coach Bevell, he’s very familiar with me and I’m very familiar with him. So that’s always a plus."
Asked about his relationship with Bevell, Jackson said: "We always had a pretty good relationship. I worked more closely with [Kevin] Rogers because he was my quarterbacks coach. [Bevell] spent a lot of time in different guys’ rooms, our room, the offensive linemen’s room, always going back and forth. ... But we had a pretty good relationship, me and Bev did."
Jackson has been a regular at the Fitzgerald workouts but said that Friday was his last day. The sessions are expected to continue through Tuesday and maybe longer if the lockout isn't finished.
Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt and guard Chris DeGeare joined the Fitzgerald workouts on Friday. Loadholt appeared to be in very good shape after training in Oklahoma and then Eden Prairie.
"I’ve been working pretty hard," he said. "Me and Anthony Herrera worked together for a while. Most of the guys are doing as much as we can to stay in shape. We’ve got a playbook. We can study that as much as we can. But really, we need to get around the coaches and get to work, though."
Loadholt said he got a copy of the playbook from center John Sullivan, who was able to stop by Winter Park in late April when the lockout was briefly lifted.
DeGeare, meanwhile, said he weighs about 340 pounds right now. "Last year, they had me at 335 was my game weight," he said. "It’ll probably be somewhere in there. I was comfortable with it. In college, I played a lot bigger than that, but I like 335. You can move, feel great with it, and still bigger a lot of the defense out there."
DeGeare, who just arrived in the Twin Cities, has been training with someone who is more along the lines of a bodybuilder. "I'm just trying to get bigger, faster,stronger," DeGeare said.
He did run into a difficult challenge completing six 300-yard shuttles in the heat Friday morning. "Oh yeah [it's tough], especially when you’re expecting three and you run six," he said. "But it was all good. My legs need it. It felt good to get out moving like that."
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