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 Quarterbacks

How did Bridgewater fare in the cold in college?

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: May 12, 2014 - 4:24 PM

When Teddy Bridgewater first arrived in Louisville in the middle of winter, he started wearing his now infamous glove because of the cold. That begs the question: If Bridgewater thought Kentucky was cold in the middle of winter, how the heck is he going to handle the weather up here?

Some outsiders believe that frigid weather could impact Bridgewater, considering he was said to flutter some passes at his pro day, and that was indoors. When the weather gets cold, footballs can feel like a frozen turkey to quarterbacks without huge hands. And if those quarterbacks don’t throw tight spirals in December -- and hopefully January -- winter wind gusts can unravel those passes.

The Vikings will play their next two seasons outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium, but general manager Rick Spielman said that had no real impact on how the team scouted players.

“The stadium doesn't enter in at all,” Spielman said two days before the draft. “We still have to play outdoors. We still have to play in Chicago, in Green Bay. It doesn't have any bearing at all. We are going to get football players, guys that we can get that can help us win.”

Bridgewater never played a game when the temperature was below freezing in college, according to some quality research from ESPN Stats and Info. The coldest one Bridgewater started was a 34-degree game against Connecticut in 2012. He threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns in the game, which was the one where he broke his left wrist only to play in a key game five days later.

Bridgewater made 11 starts when the temperature was below 50 degrees. He completed 63 percent of his passes in those games with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In his 24 starts when it was 50 degrees or warmer, he completed 71 percent of his passes with 48 touchdowns and 13 picks.

On the surface, that looks like a significant difference due to the weather, but keep in mind that when the weather was warmer Louisville was feasting on small-school cupcakes and the games got bigger and the opponents were more formidable when fall started to turn to winter.

For what it is worth, Bridgewater, who said he will never take the glove off again (I assume he just means professionally and not personally, too), doesn’t sound worried about the weather.

“I think it won't be a big adjustment at all,” he said. “I think we'll be able to use that to our advantage here in Minnesota. It's a mental thing and I'll just block it out and continue to play.”

Fifth-year option a consideration in Bridgewater deal

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: May 9, 2014 - 2:26 PM

Because of the Christian Ponder situation, we talked a lot about fifth-year options in this space over the past month or so. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of the Vikings and other NFL teams trading back into the first round to pick up that extra year of contractual control.

It turns out I was on to something. For once.

Last night, after the Vikings traded their second-round pick and their fourth-round pick to the Seahawks for the 32nd overall pick, which they used to select Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, general manager Rick Spielman acknowledged that beyond wanting to secure one of the top quarterbacks on their board for 2014, they also wanted to secure him for 2018, as well.

“The other thing that we felt was very, very important was debating whether you sit and wait or do you go ahead and get a guy up there on your board who you really liked at that position and felt just going to make that move up to 32nd was very important,” Spielman said while explaining the thought process of trading up. “The other thing that comes into play is that fifth-year option, which is a key part of it as well and that was also a part of the discussion of moving up.”

Spielman declined to say whether making beat writers rip up their game stories was also a consideration in his annual late-night dealings. But hey, at least he keeps us all on our toes.

Bortles, not Bridgewater, now the popular Vikings pick in mock drafts

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: April 30, 2014 - 10:08 AM

A lot has changed in the sports world since the last time I compiled whom NFL mock drafters were projecting to the Vikings for the blog. The Wild are one Game 7 win away from their first playoff series win in more than a decade. Donald Sterling has been banned from the NBA. And Teddy Bridgewater is no longer worthy of a top-10 pick, at least in the eyes of some draft analysts.

Remember the last time I did this mock draft roundup? Five of the 10 draft analysts I randomly picked had the Vikings selecting the Louisville quarterback with the eighth overall pick.

Now? He is allegedly plummeting down draft boards, and the mock drafters are scrambling to account for it. Only one of the 10 analysts I picked is projecting Bridgewater to the Vikings now.

So who are all these guys mocking to the Vikings instead? Start scrolling to see a small sample.

Mel Kiper, ESPN: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. “Obviously, the current tandem of Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder isn't the long-term answer,” Kiper wrote. “On the other hand, the presence of both provides a reasonable basis for drafting a quarterback, because there's no need to simply force-feed a rookie the starting role out of the gate. I think Bortles will benefit from some time in the system before he's forced to handle first-team reps. I'll say again that Bortles is a very good athlete with excellent pocket instincts and can benefit from his ability to create some yards with his legs, as we've seen from a few other young quarterbacks recently.

Brian Baldinger, NFL.com: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA. “Mike Zimmer has always done it through defense everywhere he's been,” Baldinger wrote. “As much as they need a quarterback, Barr would be a great fit for Zimmer. He's only played linebacker for two years, but I think his upside is all in the NFL. Two years from now I think he'll be a Pro Bowl player.”

Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama. “Why take a quarterback here and ignore a position where the Vikings need a day one starter?” he wrote. “They can come back in the second round for [LSU quarterback] Zach Mettenberger.”

Dan Kadar, SB Nation: Bortles. “Minnesota has one of the poorest quarterback situations in the NFL,” he wrote. “If Bortles is there with the eighth pick -- and he may not be -- he should be the choice for the Vikings. No other position will make as much of an impact on the franchise.”

Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. “Best player on the board or quarterback? The Vikings desperately need an identity at quarterback, something Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater could bring to Minnesota,” Brugler wrote. “But more of a ‘sure thing’ might be the direction here and Aaron Donald would be Mike Zimmer's new Geno Atkins.”

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: Bridgewater. “How low will Teddy go? That's the popular question that seems to be sparking wide-ranging debate as this year's longer-than-usual draft season unfolds,” Banks wrote. “While some mocks have him even falling out of the first round these days, I can't see how that worst-case scenario unfolds, and I'm pushing back against the anti-Bridgewater movement. The Vikings seem like a nice fit.”

Aaron Wilson, Baltimore Sun: Donald. “Donald has an array of pass-rushing moves, including a great swim move for a shorter defensive lineman. Donald isn't small, just short,” he wrote. “He overpowers blockers with an impressive charge and dominated at the Senior Bowl. The Vikings have moved on from Kevin Williams and could use a player like Donald to plug into his spot.”

Charles Davis, NFL.com: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama. “So much discussion about a QB going here,” he wrote, “but with new head coach Mike Zimmer, a longtime defensive coordinator, in town, a defender gets the nod.

Thor Nystrom, Rotoworld: Bortles. “Anthony Barr and Aaron Donald will be discussed, and Peter King reported that the club won’t take a QB here, but I’m banking on Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner not being content with their futures in Matt Cassell’s shaky grip,” Nystrom wrote.

Todd McShay, ESPN: Bortles. “The Vikings need a long-term answer at quarterback, but the presence of Matt Cassel (who did not play terribly last season) would allow for Bortles to sit for at least part of his rookie season, which is an ideal situation for him,” McShay wrote. “He has prototypical size and good mobility, and I think that issues with his mechanics are fixable.”

Fifth-year options and draft-night dealing

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: April 23, 2014 - 10:02 AM

We have spilled a fair amount of digital ink these past few days on the subject of fifth-year options. And if you’re still unsure about how they work, you should probably familiarize yourself.

That’s because no one will be making more of these decisions in the next few years than Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who has drafted five players in the first round the past two years.

In 2012, Spielman selected left tackle Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick then traded back into the back end of the first to nab safety Harrison Smith. Last year, he drafted defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (with the first-rounder acquired in the Percy Harvin deal) then jumped back into the first to select wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, too.

In the case of Smith, assistant general manager George Paton explained last year that they simply wanted Smith and had the draft assets to strike the deal with the Baltimore Ravens to make it happen. But an added bonus was that the Vikings will get Smith for five years instead of four.

Which begs the question: Will NFL teams, especially the ones eyeing up quarterbacks early in the second round, attempt to move into the first round to gain that extra year of contractual control?

“It could be a consideration because look at San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick,” former NFL agent Joel Corry told me this week. “Assuming everything checks out with this Miami incident, he is going to be at a minimum of $18 million per year on his next deal. If they had traded up into the bottom of the first round [in 2011], they’d have him locked up for another year.”

Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports also had the same thought, and he spoke with an NFL G.M. about it.

"Things have changed with all the good players from that 2011 first round and it's going to cost more to get a team to move out now,” the G.M. told Kirwan. “Back in the old days teams liked to move out of the bottom of the first to avoid the contract expense but now it's reversed."

Just something to think about as the first round winds to a close two weeks from tomorrow.

Will the Vikings exercise 2015 option for Christian Ponder?

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: April 18, 2014 - 11:12 AM

The Vikings have yet to exercise quarterback Christian Ponder’s fifth-year option for the 2015 season, according to the NFL Players Association’s records. The deadline to do so for 2011 first round picks is on May 3.

Some teams have already done so: The Texans picked up defensive end J.J. Watt option, the Chargers exercised defensive lineman Corey Liuget’s option, the Jets picked up defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson’s option and the Ravens did the same with cornerback Jimmy Smith. The Cowboys will reportedly pick up offensive tackle Tyron Smith’s option as well.

The 2011 draft is the first class to go through the fifth-year option process since the new collective bargaining agreement. The top ten picks have their salaries decided by the average top ten highest salaries for players at the same position the previous year.

In Ponder’s case, he falls in the next category as the 12th overall pick. The same formula is used for picks 11-32 except it’s the average of the third through 25th highest salaries last year.

Watt, who was selected just before Ponder, will receive $6.96 million in 2015 based on the third through 25th highest defensive end salaries.

Of course for quarterbacks, that number will be larger. Crunching the numbers, it’ll cost the Vikings around $10 million when looking at the quarterback salaries from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (third) down to Cardinals backup quarterback Drew Stanton (25th). It isn’t fully guaranteed however unless Ponder is on the roster on the first day of the league year. However, it is guaranteed if Ponder gets injured.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman declined to discuss the possibility of fifth-year option for Ponder at the NFL Combine in February. When asked if there’s a reason would not option a player just to retain his rights, Spielman said, “Those are things that we’ll discuss internally.”

It'd be surprising if it happens given Ponder's production and there doesn't seem to be much value in excercising the fifth-year option. At $10 million, it'd be difficult to trade Ponder. Outside of that, the only other option would be to cut him before the 2015 NFL calendar begins.

The Vikings will look to draft a rookie quarterback in the draft and signed Matt Cassel to a two-year deal in the offseason. Ponder seems to be the odd man out in the team's future plans.

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT