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.
Free-agent safety Kurt Coleman plans to sign with the Vikings, according to a league source.
Coleman, who played his first four NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, visited the Vikings on Thursday. The team offered him a contract, and he agreed to terms on a one-year deal today.
Coleman will be the seventh safety on the roster, and the Vikings return a pair of starting safeties in Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford. But with a new head coach in Mike Zimmer, players will start with a clean slate and will have to prove themselves this spring and summer. Plus, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound safety is the kind of reclamation project that Zimmer enjoyed taking on as a coordinator.
Coleman, 25, was drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL draft. He started two games as a rookie and 27 games over his new two seasons. He picked off four passes in 2011 and made a career-high 93 tackles in 2012, which ranked second on the Eagles.
Last year, the Eagles hired a new head coach in Chip Kelly and they signed Patrick Chung, who replaced Coleman as a starter. Coleman played just 73 defensive snaps in 2013, the lowest total of his career, but he was a core contributor on special teams, making eight tackles in that phase.
Coleman made 170 tackles with the Eagles with seven interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles.
Coleman is an Ohio native who played college football at Ohio State. As a senior, he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and was named a first-team All-American by the Sporting News.
During spring practices in his freshman year at Ohio State, Coleman paralyzed teammate Tyson Gentry with a tackle after the wide receiver caught a pass on a curl route in front of him. Coleman considered quitting football after that, but Gentry reportedly convinced him to keep playing.
Eight months later, Coleman’s father, Ron, was diagnosed with breast cancer. His father has fought off the disease and they formed a foundation to help raise breast cancer awareness.
Philadelphia reporters say that Coleman was a high-character person in the Eagles locker room, and it never hurts to have that type of veteran competing for a role during training camp.
The Vikings were active before and immediately after the start of free agency, spending big bucks to re-sign defensive end Everson Griffen and quarterback Matt Cassel then bolstering their defense by adding defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
Now, a month after the NFL’s shopping spree began, all of the marquee free agents have been snatched up and the spending has died down around the league. But G.M. Rick Spielman and the Vikings have shown they still plan to tinker with the roster, evidenced by last week’s signing of wide receiver Lestar Jean and their contract offer to free-agent safety Kurt Coleman.
As of this morning, the Vikings have just under $11 million in salary cap space remaining, according to overthecap.com, so they will likely carry financial flexibility into the 2014 season.
That space could also allow them to offer an extension to an emerging young player -- tight end Kyle Rudolph is an obvious candidate -- before that player comes close to reaching free agency.
That is a post for another day, though, because today, I wanted to take a closer look at how the Vikings have spent their money. The website overthecap.com is a valuable resource, and it allows you to look at how much money each of the 32 teams is spending for each position.
For example, even though the Vikings are still in need of a backup running back to take some of the burden from Adrian Peterson, something my colleague Mark Craig explored over the weekend, no team has committed more of their salary cap space to the running back position.
As of this morning, the Vikings had $61.28 million of their cap space allocated to offensive players and $52.93 million to defenders. Their three specialists combine for a $2.41 million cap figure.
Let’s run though the numbers and see how much the Vikings are paying at each position group.
Quarterback ($8.98 million, 20th in the NFL): The Vikings are spending $8.98 million at the quarterback position after bringing back Cassel with a two-year, $10.5 million deal. Christian Ponder, a former first-round pick turned clipboard-holder, has a cap hit of $3.23 million. A dozen teams are spending less at the position, including the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, which shows how helpful it can be to have a quality starting quarterback on a rookie deal.
Running back ($19.16 million, most in the NFL): The Vikings have the NFL’s best back in Peterson, but he also carries a premier contract. Peterson has a cap number of $14.4 million this season, the highest cap figure on the team and the highest among NFL running backs. And with $2.13 million on the cap, Jerome Felton is carries one of the highest figures among fullbacks.
Wide receiver ($12.29 million, 21st in the NFL): Greg Jennings, in the second year of his contract, will count for $7 million against the cap. But the rest of the team's wide receivers combine to make just over $5 million. At $1.64 million, Cordarrelle Patterson should be bargain.
Tight end ($1.97 million, 30th in the NFL): Only two teams are spending less money on tight ends than the Vikings. In the final year of his rookie deal, Rudolph has a cap hit of $1.47 million.
Offensive line ($23.05 million, 17th in the NFL): The Vikings have one of the NFL's better pairs of starting offensive tackles in Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt, but they are only counting for a combined $11.14 million in salary cap space. Center John Sullivan has a cap hit of $4.75 million. The collective cap hits of those three will go up in 2015, but only about $3 million combined.
Defensive end ($16.59 million, ninth in the NFL): Despite letting long-time sack specialist Jared Allen walk in free agency, the Vikings still have a large amount of salary committed to this critical position. Griffen's $8.2 million cap figure is second on the team to only Peterson. Fellow starter Brian Robison, who also got a new deal from the Vikings, has a $5.7 million cap figure.
Defensive tackle ($11.27 million, 11th in the NFL): Joseph, the newcomer at nose tackle, has a cap figure of $5.75 million, fifth-highest on the Vikings roster. Sharrif Floyd, a 2013 first-round draft pick and the other projected starter at defensive tackle, carries a cap hit of $1.84 million.
Linebacker ($11.03 million, 24th in the NFL): The Vikings have a lot of youngsters at this position group, and those guys come relatively cheap. Veteran starter Chad Greenway, however, has a big cap number of $7.2 million, which ranks third on the Vikings behind Peterson and Griffen.
Cornerback ($9.81 million, 25th in the NFL): Munnerlyn was a significant signing for the Vikings, who needed a corner to play in the slot. But he carries a modest cap hit of just $3.33 million. Only one other Vikings cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, has a cap hit of more than $1 million. Derek Cox, a former starter in Jacksonville then San Diego, will make just $780,000.
Safeties ($6.40 million, 21st in the NFL): Starting strong safety Jamarca Sanford has a cap hit of $2.5 million, higher than starting free safety Harrison Smith, who has a $1.95 million cap figure.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will work out for the Vikings on Saturday at Winter Park, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter. It has also been reported that Bridgewater will be at the team's Top 30 gathering on Monday and Tuesday.
The Vikings had a private workout with Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on Friday, an NFL source confirmed to our Matt Vensel.
The team has been in contact with Garoppolo since the East-West Shrine game. From there, Garoppolo earned a spot on the Senior Bowl roster, where the Vikings again reached out to Garoppolo. He was also at the NFL Combine and Director of College Scouting Scott Studwell was at his Pro Day.
It’s noteworthy that offensive coordinator Norv Turner didn’t get a chance to watch Garoppolo at the East-West game or at the Senior Bowl. His son, quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, was at the Senior Bowl as head coach Mike Zimmer was assembling his coaching staff.
While Garoppolo did throw at the Combine, where he measured at 6-2 and 226 pounds, but this could be Turner’s first shot of watching Garoppolo in person. The Walter Payton Award winner for FCS most outstanding player led the FCS with 5,050 passing yards.
The Vikings met with LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger on Thursday following his Pro Day. They’ll remain busy next week with their “Top 30” event scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
The NFL released its preseason schedule on Wednesday, which -- unless you are the rare fan who gets geeked up for exhibition games -- is noteworthy because it means the regular season schedule will be unveiled soon, too. The NFL hasn’t yet said when, but it should be in the next two weeks.
We do know who the Vikings will be playing this season. And where. We just don’t know when.
The Vikings play the NFC South in 2014. They last drew that division in 2011 as they rotate through the different NFC divisions every three years. They host the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons at TCF Bank Stadium and will travel to play the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They play the AFC East for the first time since 2010. The New England Patriots and New York Jets will come to the Twin Cities and the Vikings will travel to play the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
They also play the St. Louis Rams (on the road) and the Washington Redskins (at home) because those two teams, like the Vikings, finished last in their respective NFC divisions in 2013.
And, of course, the Vikings will play each of their NFC North rivals twice.
Only four opponents were playoff teams in 2013: the Packers (twice), Panthers, Saints and Patriots.
We will break down the opponents in greater detail once the schedule is announced, but here is the quick rundown of their home and road opponents this season (with 2013 records in parenthesis).
HOME: Bears (8-8), Lions (7-9), Packers (8-7-1), Falcons (4-12), Panthers (12-4), Patriots (12-4), Jets (8-8) and Redskins (3-13).
AWAY: Bears (8-8), Lions (7-9), Packers (8-7-1), Saints (11-5), Buccaneers (4-12), Bills (6-10), Dolphins (8-8) and Rams (7-9).
UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr and Louisville inside linebacker Preston Brown will both visit the Vikings for their “top 30” event on Monday and Tuesday, according to two NFL sources.
Barr could be an option for the Vikings with their eighth overall pick. The projected first round pick switched from running back to linebacker two years ago and started every game during his junior and senior seasons. Barr was a first-team All-American last year and led the Bruins in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (20).
Listed at 6-5 and 255 pounds, Barr ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds and finished the three-cone drill in 6.82 seconds, third among linebackers.
Brown led the Cardinals with 98 tackles last season. The second-team All-AAC linebacker posted 13 tackles in Louisville's Sugar Bowl victory over Florida in 2011. Listed at 6-1 and 251 pounds, Brown ran the 40-yard dash in 4.86 seconds. NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki described Brown as an “aggressive, high-collision Mike linebacker best paired with a demanding position coach who will extract the most from him.”
Adam Zimmer is the Vikings' linebackers coach and could fit that description if he's like his father, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings have a need at linebacker heading into the draft. They signed Jasper Brinkley to a one-year deal in free agency as they seek two starters to play alongside Chad Greenway. The Vikings have three young, but still unproven, linebackers in Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti on the roster.
Along with Brown, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is expected to attend the event according to ESPN.
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