If the Vikings are going to get to the Super Bowl with their current group of veteran players, they better do it this year.
Why is that the case?
The Vikings will have 17 players who can become unrestricted free agents after the season, including most of their defensive line. Starters Kevin Williams, Jared Allen and Brian Robison are among those not under contract for 2014, and those are players who will be very difficult to replace.
So the team will have to find a way to retain as many players at key positions as it can without going over the salary cap.
Everson Griffen, who doesn’t start on the defensive line but last year developed into one of the best defensive players on the team, is on the list, too. As is backup running back Toby Gerhart, who is so valuable as a fill-in for Adrian Peterson. Another key player who will be a free agent is Charlie Johnson, who had a banner year after moving to left guard from left tackle in 2012.
Starting cornerback Chris Cook is just coming around as a player and had a good season last year. Others who can go with another team after this season include defensive backs A.J. Jefferson and Jacob Lacey; defensive linemen Fred Evans, Lawrence Jackson and George Johnson; linebacker Marvin Mitchell; wide receivers Jerome Simpson and Joe Webb; and offensive linemen Joe Berger and Seth Olsen.
Percy Harvin would have been on that list as well had he not been traded to Seattle.
Fortunately for the Vikings, they have the best salary cap and player contract negotiator in the NFL in Rob Brzezinski, who has solved challenges like this before and will do it again.
Happy with Dozier
This past week, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was asked his opinion on how Brian Dozier is doing at second base.
Dozier entered Saturday hitting .212 with an on-base percentage of .258, not very good numbers for someone hitting out of the leadoff spot. His defense has been pretty good, although he made a throwing error in the first inning that led to a Boston run in Friday night’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Red Sox.
“He is doing a decent job,” Ryan said. “I mean, he’s leading off for us and we certainly could use the offense that he could provide. The one thing that Dozier has done is he’s been very consistent in the field and done a nice job over there making the plays. Hopefully we can get him to build on the offensive side of the game because he’s a pretty well-rounded player. I don’t think he has hit his stride on the offensive side yet, but I’m hoping and I think he probably will.”
Brian Bobek, the Gophers offensive lineman who had to sit out the 2012 season after transferring from Ohio State, missed the second part of spring practice because he had a viral infection that dealt with the heart.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said the team is being very cautious with Bobek’s recovery but remains hopeful.
“We’re certainly going to be cautionary with what we do; he’s seeing somebody very good,” Kill said. “He gets checked up I believe here in about three or four weeks. But we’re not going to take a chance with those types of things, but we’re cautiously optimistic that he’ll be ready to go.”
Bobek, a 6-2, 282-pound player from Inverness, Ill., has three years of eligibility, having left the Buckeyes after one season.
Jones goes against Okafor
Apple Valley point guard Tyus Jones had an impressive run last weekend with the Howard Pulley Panthers at the Nike EYBL session in Dallas. The Panthers went 2-2 overall and Jones was great, shooting 63.2 percent from the floor (36-for-57) and averaging 25.5 points and 5.0 assists per game.
Jones also got to face off against Jahlil Okafor, whom ESPN has ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, with Jones at No. 2. It has long been rumored that Jones and Okafor will attend the same college. The Panthers lost to Okafor’s MAC Irvin Fire 86-67. Jones scored 25 points on 9-for-19 shooting and had five assists, while Okafor, a 6-10 center from Chicago Whitney Young, had 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting with 10 rebounds.
Okafor wrote about the game in a blog for USA Today, saying: “The highlight of the weekend was definitely playing against my boy Tyus. Everyone knows that we are gonna play together in college so it was fun to play against each other. There was definitely a lot of trash-talk going on! When I was in the layup line, Tyus’ mom, aunt and uncle were on the sideline asking me if I was sure I was ready for this. That was funny!”
• Mortenson Construction Senior Vice President John Wood reported that Dave Mansell, who did a great job supervising the construction of Target Field, will also be the foreman in the building of the Vikings stadium.
• It’s interesting that Joe Coleman will transfer from the Gophers men’s basketball team because his uncle Ben Coleman also played for the Gophers from 1979 to ’81 before transferring to Maryland, where he played his final two seasons before having a long NBA career.
• Adam Brett Walker II, the star Twins outfield prospect who entered Saturday batting .289 with 10 homers and 45 RBI in 39 games for Class A Cedar Rapids, is the son of Adam Walker, a replacement Vikings running back during the 1987 NFL players strike. Walker is now the defensive coordinator at Concordia University in Mequon, Wis.
• The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story on MarQueis Gray’s attempt to win the second tight end spot on the 49ers roster. The former Gophers quarterback and receiver told the Chronicle that switching from receiver to tight end has been tough. “It’s more difficult because of the blocking techniques and the verbiage,” he said. “You have to be the quarterback of the line of scrimmage.” The Chronicle wrote, “Gray is off to a fair start on his assault to win a roster spot.”
• Former Timberwolves forward Gerald Green is playing a key role off the bench for the Pacers in their playoff series vs. the Knicks. He entered Saturday averaging 7.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 13 minutes per game this postseason.
• Former Gophers recruiting coordinator Dan Berezowitz is back in college football after two years away. He was hired as a recruiting coordinator at Kentucky, where the new coach is Mark Stoops. The two worked together at Arizona.