VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: Vikings Honing In On DB Trae Waynes

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: March 19, 2015 - 11:18 AM

It’s interesting how the wheels keep on turning leading up to the NFL Draft. A month ago, the chips were falling and it was Brandon Scherff who was lining up for the Vikings with the 11th overall selection. Two weeks later, an apparent Louisville Cardinal reunion was in the works with WR Devante Parker slipping back to the 11 spot. Most recently though, the projections seem to fit right in line with what the duo of Zimmer and Spielman have been looking to build in Minnesota.

Take a peek around the web and one of the names you’ll regularly see falling to the Vikings at pick number 11 is Michigan State defensive back Trae Waynes. Adding to the speculation, the Michigan State pro day was held in East Lansing Wednesday morning and it’s safe to say that the Minnesota Vikings were well represented at the midweek event.

While they’ve both been busy traveling independently to pro days around the country both general manager Rick Spielman and defensive mastermind head coach Mike Zimmer were among the cohort of NFL representatives on hand to observe what the Spartans had to offer to this year’s NFL Draft class. Having both of them in attendance tips their hand a bit showing that there is something of great interest among the field. While the team doesn’t speak on the record about players’ performances leading up to the draft, one of Waynes’ former teammates at Michigan State made it seem like Waynes stole the show and turned some heads.

I think he just sealed the deal,” Bengals rookie Darqueze Dennard told the Detroit Free Press Wednesday. “I think he just showed all the scouts and coaches who came here to witness the pro day that he's the best cornerback, the best defensive back, coming into the draft.”

Waynes started 27 games over three years for the Spartans, appearing in 36. Opting for the NFL after his Junior season, Trae will lean on the 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed and 46 tackles recorded during his final season as he prepares to take the next step. By most accounts, his on field performance paired with his physical size (6’, 186lbs) is good enough to pin him as the first defensive back off the board this year.

Furthering the Vikings level of interest in pairing Waynes with third year DB Xavier Rhodes, the team has already scheduled an individual workout/meeting with him for mid April. But they’re not alone in that request. The Jacksonville Jaguars (3rd overall pick), Tennessee Titans (2nd overall pick) and Carolina Panthers (25th overall pick) have also requested meetings with the 22-year old prospect.

Waynes is a solid man-to-man defender but struggles from the same issue that Xavier Rhodes did early in his career, he’s pretty handsy and that won’t fly at the next level. Last season Rhodes started to figure it out a bit. Maybe that was the second-year growth curve, or maybe it was the implementation and coaching of Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Either way, Minnesota would be a good situation for Waynes to land within.

The prospect of pairing the 6’0” Waynes with the 6’1” Rhodes in the Vikings secondary will serve this team nicely in a division where tall receivers are the norm.

With six weeks to go between the first round of the NFL Draft and today, the deck will surely be shuffled again. When a guy runs a 4.31 forty as Waynes did (the second fastest time at the combine this year), heads are turned. When they are already on everybody’s radar, decisions are solidified.  All of that said, the Vikings at 11, are in a good position for Waynes to fall to them allowing them to get a great value pick, at a position of need, that will continue the projection of this team solidifying their defensive backfield and moving forward into the future.

 

VikesCentric: Opportunity knocks for Wright

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: March 17, 2015 - 10:06 AM

One of the many takeaways I have from the Vikings’ pair of splashy wide receiver transactions this past weekend is that Jarius Wright figures to be one of the primary beneficiaries. Opportunity is pounding on the door for Wright, and the timing couldn’t be better as he enters the final season of his rookie contract.

When I heard about the Vikings’ trade for Mike Wallace, I wasn’t surprised. Everyone knows they tried to land him in 2013 before he signed with the Dolphins – opting for “palm trees versus trees with no leaves” as Wallace mentioned in his conference call with media on Saturday.

My immediate thought upon hearing the Wallace news was, “I wonder what happens with Greg Jennings and his big contract now?” It didn’t take long to find out.

Once Jennings was let go, I had two primary responses: “I wonder if Chad Greenway is the next one up for a contract restructuring or release?” followed by “I wonder if Jarius Wright realizes he’s the No. 1 slot receiver on this team as of today?”

We’re still waiting to find out what the Vikings’ plans are for Greenway.

At this point, however, Wright has probably heard opportunity knocking. Or perhaps he heard his offensive coordinator Norv Turner tell Paul Allen on KFAN Monday morning that he likes where things are with the receiving corps, specifically mentioning Wright several times.

“I like our receiver situation. Jarius Wright came on and really played well the second half,” Turner proclaimed in response to a question about possibly of the Vikings still drafting a wide receiver.

When PA asked a follow-up question about the slot receiver situation, Wright was the player that Coach Turner pointed to immediately. “We ended up playing Jarius in the slot a great deal with Greg [Jennings] playing outside because that speed matchup was so good with Jarius,” Turner said, recalling the deep fades and deep crossing patterns Wright reeled in this past season.

“I like the fact that we can get Jarius’ speed in there [at the slot],” Turner added. “It’s a hard matchup, particularly if they want to start doubling people on the outside.”

Norv gets it. He’s forgotten more about NFL offenses than you or me, or most humans, will ever know. He realizes the NFL is built on creating matchup problems, and that’s what he views Jarius as – a problem for defenses, specifically if they opt to double-cover the speedy Wallace. The new guy’s speed is well-documented. It’s his calling card.

Remember, as Norv alluded to, Wright has some wheels, too. He recorded a 4.42 in the 40 during his combine workouts in 2012. Wright has parlayed that speed into explosive plays periodically throughout his three seasons with the Vikings, most notably in Week 14 this past season. His 87-yard game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Jets in December is the second-longest overtime passing touchdown in NFL history.

That big play against the Jets was the highlight of Wright’s best season to date. He finished 2014 with career highs in targets (62), receptions (42) and yards (588). Hardly breathtaking numbers, but he seemed to click with Teddy Bridgewater as a third or fourth receiving option for much of the season.

While Wright’s straight-line speed is undeniable, as Arif Hasan pointed out here at Vikings Journal, Wright doesn’t exactly measure up to Jennings in terms of diversity of routes. The Vikings saved themselves some salary cap room by releasing Jennings, but they also lost an accomplished, well-rounded, receiver and a good guy. That’s the price of doing business in today’s NFL.

Jennings’ departure is Wright’s gain. Wright is set to earn $1.54 million in 2015 and will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season. What better time to cash in on a golden opportunity? It certainly sounds like Turner has plans to continue leveraging his speed from the slot.

Then again, the Vikings still could take a wide receiver in the early rounds of the draft and alter Wright’s outlook in yo-yo fashion yet again. In my latest mock draft, I have the Vikings going with an offensive lineman in round one, but a wide receiver isn’t out of the question with that first pick. And this is a deep wide receiver class, so grabbing one in the subsequent rounds is absolutely an option should they go a different direction in round one.

For now, though, as we sit here on St. Patrick’s Day, Wright is the lucky one with a great opportunity.

Meanwhile, the Vikings’ PR team seems focused on diverting everyone’s attention away from the initial reports that Wallace wasn’t happy about being traded to the Vikings – and the frequent reports that that he’s a malcontent in general – with feel-good content intended to assure everyone that Wallace really likes it here.

Speaking of Vikings’ PR challenges, I can’t believe I made it through an entire post without mentioning a certain unhappy running back.

Go to VikingsJournal.com for a look at who the Vikings should be targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: The Wallace Trade Changes EVERYTHING for the Vikings

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: March 14, 2015 - 9:00 AM

Isn’t it amazing how the entire vibe of a free agency period can completely change in the span of one day? For the first 72 hours of free agency, the Vikings seemingly sat on their hands. Re-sign a couple of your own guys here, fill a void at backup quarterback there and let the rest of the league go wild. Then, out of the blue on a Friday night, Rick Spielman yells, “CANNONBALL” and completely changes the outlook of almost everything.

That was yesterday. Relatively quiet up to that point, the Vikings made a splash which sent ripples throughout the league on Friday night acquiring WR Mike Wallace and a 7th round pick from the Miami Dolphins for a 5th rounder.

If the trade sent ripples throughout the league, it sent a ten foot swell through the rest of the Vikings plans going forward. With one move, Spielman changes the trajectory of this team into the rest of free agency, the draft and then into the regular season.

Now, I don’t mean to make it seem as landing Wallace is like landing Moss of Rice in their prime. Afterall, he was only worth a 5th round pick to the Dolphins. But the ripple effect of Mike Wallace landing in Minnesota has not been completely felt yet and from what I can figure now, it’s going to be wide stretching.

Draft Strategy Shifts:
With the acquisition of a big name, speedy wide receiver, we can start to see the Vikings draft strategy with the 11th pick take shape a little bit. Following the tried and true, “take the best player on the board” theory, it doesn’t completely rule the Vikings out of drafting one of the high end wide receivers that could fall to #11, but it opens the door for other possibilities to become more of a reality.

Filling needs through free agency at the skill positions allows the Vikings to focus the draft on the core of their team, the offensive line and defense, which is exactly what you want to do. Look for the Vikings to walk away from that first round pick with someone to fill a void on the offensive line or maybe a linebacker or cornerback for defense. The name that continuously falls to Minnesota in many of the mocks is Brandon Scherff, the consensus best guard in this year’s draft.

If for some reason, Cooper or White are still on the board at #11 for the wide receivers, don’t be surprised if Rick leverages that position to trade back a little bit and acquire more picks for later.

Adrian Peterson Approach:
It’s yet to be seen exactly how the trade for Wallace will impact how the Adrian Peterson situation ultimately plays out, but adding talented skill players to an offense that at some times last year looked stale can only help.

Hundreds of fans and people who follow the team have already reached out to Wallace via Twitter encouraging him to reach out to Peterson and start bridging the gap that may remain.

Adding a dynamic player will obviously not change all of the issues that Adrian and his family have with the current team and the fan base in Minnesota, but when dealing with a competitor the level of Adrian Peterson, sometimes an influx of talent can heal wounds that words previously could not.

From the Vikings perspective, the pair of Peterson and Wallace will not demand $25.3MM of the cap (roughly 17.6% of the total cap) in 2015 and a whopping $26.5MM (2016) and $28.5MM (2017) into the future. That said, if you’re going to spend that type of money, those skill positions are where it’s generally thought to be okay to do so...as long as the return is somewhere in the neighborhood of the cost.

Offensive Gameplan Changes:
One of the downsides of last year’s offense was the lack of downfield threat, that was until the previously unknown Charles Johnson splashed onto the scene and helped Teddy open up the Vikings offense.

Now, in addition to what Charles Johnson can bring to the fold, the Vikings add a guy who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, averages 15.6 yards per catch throughout his career and has landed in the endzone a total of 47 times in his six year career.

This sort of outside speed should open up things for Teddy and the Vikings offense from the passing game to the run game. You can’t underestimate the value that a legitimate deep threat can bring to a team on the offensive side of the ball.

Cordarrelle Patterson:
In addition to Wallace’s impact on the offense as a whole, it may have a particularly strong impact on third year wideout, Cordarrelle Patterson.

Patterson crumbled under the pressure of filling in as the team’s #1 wide receiver last season and ultimately found himself benched half way through the year. A little extra work during the offseason and a little less attention with Wallace on the other side of the field and the hope is that this trade will allow Cordarrelle to have a bounceback season in 2015.

Cordarrelle has reportedly been working with his secret mentor during the off months and will soon join Teddy Bridgewater in Miami for individual offseason workouts. The hope is, that after an embarrassing sophomore season, the talented wide receiver will get a wake up call to take his job a little more seriously and come back ready to roll. This trade should help his cause.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this trade that belongs in this conversation as well. Wallace has always been known to be a bit of a head case and that was on full display during week 17 of the 2014 season as the wide receiver was benched for the final half of the game after a run in with the coaches. I wouldn’t say that having a guy like that ever helps a team, but if there’s a locker room around the league that could use a little uptick in attitude, and with it an uptick in swagger, it might be the Vikings locker room.

Regardless of the baggage that could be joining Wallace in Minnesota, there appears to be more positives than negatives for the Vikings after making this deal. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out, but as we sit today, this is a step in the right direction for your favorite franchise.

 

VikesCentric: Mock Draft 3.0

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: March 12, 2015 - 10:26 AM

The dust has settled somewhat from the crazy first wave of free agency, meaning it’s high time for another mock draft. And there’s nobody better at making a mockery of a mock draft than yours truly. See if you agree with my version 3.0 – specifically my pick at No. 11 for your Minnesota Vikings (spoiler alert: it’s a repeat pick).

I’ve stopped waffling with the top two picks in my mock drafts. Something weird would need to happen in order for me to change up my projected selections for the Buccaneers and Titans. After that, things get interesting. This really needs no further introduction. We all know how these mocks work, so let’s buckle up and get right to it.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston hasn’t screwed this up yet – so he’s sticking with the plan. He looked great at the combine, as expected, and hasn’t raised too many eyebrows with off-field comments or antics since the end of the Seminoles’ season. From the sound of it, the Buccaneers have vetted him well. He still has his doubters, but I think the Bucs are sold on their new franchise quarterback.

2. Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams, DE, USC
For the third mock in a row, I have Williams going to the Titans. The other possibility here, for all the obvious reasons, is Marcus Mariota, but in my scenario the Titans will ultimately decide to stick with Zach Mettenberger as the starter and then grab another quarterback in the middle rounds. Their last first-round quarterback (Jake Locker) might leave them a little gun shy. Most draftniks list Williams as the best overall player in this draft so it’s hard to see him slipping much past the second spot.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
I had the Jaguars going with Randy Gregory in my first two mock drafts and that could still happen. A wide receiver is also an option with Amari Cooper and Kevin White standing by impatiently waiting for their phones to ring. Jacksonville had a ton of room under the salary cap and has been active in the early stages of free agency, plugging some of its myriad roster holes. They could be in “best defensive player available” mode with this pick. If that’s the case, Fowler is a strong candidate.

4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
In my first mock draft I had Cooper sliding to 10 to the Rams. Then in my second mock draft I slotted him here with Oakland. I was tempted to change this pick to Kevin White, who pulled into a neck-and-neck race with Cooper for the title of “top wide receiver in the draft” on the strength of an eye-popping combine. Indeed, White could be the pick here, but Cooper still feels like the slightly safer play. I suppose that’s reason enough to change it to White, huh? We are talking about the Raiders here after all. Maybe in my next mock…

5. Washington Redskins – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Washington is in need of help on both the offensive and defensive lines -- as well as wide receiver, linebacker, maybe the secondary – you get the picture. Lots of issues here. Gregory seems like a good fit (for any team really) and should immediately upgrade the pass rush for Washington. He shouldn’t slide much past five if he even makes it this far.

6. New York Jets – Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
This is the spot where a lot of folks are projecting Marcus Mariota to land. It’s also where I had him going in my previous mock draft just over a month ago. Not anymore. It’s time to throw a curveball into this mockery and keep Mariota waiting in the Draft Day green room. Oddly enough, the Jets appear to be content to put their quarterback job in the hands of Geno Smith and let the recently acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick back him up. In fairness, Brandon Marshall will make whoever is under center better. New Jets head coach Todd Bowles is all about an attacking 3-4 defense. They got their shutdown cornerback back in the fold by throwing a giant wad of guaranteed money at Darrelle Revis. Now it’s time to add the edge rusher. Beasley was an early-to-mid first-round pick before tearing it up at the combine. I think this pick will come down to him or Shane Ray.

7. Chicago Bears – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Bears finished 30th in pass defense in 2014 and I had them selecting outstanding Alabama safety Landon Collins with this pick in each of my first two mock drafts. However, the signing of Antrel Rolle makes that less of a need. The switch to a 3-4 scheme will change the dynamic of their defensive line, and they cut defensive tackle Stephen Paea (who signed with Washington) so grabbing Shelton makes some sense here. An outside pass-rushing linebacker could also be a fit, and there are plenty of those at the top of his draft. Also worth considering: a wideout like Kevin White to replace the aforementioned Brandon Marshall.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
For the third mock draft in a row I have the Falcons taking an OLB/DE hybrid, and for the third mock draft in a row it’s someone different. Ray is going someplace in the top 10 and Atlanta is as good of a fit as any. The Falcons ranked last against the pass and next-to-last in sacks (22) in 2014. The need is obvious and Ray should help right away.

9. New York Giants – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Giants could use help on both sides of the ball and my temptation was to make Kevin White the pick here. I imagine Eli Manning would be cool with that. Can you imagine a tandem of White with Odell Beckham Jr., plus Shane Vereen catching passes out of the backfield? It could happen. But adding the guy who some feel has pulled even – or even surpassed – Brandon Scherff as the top offensive lineman in this draft also makes a great deal of sense. Give Eli better protection and just let him throw in the vicinity of ODB – he’ll catch it.

10. St. Louis Rams – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Kevin White slide ends here. This could also be Amari Cooper should a team like the Raiders opt to grab White earlier. Regardless, I think both wide receivers will wind up going in the top 10. The Rams could use some help along the offensive line as well, especially after letting Jake Long go. I just think the temptation of adding someone with bona fide No. 1 wideout upside will be too strong for the Rams to resist.

11. Minnesota Vikings – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
For the second mock draft in a row, I have the Vikings slated to select Scherff. Truthfully, he might not drop this far. The Rams, Giants, Bears and Redskins are all candidates to take him. However, if Scherff does slide this far I don’t see how the Vikings could pass him up. The Vikes struck out in their efforts to land Clint Boling to plug the hole at left guard, meaning right now that job would go to the likes of Joe Berger or David Yankey. Lining one of them up next to Matt Kalil is a little unsettling. Wide receiver Devante Parker remains a possibility with this pick, as does a top cornerback such as Trae Waynes. However, it feels like the Vikings are intent on finding defensive back help in free agency, as they have been linked to several names. They’ve also reportedly been linked or checked in on a handful of free agent wide receivers. My next mock draft could have a different name next to the Vikings’ pick depending on how free agency shakes out, but for now I’m sticking with the big man from Iowa.

I now direct you to VikingsJournal.com for a look at the rest of this mock draft. Find out where players like Marcus Mariota, Melvin Gordon and Maxx Williams are projected to land. The entire first round was simply too long to post here at VikesCentric.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: New league year begins--let's go Boling

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: March 10, 2015 - 10:36 AM

Welcome to the new league year for the NFL. All day long there should be signings, rumors of signings, trades, moves that didn’t take place, player movement galore and a lot of excitement for fans if their team is active. I am hoping for the Vikings to make at least one move (well, several) that we can sink our teeth into. Start the countdown to 3 p.m.

I am still smiling at the move the Vikings made last month—signing former Green Bay Packer tight end Brandon Bostick. It’s not a crucial signing for the fortunes of the franchise, but it is significant on other levels.

Bostick became the face of Packers fans’ misery when he bobbled the onside kick in the NFC Championship game, leading to the Green Bay loss to Seattle. Did he make a mistake that eventually led to the loss (like a lot of Packer mistakes that day), yes, but no career should be made or lost on one play.

The fact that he was receiving death threats on his twitter feed as a result made it even more crucial that he be taken out of his situation in Green Bay, and where better to go than Green Bay West: the Minnesota Vikings. Hopefully he can revitalize his career and become a decent backup to Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota.

But as the new league commences, just which players are on the Vikings’ free agent wish list? On Sunday there were ESPN reports of the Vikings being interested Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer (who may now be headed to Houston) and Arif Hasan broke news on Vikings Territory that the Vikings plan to pursue Denver safety Rahim Moore.

The Star Tribune’s Matt Vensel reported that the Vikings reached out to free-agent safety Taylor Mays (who once played for Zimmer in Cincinnati), and they reportedly have interest in Tampa Bay defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

Even more interesting, the Vikings reportedly reached out to the representation for San Francisco guard Mike Iupati, according to the Pioneer Press, but it’s possible the Vikings heard the asking price and then looked elsewhere. We will learn more on those stories as the day progresses.

The Vikings have also reportedly been negotiating with journeyman quarterback Shaun Hill, who has made several stops around the NFL (St. Louis, San Francisco and Detroit), including his first one in Minnesota. Hill would fit in nicely in the backup role to Teddy Bridgewater, which was vacated by the trade of Matt Cassel.

The Vikings did re-sign three of their own free agents—defensive tackle Tom Johnson to a three-year contract and one-year deals for long snapper Cullen Loeffler and running back Matt Asista. But they still have plenty of holes to fill. I see those holes as (in no particular order) offensive line, backup quarterback, wide receiver, secondary, linebacker and defensive line--and running back if Adrian Peterson doesn’t return.

So who would I like to see the Vikings target and announce will be the next new NFL vet in Purple? I doubt the Vikings would spend a lot of stupid money right out of the game for big names like Ndamukong Suh (who is reportedly headed to Miami for around $114 million and $60 million guaranteed). I believe the Vikings will be more measured and get value for their free agent dollars.

For me, the biggest offseason concern has been the offensive line, made even more so by the release of guard Charlie Johnson and the potential loss of Joe Berger (there are reports that he and the Vikings are not close on a contract)--which makes the Iupati news intriguing. I’ve long thought the Vikings should take a lineman with their first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, but I have backed away from that a bit, thinking wide receiver might be the way to go in the draft. Therefore, the most pressing need is a guard to replace Johnson (plus retaining Berger for depth) and the player I have my eye on is Cincinnati guard Clint Boling (who is the number three player on Hasan’s Vikings Journal free agent round up).

On Monday, the Pioneer Press reported that the Vikings were making a big push for Boling, and that Boling had reciprocated the interest. And that is great news if the Vikings eventually move on Boling on Tuesday.

There are other guards on the board that will garner more attention (Iupati from San Francisco, who is rumored to be heading to Arizona and Orlando Franklin from Denver, who apparently will sign with San Diego), but they will also attract a bigger contract. Boling is a good player, brings youth and power to his position and could be provide great value in the free agent market.

Boling is coming off his fourth season in Cincinnati (and certainly Zimmer is familiar with him blocking his former defensive line while with the Bengals). Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade on the 2014 season of +4.1—which is an upgrade over Johnson at -12.1, right guard Vladimir Ducasse -14.1 and even Berger at 3.3. Here’s what PFF had to say about Boling:

“A key cog in the Bengals’ offensive line since his sophomore season in 2012, Boling turned in his best season as a run blocker this season though his pass protection failed to match his first two seasons as a starter. From their impressive Week 11 victory in New Orleans, Boling earned a run block grade of +1.5 or higher in five out of six games. Prior to that he had only earned a single game run block grade that high twice in his career.

“If Boling can pair that run blocking form with his pass protection from 2012 and 2013 then Boling will be a guard on the rise over his next contract. However, if he moves away from Cincinnati and the Bengals quick release offense then his pass protection will come under greater scrutiny.”

Boling has the skills for both run blocking and pass blocking, and Vikings quarterback Bridgewater has shown the ability to adjust to whatever kind of protection he receives. Boling would provide an immediate upgrade and perhaps even help left Matt Kalil (who some speculated suffered from playing next to an aging Johnson at times last season) to take a step forward in his development.

Boling is coming off his four-year rookie contract with a cap hit of $1,551,362 last season. He’s likely looking to at least double that salary and if he plays his cards right should get more—certainly he will have other suitors. Johnson is $2.5 million off the cap, so the Vikings should expect to pay a decent amount more for a free agent at the position. I would like to see them do it and get a youthful player with some veteran experience without breaking the bank--and Boling is the guy.

A splash on the offensive line early in free agency with a player who is a proven run blocker might even excite Adrian Peterson enough to consider returning to Minnesota next season. Then again, maybe not. But I would still enjoy seeing the upgrade on the offensive line.

VikesCentric: The Best Options To Backup Teddy

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: March 7, 2015 - 8:57 AM

With the trade of backup quarterback Matt Cassel to Buffalo earlier this week, the Vikings are currently left with two quarterbacks technically under contract, Teddy Bridgewater and practice squader Pat Devlin. That’s a problem, but the Vikings must have some sort of plan...right?

Reports surfaced Friday evening that former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson might be interested in making a return to the Vikings after a successful backup stint with the Seahawks in Seattle. Seriously speaking though, who are the Vikings going to bring in to backup Teddy Bridgewater? Here are some of the options...

Christian Ponder -
We should probably start and stop the conversation here. While Christian would be a viable option at backup, that page has turned for both sides and Christian will be looking for a new start, with a new team, in a new city this year.

Brian Hoyer -
Familiar with Norv Turner and his offensive styles, Brian Hoyer would be a great fit to slide right in and have an impact as the backup for the Vikings. One problem...Brian Hoyer still thinks he’s a starting quarterback and the Vikings don’t have room for two starting quarterbacks on their roster. Hoyer would also come with a higher price tag and as much as the Matt Cassel deal may have been to accumulate draft picks, it was as much about shaving some money from the top as well.

Mark Sanchez -
Say what you will about Mark Sanchez. Yes, the “butt fumble” will forever be a part of his legacy, but Sanchez stepped into a tough spot in Philly last year and won them some big games. He’s longer in the tooth now and is projected to sign for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.25MM, roughly half of what Cassel was making. He’s been there and seen almost everything that this league has to offer and strangely enough could help mentor Teddy in his own special way.

Jake Locker - 
One of the more intriguing options, Jake Locker brings a lot of Christian Ponder to the table with him. As Paul Allen explained on KFAN this week, both Locker and Ponder were battered and beaten early in their career and never really recovered. It might serve both of them well to get a new start in 2015. Locker is on the younger side but the upside remains with him, so does the higher price tag. You’re talking somewhere in the ballpark of $3.5-$4MM for Locker to join the Vikes.

Matt Moore -
Maybe an interesting option, but Moore will demand more than Matt Cassel was going to make in 2015 (north of $5MM) and that’s not happening, sorry Matt.

Tarvaris Jackson -
Seriously start to think about this. First Torii Hunter, then Kevin Garnett, the Jordan Leopold AND THEN Tarvaris Jackson rides back into town on his trusty steed too!?! I don’t know if I can handle it! In all seriousness though, when I use my brain, which is pretty seldom, T-Jack might make the most sense here. He’s a veteran backup who knows his role as the backup is to mentor and be there just in case, not to compete for the starting gig. He’d demand just over $1MM and could be a nice little stopgap for the time being just in case Teddy gets hurt. There’s the obvious familiarity with the organization and Rick Spielman which also helps and the well-oiled pipeline that has sent players to and from Minneapolis and Seattle is still up and running. Dust off your old #7 jerseys, this could be a reality.

And then there’s…
Michael Vick, Blaine Gabbert, Shaun Hill, Ryan Mallet and TJ Yates. I clump all of these guys together because they deserve to be mentioned, but either because of money demanded, style of play or mental makeup I don’t see them being a good fit for the Vikings and Teddy Bridgewater.

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If I were a betting man, I might start to piling my money up behind the Tarvaris return camp. It makes too much sense to not have any legs. Secondarily, don’t count out Mark Sanchez because of the butt fumble. Infamous yes, but if he can overcome seeing that on Sportscenter for the better part of a year and still bounce back to be solid with Philly last year, there’s something there.

 

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