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.


Peterson, few others to receive 2013 team awards

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Vikings, Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, John Sullivan Updated: April 23, 2014 - 10:29 AM

Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Cordarrelle Patterson, John Sullivan and a Vikings rookie to be announced -- maybe Patterson again? -- will pick up some shiny hardware next weekend.

The Vikings will hand out their 2013 awards at the “Minnesota Honors Football” awards event May 4 at the Hilton Minneapolis. The Vikings are the presenting sponsor for the second straight year.

The event is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at www.nffmn.org.

Peterson, who rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns, was named their Offensive Player of the Year. Greenway, who led the team in tackles, was their Defensive Player of the Year. Patterson won the Special Teams Player of the Year award after averaging 32.4 yards per kickoff return and scoring two touchdowns. John Sullivan was the Community Man of the Year.

The team’s Rookie of the Year for 2013 has not been named. So who should it be?

Fifth-year options and draft-night dealing

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Percy Harvin 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.

Vikings 2014 schedule to be unveiled Wednesday

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: April 22, 2014 - 4:26 PM

The announcement to the announcement we’ve all been waiting for finally happened on Tuesday.

The NFL regular season schedule will be released on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN and NFL Network.

It was expected the schedule would be released sometime this week. The announcement of course is worthy of primetime television because, hey, it’s the NFL.

As a refresher, here’s the preseason schedule and regular season teams the Vikings will play:

Preseason

Week 1: vs. Oakland Raiders (Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.)

Week 2: vs. Arizona Cardinals (Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m.)

Week 3: at Kansas City Chiefs (Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.)

Week 4: at Tennessee Titans (Aug. 28 at 7 p.m.)

Regular season

HOME

NFC North (Bears, Lions, Packers)

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Washington Redskins

AWAY

NFC North (Bears, Lions, Packers)

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

St. Louis Rams

Schedule could dictate Florida meltdowns -- or not

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: April 22, 2014 - 11:53 AM

Your author has never been known to run around flapping his arms in giddy anticipation of the NFL releasing its schedule. Your author has often wondered, "Hmm, these people already know who and where their teams are playing. And chances are they're not sports writers praying for a MSP-to-MIA flight in DEC. So what gives? Other than the inherent irrational behavior defined in the term fan, why are these people so impatient over and excited about WHEN these games will be played?"

The NFL apparently will make its grand announcement at some point this week. So time is running out for your author to find a reason for his heart to skip a beat while anticipating the schedule release.

Desperate for an angle, he thought of a personal worst-case scenario: Vikings at Miami in September. Talk about, "Noooooooo!"

Plus, if you're a Vikings fan, you don't want the Purple heading to South Beach to bake in the September heat, do you? 

Well, upon further review, we discovered the Dolphins' once-dominant home-field advantage in that September heat melted away eight years ago.

The media in South Florida claim it started to fade when then-coach Nick Saban had a climate-controlld practice bubble built in 2006. Don Shula getting older and retiring might deserve some recognition up high somewhere.

Anyway, BB -- Before the Bubble -- the Dolphins were 44-9 at home in September from 1970 to 2006. AB -- After the Bubble -- they are 2-8 (although they were 1-0 last September). This 10-game flop at home in favorable elements includes:

. An 18-point loss to the Raiders.

. A loss to Brett Favre and the Jets during the 11-5 2008 season.

. A home-opening loss in 2010 after a 2-0 start on the road.

. A loss to the Patriots, who rolled up 622 yards in a prime-time blowout. Cornerback Benny Sapp was so bad in that game, he was released the next day. Weeks later, he ended up back in Minnesota for his second stint with the Vikings.

So maybe it really doesn't matter when the Vikings play the Dolphins. Uh, oh. Now what? Anybody know Tampa Bay's home record in September?

Decision on Ponder's option may not be easy

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: April 22, 2014 - 1:25 PM

The Vikings have until May 3 to decide whether to exercise their fifth-year option on Christian Ponder, and while the team’s 2011 top pick has not met expectations and could see the Vikings draft a new quarterback of the future next month, the decision could be tougher than you think.

By picking up Ponder’s option for 2015, the only risk they would be taking is that Ponder could get hurt, as his fifth-year salary would only be guaranteed if he suffered a major injury that lingered into the 2015 league year, which starts in March.

If Ponder is healthy at the end of 2014, they can sever ties without paying him a dime in 2015.

“If he continues to [play below expectations], all you do is after the Super Bowl and before the league year begins, just release him and you’re not on the hook for anything, assuming he is healthy,” said Joel Corry, a former agent who now analyzes the business of football for National Football Post. “It’s low risk from their standpoint. Some teams may not want to take the risk [in that situation], but I don’t think you’re exposing yourself that much if you exercise the option.”

It would be difficult -- at least one would think -- for Ponder to suffer a devastating injury if he was relegated to clipboard duty on Sundays. And if he plays well enough to legitimately take back the starting job, that could be a good thing, right?

The fifth-year options for first-round picks were a compromise between the owners and union when the current collective bargaining agreement was negotiated in 2011. Corry said they are team-friendly in that they are only guaranteed for injury, “so it gives you a window to figure out if you want to keep the guy around if it’s someone you’re not sure about.” Several teams have already exercised options on 2011 first-rounders such as Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green.

“For there not to be a fifth year, you didn’t play well or you are someone who has gotten into a bunch of off-the-field problems like Aldon Smith, whose option may not be picked up,” Corry said.

Corry said there will be a “feeling-out process” by NFL teams this year, as this is the first time the fifth-year options have come into play. The majority of them will be picked up. However, Ponder’s status appears to be one of the few option decisions that aren’t obvious slam dunks.

In three seasons, Ponder has thrown for 6,436 career yards with 38 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. The Vikings made the playoffs with him under center in 2012 but last season they finished in last place in the division after Ponder faltered and threw more picks than touchdowns. Durability has also been an issue for Ponder, who has been injured in each of his NFL seasons.

Deciding to roll the dice on Ponder staying healthy will be a ten-million-dollar decision -- well, $9.686 million to be exact. Under the new CBA, players like Ponder who were selected between the 11th and 32nd overall picks would carry a fifth-year option equal to the average of the third through 25th highest-paid players at their position (in this case, in 2014). Quarterback is obviously the NFL’s most lucrative position. For comparison sake, All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt’s fifth-year option for 2015 will cost just under $7 million.

But general manager Rick Spielman recently suggested that the Vikings haven’t made their minds up, and that makes sense because Ponder will get an opportunity to make a favorable impression on head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner at the team’s voluntary veteran minicamp next week. A strong week could help convince them to keep him around.

The Vikings have re-signed Matt Cassel and he is penciled in as the starter for now. The team also plans to select a quarterback at some point next month, perhaps even in the first round.

Corry said the best-case scenario is that Ponder rewards them for their faith by winning the starting job and finally becoming the quarterback they thought he would become, just like what Drew Brees did in San Diego a decade ago. The worst-case scenario, he said, would be Ponder emerging like that after the Vikings declined to pick up his option by May 3.

“They really don’t have a whole lot to lose,” Corry said. “Granted, anything can happen. Obviously it’s a violent sport and injuries occur. But the risk for injury really isn’t that great. That being said, if they didn’t exercise the option, I don’t think the fan base is going to be critical because his play hasn’t really warranted that type of salary for the option year.”

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT