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 Visanthe Shiancoe

Market moves: How the Vikings have handled free agency to date

Posted by: Updated: March 29, 2012 - 2:39 PM

It’s been 16 days now since free agency opened across the NFL. Here’s your comprehensive report on how the Vikings have operated in the market over the past two-and-a-half weeks.

RE-SIGNED

 
Erin Henderson
Leslie Frazier loves Henderson’s energy, growth potential and position flexibility at linebacker. Henderson is pleased with his new one-year, $2 million deal and hopes a superb 2012 will lead to a much bigger pay day next March.
 
Letroy Guion
The Remi Ayodele experiment at nose tackle was a failure. Now the 24-year-old Guion will get a shot to flourish in a leading role there. In what will be an under-the-radar storyline but important nonetheless, Guion’s development under new defensive line coach Brendan Daly will be worth monitoring.
 
Devin Aromashodu
After a 26-catch, 468-yard season in 2011, Aromashodu will be back for another year. The Vikings have no plans on making him a featured offensive weapon but believe he can be a valuable contributor on the perimeter.
 
Sage Rosenfels
Starting quarterback Christian Ponder is 24 and entering his second season. Back-up Joe Webb is 25 and entering his third season. Rosenfels may be highly unlikely to see the field on game days – he hasn’t thrown a pass in a game since 2008 – but the Vikings feel his veteran presence and intelligence will provide a healthy environment for their two other young signal callers to learn in.
 
Fred Evans
Evans is entering his sevent season and will be asked to push Guion at nose tackle.
 
NEW ADDITIONS
 
John Carlson
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is tweaking his playbook for the new two Notre Dame tight end sets. The pairing of Carlson with Kyle Rudolph should add a new dimension to the offense. Musgrave and General Manager Rick Spielman expect Carlson to be fully recovered after missing all of 2011 due to  a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
 
Zack Bowman
The flashes of brilliance Bowman showed in 2009 when he had six interceptions with the Bears were enough to convince the Vikings to roll the dice. Working with head coach Leslie Frazier and new defensive coordinator Alan Williams, both of who have good track records developing defensive backs, may provide Bowman a boost at corner.
 
Geoff Schwartz
Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson vouched for Schwartz’s talents, having coached him in 2009 and 2010 in Carolina. Like Carlson, Schwartz missed all of 2011; he had hip surgery. But he has an ability to help at both guard and tackle and should enter training camp with an opportunity to compete for a starting spot inside.
 
Lex Hilliard
Hilliard received his Vikings’ internal vote of confidence from running backs coach James Saxon, with whom he worked in Miami in 2009 and 2010. He has value as a multi-dimensional fullback.
 
Jerome Felton
Drafted in the fifth round in 2008 by Detroit, Felton is entering his fifth season with his fourth different team and will compete for a job at fullback.
 
STILL OUT THERE
 
Husain Abdullah
Abdullah missed the final seven games of 2011 after suffering his second concussion of the season and fourth in two years. Durability is a concern. But the Vikings have offered Abdullah a contract and a chance to come back. The dependable safety is currently mulling the offer.
 
E.J. Henderson
Odds are good Henderson will be separated from his younger brother. He’s 32, entering his 10th NFL season and spent much of last year dealing with nagging knee pain. But E.J. has yet to sign elsewhere and the Vikings say they’ll leave the door open a crack for a possible return – but only if they can get him to accept a lessened role and a discount deal.
 
GONE
 
Visanthe Shiancoe
With Carlson on board, Shiancoe’s five-year run in Minnesota (208 catches, 2,424 yards, 24 TDs) is over.
 
Kenny Onatolu
A linebacker who was at his best on special teams, Onatolu has signed a new deal with the Panthers.
 
Lorenzo Booker
Ball security was an issue last season with Booker stumbling in his limited opportunities as a tailback and kick returner.
 
Greg Camarillo
The veteran receiver is still on the open market but doesn’t help the Vikings address any of their needs.
 
Tyrell Johnson
The Vikings’ second-round pick in 2008, Johnson never really broke through and ended last season on injured reserve after tearing a hamstring.
 
Benny Sapp
Sapp’s seven-game return to Minnesota late last season came only after the Vikings’ secondary went through major attrition. Prior to signing, Sapp had spent the previous nine weeks out of football. He might want to get used to that lifestyle again.
 
Jarrad Page
Another late-season addition in 2011, Page arrived in Week 13 and was simply a crutch to help the Vikings stumble to the finish line of a miserable season. Earlier this month, Page signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
 
Xavier Adibi
The young linebacker barely saw the field in 2011, his first and likely only season with the Vikings.
 
Matt Katula
Brought in after long snapper Cullen Loeffler broke a bone in his back, Katula was erratic. Kicker Ryan Longwell missed two field goal attempts and a PAT during Katula’s five-game stay.
 
Scott Kooistra
Kooistra, an offensive lineman, suffered a serious and potentially career-ending neck injury in the first preseason game last season.
 
It’s also worth mentioning that since March 10, the Vikings have released a quartet of veterans: cornerback Cedric Griffin, guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera and defensive tackle Remi Ayodele.
 
WISH LIST GOING FORWARD
  • A standout left tackle.
  • A dynamic receiver who can provide a vertical threat to the passing game.
  • Lots and lots of safety help. The only safeties currently under contract are Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford and Eric Frampton.
  • Additional help at cornerback – though at full strength, the nucleus of Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Asher Allen, Zack Bowman and Marcus Sherels should steady a shaken unit.
  • A reliable No. 3 running back who can backup Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart.
  • Added depth at linebacker.

Carlson to visit, would make intriguing TE combo

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: March 14, 2012 - 9:43 AM

It's not the splash that Vikings fans were hoping for, but Day 2 of free agency will bring possibly the best young tight end available to Winter Park for a visit. The news was first reported by TheSidelineView.com.

John Carlson, a Litchfield, Mn. native who has played his four NFL seasons in Seattle, would make an intriguing tight end combination if he chooses to return to his home state. A second-round pick of the Seahawks in 2008, Carlson, 27, would team with fellow Notre Dame alum Kyle Rudolph, a second-round pick of the Vikings in 2011.

As Vikings fans know, the Vikings love multiple tight-end sets. Carlson would replace Visanthe Shiancoe, who turns 32 in June. Shiancoe is a free agent and won't return because he's on the wrong side of the over-30 purge taking place at Winter Park.    

Carlson, like Rudolph, is considered a pass-catching tight end. Carlson had 55 catches and five touchdowns as a rookie in 2008. He had 55 catches and seven TDs a year later. He then had 31 catches and one touchdown in 2010 before a shoulder injury caused him to miss the 2011 season.

In other free agent news, former Vikings right guard Anthony Herrera will visit the Bears. This is a no-brainer visit. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice basically discovered Herrera in 2004. Tice was the Vikings' head coach when Herrera was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee.

Herrera's NFL success has been fueled ever since by the snub he felt on that draft day eight years ago. Although Herrera doesn't mesh with the youth movement at Winter Park, he could definitely help a Bears line that has struggled, to say the least.

Free agent frenzy: Top players on the shelf at every position

Posted by: Updated: March 13, 2012 - 8:44 AM

Looking for a quick guide to NFL free agency, which opens this afternoon at 3 p.m.? We've got you covered. Already, our analysis at the Star Tribune has brought you the following.

Finally, just to prime the pump even more, we're happy to direct you to the list of the top free agents at each position delivered by NFL.com senior writer Steve Wyche. And then there's this "Hot 100" list provided by Evan Silva of ProFootballTalk.com.

Yep. It's time. Let the free agency frenzy begin.

Rick Spielman faces big decisions with potential roster moves

Posted by: Updated: March 10, 2012 - 9:38 AM

Rick Spielman? As Michael Corleone? Take a look and we’ll explain.

 

 
As the Vikings’ new general manager, this is the line Spielman must have at the ready. Especially now, this weekend, when hard decisions must be made.
 
Free agency will open across the NFL on Tuesday at 3 p.m. To prepare for that open market frenzy, teams have already begun making significant roster moves. The Giants, for example, released veteran running back Brandon Jacobs on Friday. In Indianapolis, the Colts’ roster overhaul included the release of Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Melvin Bullitt and Gary Brackett.
 
Nothing personal. Strictly business.
 
So what should we be monitoring for Spielman and the Vikings as they make a series of important business decisions? Logic says that as Spielman moves forward with his promise to make the roster much younger, veterans with big contracts should be on alert for a call to discuss their futures. Here’s a snapshot look at the top four candidates for such calls.
 
Steve Hutchinson
Why a call may be necessary: Hutchinson is due to make close to $7 million in 2012 in the final year of his contract, a price the Vikings absolutely do not want to pay for a 34-year-old lineman with 11 NFL seasons of mileage on his odometer. So now comes the tricky part of negotiations. Just how much would Hutchinson have to restructure his contract for the Vikings to keep him around? And will he be amenable to taking a major pay cut? If not, the Vikings would have no choice but to release Hutchinson, who would then have to decide whether to find a new team or simply retire.
 
What could happen: There’s been widespread belief that the 2012 season will be Hutchinson’s last. And at 34 with six seasons under his belt in Minnesota, it’s hard to imagine he’d be all that ecstatic about starting anew someplace else for what could be nothing more than an eight-month tour of duty on the march to retirement. So now Spielman and the Vikings have to decide how low the price would have to fall for them to want Hutchinson back as a veteran leader on the interior of the o-line.
 
Cedric Griffin
Why a call may be necessary: Griffin had an awful season in 2011. He struggled mightily in coverage and his confidence seemed to dip substantially throughout the second half of the season, leading up to his outright benching in Week 14 in Detroit. By season’s end, it seemed clear that Griffin’s days in the Twin Cities were numbered, the veteran cornerback looking for a change of scenery and an escape from a situation that seemed to grow quite toxic through last year’s struggles.
 
What could happen: Due to make more than $4 million in 2012 with a contract that runs through 2014 Griffin should be set free. The environment in Minnesota soured too much at the end of 2011 for a second chance in ’12 to have much realistic value. Yes, the Vikings are low on depth in their defensive backfield at present and are still awaiting a verdict in the felony domestic assault trial of cornerback Chris Cook. But even keeping Griffin around as an insurance policy doesn’t seem to make much sense.
 
Anthony Herrera
Why a call may be necessary: Like Hutchinson, Herrera doesn’t fit the profile for the youth movement Spielman wants to enact. He’s played eight seasons and has provided the Vikings’ offensive front with an admirable measure of toughness and tenacity, a big reason he’s a favorite of head coach Leslie Frazier. But Herrera is due to make $2.65 million in 2012, another expense that would be worth chopping if at all possible.
 
What could happen: If the Vikings are dead set on taking Southern Cal left tackle Matt Kalil with the No. 3 pick in next month’s draft, that means Charlie Johnson is likely to slide inside from left tackle to one of the guard positions. The Vikings also have starting guard candidates in Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco (a Spielman favorite). Chris DeGeare is also around to provide depth. Translation: from a financial standpoint, it certainly wouldn’t be prudent to keep both Hutchinson and Herrera around with the team in rebuilding mode. It also wouldn’t be a shock if both guards were thanked for their services and shown the door.
 
Antoine Winfield
Why a call may be necessary: Winfield is another long-in-the-tooth veteran with a hefty paycheck. A call to the talented cornerback with a request to restructure his deal wouldn’t be outlandish. But it’s certainly far from necessary.
 
What could happen: Likely nothing. Winfield has been around Winter Park often during the offseason as he continues rehabilitation from the season-ending collarbone injury he suffered in Week 9 in Green Bay. Frazier sees him as a smart and energetic veteran leader for a secondary that could badly use some smarts and energy. Winfield will likely be used often in a nickel role going forward with Frazier having no designs on converting him into a safety. And his value to the secondary was proven in the 11 games he missed last season
 
It’s also worth noting that the Vikings have 18 other players whose contracts will expire when the new league year begins Tuesday. Of that group, only five were significant contributors this past season – tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, linebackers E.J. Henderson and Erin Henderson, safety Husain Abdullah and receiver Devin Aromashodu.
 
Odds are that Shiancoe and E.J. Henderson will both be allowed to test the open market and will likely move on. The Vikings would love to re-sign Erin Henderson and may try hard to get something done before Tuesday. They also have a difficult decision with Abdullah, who is a low-maintenance and intelligent defensive back but has had four concussions over the past two seasons. That gives the fifth-year safety a bright red stamp as a medical risk and the Vikings will have to negotiate accordingly.
 
Aromashodu? He too will be allowed to test the open market after a 2011 season in which he caught 26 passes for 468 balls. If the Vikings decide to ultimately bring him back for 2012, it will have to be at a reasonable price. But Aromashodu will not be a top priority for Spielman in the coming days.
 
It’s not personal. Strictly business.

Vikings sign offensive lineman Pat Brown to one-year extension

Posted by: Updated: February 8, 2012 - 1:56 PM

The Vikings have signed offensive lineman Pat Brown to a one-year contract extension. Brown was set to become an exclusive rights free agent next month. But that designation basically means that, due to Brown's two-year tenure in the NFL, the Vikings would have been the only team in the league able to sign him for 2012. Which they have now done.

Brown saw limited action last season, playing mostly on special teams. He was originally undrafted out of Central Florida in 2009.

The Vikings now have 17 players due to become free agents when the market opens on the afternoon of March 13. The most notable players on that list are linebackers E.J. Henderson and Erin Henderson, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, safeties Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson and receiver Devin Aromashodu.

Running back Lorenzo Booker and linebacker Kenny Onatulu are both set to become restricted free agents, which will give the Vikings an opportunity to match offers that come from other teams.

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