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.
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.
Three days before the opening of free agency in the NFL, the Vikings have finalized three moves to begin their roster overhaul, releasing guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera and cornerback Cedric Griffin.
Since being elevated to general manager in January, Rick Spielman has made it very clear that the beginning stages of the team’s rebuilding project will involve a move to make the roster younger. Cutting ties with Hutchinson, who’s 34 years old, and Herrera (31) will accelerate that process. It will also free the Vikings from a pair of hefty contracts that may have become anchors as the team prepares to browse the free agent market early next week.
Hutchinson, who has played 11 NFL seasons including the past six with the Vikings, was scheduled to make close to $7 million next season in the final year of his contract. Herrera was due to make close to $2.7 million in the final year of his deal.
Instead, both guards have been thanked for their services to the Vikings – that’s 14 years between them – and will now move on.
Despite losing two tough and tenacious offensive linemen, the Vikings figure to have plenty of reinforcement at the guard position. Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier are both high on the abilities of Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco. Charlie Johnson, who played left tackle in 2011, will also likely move inside to guard if the team opts to draft Southern Cal’s Matt Kalil with the No. 3 pick in next month’s draft.
Chris DeGeare is another player who could bolster depth at the position.
Griffin's release was not surprising either. He struggled mightily in coverage in 2011 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.
Equally significant, the Vikings’ ability to free themselves from Hutchinson’s, Herrera’s and Griffin's salaries put the team in position to potentially make a big splash in free agency, where they expect to be somewhere in the ballpark of $23-24 million under the salary cap when the new league year begins Tuesday.
In a statement released by the Vikings, Frazier said: "It was a tough decision as we move forward and prepare for the upcoming season and the future of our organization. All three individuals have meant a great deal to the Vikings organization both on and off field over the years. We wish all of them the best and thank them for their service to the Minnesota Vikings."
Rick Spielman? As Michael Corleone? Take a look and we’ll explain.
Many thanks for the enthusiastic and intelligent participation earlier this afternoon on our Vikings live chat. A full transcript of that session is now available.
Meetings are taking place at Winter Park this week with the Vikings planning a detailed player-by-player evaluation of their current roster. As they perform their in-house review, we’re following suit and delivering our own snapshot evaluation of each position group.
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