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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Posts about Tyrell Johnson

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.


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.
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.
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.
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.
  • 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.

Franchise frenzy: As NFL stars get 'the tag,' Vikings' offseason plans may shift

Posted by: Updated: February 21, 2012 - 1:17 PM

We’re inevitably hearing a lot about franchise tags these days. On Monday, the window opened for all 32 NFL teams to stamp one player on their roster whose contract is set to expire with a franchise tag. The move allows organizations to more easily retain their premier talent. And while the Vikings have no real candidates to tag this year – don't forget, last season the team was able to complete long-term contract extensions for Adrian Peterson and John Sullivan – franchise tag designations across the NFL could ultimately have a ripple effect on general manager Rick Spielman’s offseason plans.

The deadline for teams to apply their 2012 franchise tag comes March 5, eight days before free agency opens.

With that in mind, here are four big-name players whose contract situations could impact the Vikings’ free agency hopes.

Drew Brees, Saints quarterback
Yep, New Orleans is currently having difficulty getting a new deal done for Brees, who has thrown for an average of 4,732 yards and 34 touchdowns in his six seasons as a Saint. And yes, this could have some small trickle-down effect on the Vikings.

First things first: Brees is not leaving New Orleans. But if the Saints continue to have trouble in their negotiations, they may have to use their franchise tag on Brees, which would then preclude them from tagging either guard Carl Nicks or receiver Marques Colston. Which is good news for the Vikings, who are in the market for a free agent receiver and would love to see the shelf stocked with as many talented pass-catching targets as possible.

It’s worth nothing that even if Brees gets a contract extension, some reports seem to indicate Nicks would be a more likely candidate than Colston to be franchised by New Orleans. And while the Saints will likely make efforts to keep Colston, it’s very possible he will hit the open market in three weeks, a 28-year-old with 449 career catches for 6,240 yards and 48 touchdowns.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs receiver
As we mentioned Monday, Kansas City’s signing of cornerback Stanford Routt means the Chiefs won’t be using their franchise tag on corner Brandon Carr, thus bumping Bowe to the front of the line for that designation. This does two things that could impact the Vikings. First, it means Carr will likely be a free agent worth pursuing if he can be had for the right price. He would certainly help bolster the Vikings' secondary. Second, it means Bowe would remain a Chief in 2012, taking him off the free agent receiver shelf. That's not good for the Vikings, who want to have as many receivers to pick from when they begin shopping in March. Still, don't discount the possibility that Kansas City doesn't use the franchise tag on anyone and instead allows Bowe to test the free agent market.

Dashon Goldson, 49ers safety
San Francisco has two talented defensive backs set to hit free agency next month: Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers. One of those two players will almost certainly get the franchise tag. But if the other one hits the open market, the Vikings would be wise to do their due diligence as they continue to rebuild a secondary that was atrocious in 2011. The needs at safety are obvious. The Vikings are almost certain to let Tyrell Johnson go in free agency. And the situation with free agent Husain Abdullah, a player the coaching staff loves, is complicated given Abdullah’s worrisome concussion problems. That leaves the Vikings with Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond and Eric Frampton as their only definite returning safeties with a major upgrade desired.

Goldson is coming off a Pro Bowl season. And while he has made it clear he wants to remain in San Francisco, contract negotiations with the organization haven’t always gone smoothly. Last year, Goldson settled for a one-year deal when a long-term extension couldn’t be agreed upon.

Rogers, meanwhile, had a solid 2011 season for a resurgent 49ers squad that finished fourth in the NFL in total defense and almost made the Super Bowl. Critics will point to his troubles containing Victor Cruz in the NFC Championship game as proof that his skills don’t quite match up to his probable asking price. But Rogers is better than any defensive back on the Vikings’ current roster. So perspective is needed when evaluating his flaws.

Mike Wallace, Steelers receiver
Wallace has made 132 catches for 2,450 yards and 18 TDs the past two seasons and not long ago seemed like the type of top-tier playmaker that Pittsburgh wouldn’t possibly let get away. But the Steelers have salary cap concerns and may not be able to afford keeping Wallace, even with the franchise tag. Pittsbugh also has enough solid depth at receiver with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders in the fold that it won’t go into an all-out panic if Wallace gets away.

However, keep in mind that Wallace is a restricted free agent, meaning any team that wants to sign him would have to surrender a first-round 2012 pick to Pittsburgh to do so. And the Vikings, with the No. 3 overall pick, are highly, highly, highly unlikely (translation: it ain’t happening) to surrender a draft spot with that much value for Wallace, who will also demand a huge paycheck. But the situation certainly registers as intriguing and conversation-worthy around the water cooler. After all, Wallace is only 25 years old. He’s a proven playmaker and he has the skills to stretch the field vertically. In truth, he’s just the type of player the Vikings' offense could really use. If only the complicated business side of things didn’t have to get in the way.

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.

Vikings personnel review: Defensive backs

Posted by: Updated: January 11, 2012 - 2:11 PM

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.

Get excited: Hey, 2011 is over. And that, as much as anything, is reason for celebration after a season in which the Vikings were absolutely torched by opposing quarterbacks. Despite collecting a league-best 50 sacks, the defense allowed 4,019 passing yards and 34 touchdowns this season. Opposing quarterbacks posted a staggering 107.6 rating and were only intercepted eight times by the Vikings. As far as the secondary was concerned, it was a miserable, god-awful, wretched, horrible season. Injuries kept Antoine Winfield off the field for all but five games. Cedric Griffin proved incredibly ineffective in coverage and was also surly with the media. And worst of all, Chris Cook was arrested on felony domestic assault charges in late October. That left the Vikings depleted and vulnerable in the defensive backfield and they never came close to overcoming that weakness. But now? Hey, it’s hard to imagine things getting any worse in 2012. Winfield should be back and healthy, capable of being a factor in the slot. Asher Allen earned the confidence of the coaching staff in the second half of this season. And there are a few ounces of internal optimism that Brandon Burton could be a solid role player going forward. Look, we’re grasping at straws trying to find “Get excited” reasons for this unit. But as we mentioned, that horrible 2011 season is in the rearview mirror and the Vikings have acknowledged their glaring flaws and will work through free agency and the draft to address them.
Keep an eye on: Cook’s legal standing. The 24-year-old is due to stand trial beginning March 5. And until there’s some kind of resolution with those legal matters, head coach Leslie Frazier will not figure Cook into the team’s long-term plans. But … If somehow Cook emerges with a reduced charge and/or doesn’t have to face extended jail time, the Vikings will consider giving him a window of opportunity to work back into the mix. That’s why the team kept Cook on the payroll even after exiling him in November. Reality is reality in the NFL. And it’s difficult for a team to make the jump from awful to relevant without taking some risks. The Vikings have major holes to plug in the secondary. And Cook is a promising cornerback who blends good size (6-2, 215 pounds) with quickness normally seen in smaller corners. And when a big on-field problem has an obvious potential solution, it’s foolish to dismiss that too early.
This is a difficult dilemma for the organization. The details of Cook’s alleged assault from October are troubling. But there are also plenty of people in Cook’s background who identify him as a good kid who has sometimes made bad mistakes. The Vikings made it clear months ago that they will not give up on Cook until they absolutely have to. So now the team will wait for the end result of his current legal matters before weighing their options once again.
Reason for worry: The Vikings finished the season with only eight interceptions, worst in the NFL. That included a drought of nine straight games without a pick. All season long, opposing quarterbacks threw the ball all over the field with little fear of negative consequence. At present, the Vikings just don’t have that ball-hawking playmaker in the defensive backfield. And in a pass-happy division in which Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford combined to throw for 9,681 yards and 86 touchdowns during the 2011 regular season, the Vikings won’t be able to hide their weaknesses very easily. Plus, it’s not just the cornerback situation that is up in the air. At safety, Husain Abdullah (concussion) and Tyrell Johnson (hamstring) both ended the season on injured reserve with series injuries. Both players are now free agents with iffy futures. So that heightens the pressure on Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond to step up their games as the Vikings work on plans to upgrade the cast around them.

Frazier prepares to say good-bye to some free agents

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: December 30, 2011 - 1:54 PM

The Vikings wrapped up their final (thank goodness) practice of the season on Friday. Afterward, coach Leslie Frazier talked about the 17 players who will become unrestricted free agents after Sunday's game against Chicago at Mall of America Field. 

"It's a tough deal when you have guys that can help you," Frazier said. "But in this age of free agency, most guys that can still can perform are going to want to explore. We'll do whatever we can with those guys that we really want to keep here, to keep here.

"But when guys have been contributors to your team and have helped you to get through what we've had to go through, you'd like to find a way to keep those guys around, believing that you're going to get it turned, and they're going to be a part of that turn. But you wish nothing but the best for every player who becomes a free agent. Hopefully, it works out that they're a part of what we're doing. But if not and they end up somewhere else, you want to see them succeed."

The 17 players who will become unrestricted free agents are: FS Husain Abdullah, MLB E.J. Henderson, OLB Erin Henderson, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, WR Devin Aromashodu, RB Lorenzo Booker, CB Benny Sapp, S Tyrell Johnson, LB Xavier Adibi, WR Greg Camarillo, DT Fred Evans, DT Letroy Guion, TE Jim Kleinsasser, OL Scott Kooistra, LS Matt Katula, S Jarrad Page and QB Sage Rosenfels.


Frazier was asked to evaluate E.J. Henderson, who has been with the team since 2003 and has been a starter since 2004.

"I think he's done a lot of good things," Frazier said. "After the bye, he really came on for us. He struggled a little bit early in the year, battling with injuries. But after the bye, he came back and had played better. That's in large part due to his health. We did some things to take some reps off him as well. His leadership has helped us to get through a tough season and his play has been very good for us. There are some things that he would like to do better, but overall I think he did a good job."

Asked if he thinks Henderson can still be a starting middle linebacker next season, Frazier said, "I think he does. The thing he's dealing with now is just staying healthy. The biggest thing is to stay healthy enough to participate and practice and get what he needs from practice and a game. But he can definitely still be a 16-game starter."

In other news:

  • Tight end Mickey Shuler, who was promoted from the practice squad this week, sprained his ankle early in Friday's practice and probably won't play on Sunday. He was listed as doubtful.
  • Listed as probable after participating in all of Friday's practice were: QB Christian Ponder (concussion), RG Anthony Herrera (lower back), SS Jamarca Sanford (shoulder), CB Asher Allen (concussion/shoulder) and CB Benny Sapp (shoulder). Ponder and Allen were cleared early in the week after passing the league-mandated concussion test.
  • Running back Adrian Peterson had his knee surgery today in Birmingham, Ala.


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