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 E.J. Henderson

Chat OT: Vincent Jackson on the way? E.J. Henderson out the door? The asking price for RG3?

Posted by: Updated: February 29, 2012 - 4:06 PM

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.

Still, 80 minutes wasn’t long enough to address all the valuable questions that were asked. So we’re going into overtime now with a half-dozen of the best questions that were left in the queue when the chat ended.
Here goes …
 
Gav asks: Why do people want V-Jax so bad? He's 29, by the time we're any good he will be over the hill. Do we really want to throw money at a 29-year-old?
Vincent Jackson is a Pro Bowl-caliber weapon at a position the Vikings need to upgrade in a hurry. Beggars can’t be choosers. Here’s the deal: the Vikings averaged only 5.8 yards per passing attempt in 2011. Their three quarterbacks posted a rating of 74.6. (That’s Colt McCoy, Matt Cassell, Rex Grossman territory, by the way.) Big plays were hard to come by. And if you take away Percy Harvin’s stellar production in 2011, the Vikings’ other top four wideouts combined for 80 catches for 1,146 yards and four touchdowns. Jackson? He’s averaged 17.5 yards per catch over his seven NFL seasons. Last season, he had three games with at least 140 yards. Jackson is a legitimate vertical threat. And the Vikings are a team in need of a legitimate vertical threat. As for Jackson’s age? As receivers go, 29 isn’t nearly as scary as it is for running backs.
 
Still,there is a valid question that needs to be asked about when the Vikings feel they’ll be able to legitimately contend again. If, hypothetically speaking, Rick Spielman determined the Vikings won’t realistically be able to make a playoff run before the 2015 season, then obviously it would make no sense to break the bank for Jackson on a deal for three years or less. This is exactly the kind of math and analysis Spielman was promoted to provide. He is now the man in charge of the long-term vision, charged with molding the wish list accordingly. So the question is valid in this sense: the Vikings not only need to make sure Jackson would fit their offense, they’ll need to determine if he can be part of their long-term plans. If so, he may be the best free agent receiver on the market in two weeks.
 
Fishdawg asks: Dan: You say that the Rams will trade the No. 2 pick no matter what. I am thinking that the Rams are wanting too much. Teams may shy away if the asking price is too much and the Vikings are more reasonable.
If only one team were interested in Robert Griffin III, your shy-away theory might have some validity. But at present? In a league where stellar quarterback play means more than anything else, the RG3 hype will undoubtedly give the Rams a ridiculous amount of leverage with the No. 2 pick. Say you’re Cleveland or Washington or Miami or Kansas City or Seattle and you really want to make a run at Griffin. Well, each of those quarterback-needy teams will have to put together a trade package that’s not only fair but one that will trump all the other suitors. So you can see why St. Louis is downright giddy these days.
 
If the Rams’ asking price seems to high for a team, it’d be Russian roulette to commence trade talks with the Vikings in the hope that all of the other RG3 shoppers get scared off too. That’s not going to happen. The Rams are holding that No. 2 pick for major ransom. And the only way that changes is if the free agent quarterback market goes absolutely bonkers with many of these quarterback-starved teams investing their futures heavily in guys like Matt Flynn, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Chad Henne. As you can see, there are far fewer crown jewel signal callers available then there are teams searching for a crown jewel signal caller. So this week, the biggest NFL storyline can be summarized in three words: Congratulations St. Louis.

Noah asks: Any chance you see the Vikings selecting a DT? I think it was a bigger weakness last year than most people imagined and our DEs took some pressure off them. If so what round?
Obviously, we know receiver, corner and safety will be top priorities. But the Vikings would like to see improvement at defensive tackle as well. And, as luck has it, the defensive tackle class is loaded this year. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said this past weekend at the combine that he has upwards of seven defensive tackles holding first-round grades right now. Yet it’s unlikely we’ll see seven defensive tackles taken in the first 32 picks. So maybe the Vikings can steal a high-quality tackle at the top of Round 3 (perhaps a guy like UConn’s Kendall Reyes or Boise State’s Billy Winn or Southern Cal’s DaJohn Harris) or with one of their picks in Round 4, where targets might include Michigan’s Mike Martin, Texas’ Kheeston Randall or Alabama’s Josh Chapman.
 
Guest asks: If their draft stock falls and they are available in Round 3 do you see the Vikings picking up Alshon Jeffery (work ethic/weight issues), Vontaze Burfict (grandiose personality issues), or Janoris Jenkins (drugs/ethics issues) in the draft or do we keep it completely "clean" this draft?
Jenkins: absolutely not. With the Chris Cook fiasco still hanging out there, the Vikings can ill afford to go after a cornerback with so much baggage and risk attached – even if Jenkins is clearly a first-round talent. Three arrests and a dismissal from the University of Florida program last spring will be enough to repel the Vikings away.
 
Jeffery’s issues are far less serious and he came to the combine at a svelte 216 pounds, proof he can keep himself in good shape when the stakes are high for him personally. The Vikings, if they were to gamble on a guy like Jeffry, would have to decide for themselves whether they have the means to keep him motivated and on task. If they feel they can, the kid’s potential is intriguing.
 
Burfict? He may have looked impressive at the combine. But, as you mentioned, there are questions as to whether he can control his temper and fit into an NFL locker room without disruption. Other critics also wonder if he has enough instinct to be a consistent playmaker. I’d also wonder whether the Vikings would roll the dice on a linebacker in Round 3 when the draft pool has great depth at cornerback and receiver, two positions they need to address with greater urgency.
 
Drew asks: Do you think E.J. Henderson will be back at linebacker? Also, the Vikings are said to have up to 10 draft picks this year. Why is it “up to 10 picks” and not just 10 picks?
I don’t see E.J. back in 2012. He’ll turn 32 before the season starts, has nine NFL seasons and 125 regular-season games on his odometer and was hampered significantly last season by knee problems, ceding his role as the nickel linebacker to younger brother, Erin. With Jasper Brinkley returning to the mix and general manager Rick Spielman asserting his intention to make the roster younger, letting Henderson walk will be one of the tough business decisions the Vikings will likely make in the coming weeks.
 
As for the draft picks, the Vikings’ are expecting to get two additional compensatory picks, most likely in the fourth round, as a result of Atlanta signing Ray Edwards and Seattle signing Sidney Rice. But compensatory picks aren’t officially doled out and announced until late March, usually near the owners meetings, which will be held March 26-28 in West Palm Beach, Fla. Until those compensatory picks are officially announced, you’ll see that cautious verbage included.
 
To recap, the Vikings will have all of their own picks from this year’s draft, minus the sixth-rounder they sent to Washington last summer in the trade for Donovan McNabb. They have one extra sixth-round pick and an additional seventh-rounder from other trades. And they figure to get those other two compensatory picks from the Edwards and Rice transactions.
 
Tino asks: Other than Hutch, which other vets could be shown the door in the name of cap room/youth movement? Winfield?
It’s possible Antoine Winfield could be shown the door. But odds are the Vikings will bring him back with the hopes of drawing from his veteran leadership to energize their secondary. Winfield would likely assume a nickel corner role predominantly. Fellow corner Cedric Griffin is another candidate to be sent packing. Keep an eye on guard Anthony Herrera too, a feisty veteran whom coach Leslie Frazier admires for the energy he brings to the o-line. But Herrera’s price tag (a base salary in excess of $2.6 million in 2012)  and age (he’ll turn 32 in June) put him in on the short list of players who might be on the way out of Winter Park.
 

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: Linebackers

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: January 12, 2012 - 2:03 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.

 
LINEBACKERS:
 
Get excited: Excited is a bit of a stretch when it comes to this unit. Strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway did lead the team in tackles for a fourth consecutive season, and he did finish third in the league in tackles and make his first Pro Bowl as an alternate. But in the current Tampa 2 scheme, Greenway is often invisible. He made only a handful of splash plays, if that, all season. But part of that is what the current scheme asks of him. Perhaps with a new defensive coordinator, the scheme will be tweaked so that Greenway's speed and athleticism -- not to mention his his $41 million contract -- will be put to better use. Other than Greenway, the linebacker corps is up in the air. Don't expect middle linebacker E.J. Henderson to return. He's had a nice run and should have been last year's NFL Comebacker Player of the Year after returning from a broken femur. But he'll be 32 in August and the nagging injuries that slowed him this year will get only worse next year. His younger brother, starting outside linebacker Erin Henderson, got better through his first year as a starter and also heads into free agency. Both sides should shop around, and if nothing better comes up, reunite for a reasonable price.
 
Keep an eye on: Barring a surprise, the new starting middle linebacker will be Jasper Brinkley. The same fella who missed all of this season while recovering from major hip surgery. He's young (26) and has low miles on his legs, so he should be OK physically. The problem with him is he's similar to E.J. in that he's a downhill run stopper whose strength isn't covering deep middle 40 yards downfield. Again, the scheme doesn't quite match the personnel. Another player to keep an eye on is defensive end Everson Griffen. There's no vacancy at end and an opening at weak-side linebacker. Griffen needs to play more somewhere. With proper coaching, perhaps he can make the transition to linebacker. The team experimented with that idea briefly last summer, but gave up on it because the transition was too difficult without an offseason to work at it.
 
Reason for worry: There are many reasons for worry. E.J. Henderson, a leader on the team and a pretty good middle linebacker since 2003, is almost certain to move on. And while it's time for him to move on, his replacement, Brinkley, is coming off major surgery. Was Greenway's lack of big plays the result of the scheme or a sign that he's not the franchise player the team thought he was? And what about the depth, or lack thereof? Xavier Adibi barely played at all this season, even on special teams. Undrafted rookie Larry Dean was a nice story, but he can't start at linebacker in the NFL. And Kenny Onatolu is also a special teamer. The secondary is priority No. 1 on the defense, but linebacker isn't too far behind.

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.

Injury update: Adrian Peterson probable for Sunday, but workload not yet certain

Posted by: Updated: December 16, 2011 - 2:02 PM

As we look at the injury update for Sunday, let's start with the most important Viking of all. Running back Adrian Peterson is officially listed as probable and will play Sunday against New Orleans. Peterson went through a full week of practice with no setbacks in his injured left ankle.

Said coach Leslie Frazier: "He was fine. He went through everything today. We wanted to see, based on the work that we gave him yesterday, if there would be any hang up. But there wasn't. He finished the day with no problems and he's ready to go."

Asked if Peterson would be ready to resume a full workload out of the backfield Sunday, Frazier was a bit hesitant in his response.

"Well, he's missed some time," the Vikings coach said. "So we'll have to kind of work him in there. It won't be as if he hadn't missed a game. So we'll have to monitor how he's doing."

As for other Vikings on the injury report, not a single player is listed as doubtful or questionable this week. In addition to Peterson, six other Vikings are probable: Christian Ponder (hip), Asher Allen (shoulder), Greg Camarillo (concussion), E.J. Henderson (shoulder), Jarrad Page (hip) and Letroy Guion (ankle).

 

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