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.
Jerome Felton will remain a Vikings. He never wanted to go anywhere else.
If anyone understands the value of a true fit, it's the 26-year-old fullback who spent his first four seasons bouncing around the NFL. From Detroit to Carolina to Indianapolis. For four seasons, Felton couldn't find a heightened role.
Then, in the spring of 2012, the Vikings dipped into free agency and offered Felton a one-year opportunity to showcase his strengths. They told him they needed a bruising fullback to maximize the production of running back Adrian Peterson. The coaching staff and front office believed Peterson would be at his best with a lead blocker. And they believed Felton had the unselfishness, toughness and vision to be that guy. Then, over 16 games, Felton played a significant role in aiding Peterson to his best season yet, a 2,097-yard rushing campaign that few saw coming.
Peterson won the MVP award. Felton earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.
When the season ended, Felton told the Vikings and General Manager Rick Spielman that he wanted to be back. The Vikings promised to make it happen. And on Tuesday afternoon, the two sides finally hammered out the business end of the reunion with Felton agreeing to a three-year deal and re-signing with the organization. Felton's deal coudl be worth up to $7.5 million in total. And his return to Minnesota should not be taken for granted. His efforts in 2012 were a big deal. And his understanding that opportunities like the one here, in a run-first offense and the league MVP stealing the show, just don't come around often.
News of Felton's deal gave the Vikings five players that they re-signed Tuesday. The others: right tackle Phil Loadholt, receiver Jerome Simpson, safety Jamarca Sanford and offensive lineman Joe Berger.
Not so fast, Chicago.
The Vikings have signed right tackle Phil Loadholt to a multi-year contract extension, keeping the Bears from getting their offensive line-starved mitts on the big fella and maintaining valuable cohesion for a Vikings offensive line that started the same five players in the same five spots for all 17 games a year ago.
Loadholt, a second-round pick in 2009, has been durable and decent throughout his four seasons with the Vikings. Inconsistency, not effort by any stretch, has been his biggest issue. But at 27, he's still on the upswing, still developing and should get better and more consistent the longer he works with the same unit up front. And the signing also keeps a division rival from inflicting major damage at a starting position.
Had the Vikings lost Loadholt, they might have been forced to use one of their two first-round picks on an offensive tackle. Now, they can focus on receiver and possibly linebacker.
Terms of Loadholt's deal are not yet available.
In what is a very busy and fluid week in the NFL business world, we’ll do our best to not only keep you up to speed with all the latest Vikings transactions but to provide a summary of what it all means. Be sure to check back with this post regularly for updates.
VIKINGS’ 2013 FREE AGENCY CHECKLIST
What has happened so far …
THE LATEST MOVE: (Friday night) The Vikings have signed receiver Greg Jennings, a 29-year-old veteran who had tormented them for the previous seven seasons with the Packers. Jennings was given a five-year deal, which reportedly could be worth up to $47.5 million with $18 million guaranteed. What it means: For starters, it means quarterback Christian Ponder gets a proven receiver to be his top target, a big move for the franchise after it traded away Percy Harvin on Monday. Jennings' versatility should be a plus. He can serve as a legitimate outside threat and is also potent out of the slot. On top of that, the Vikings are already raving about the positive energy and professionalism they expect him to lend to what figures to otherwise be a very, very young receiving unit. With Jennings signed as the top gun and a very deep pool of talent awaiting at receiver in this year's draft, the Vikings may no longer need to pull the trigger on a pass catcher in the first round -- even with picks Nos. 23 and 25. Logic says a standout talent should still be available in Round 2 and perhaps the Vikings use those two first-round picks to find help at middle linebacker and cornerback. Jennings' signing and the cash it took to complete means the team's significant offseason spending is done. Any free agent additions from here on out are likely to be minimal.
What’s left to do
In other news …
Yes, yes, we know. All other Vikings news is incredibly minor today in the wake of the Percy Harvin trade, a blockbuster deal that has triggered widespread reaction. But there is other business to tend to. So, a few notables to put on the table …
-- The Vikings have put the low tender on cornerback A.J. Jefferson, the team’s only restricted free agent. With free agency officially set to open Tuesday at 3 p.m., the move puts the Vikings in position to pay Jefferson $1.323 million for 2013 while also giving the team the right to match any other offer Jefferson gets from another organization. If Jefferson is given an offer from another team that the Vikings don’t choose to match, they will not be awarded draft compensation. The 24-year-old cornerback came to the Vikings through a trade with Arizona just before the start of the regular season last summer. He wound up starting seven games, taking on a heightened role after Chris Cook broke his wrist in Week 8.
-- The Vikings have 10 unrestricted free agents due to hit the open market on Tuesday. They are right tackle Phil Loadholt, fullback Jerome Felton, linebackers Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell, safety Jamarca Sanford, receivers Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu and offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz and Joe Berger. Here was our weekend projections on how all of those situations might play out. We’re told the Vikings have heavy interest in bringing Simpson back into the fold for a second season. And the needs at receiver just got a little more dire with the Harvin deal. Simpson has attracted interest from multiple other teams and will have a decision to make. We’re expecting Jerome Felton back as well, though it will be interesting to see if he ultimately makes a cash grab and rewards the highest bidder for his services or if, as expected, he truly values the situation he has found in Minnesota in a run-first, fullback-reliant offense that features league MVP Adrian Peterson.
|Vikings (3700)||People (1)|
|AFC (89)||Bears (454)|
|Ex-Vikings (45)||Football on TV (53)|
|Lions (354)||NFC (1358)|
|NFL draft (255)||NFL post-season (28)|
|Packers (508)||Super Bowl (266)|
|Vikings coaches (83)||Vikings defense (255)|
|Vikings fans (116)||Vikings injury report (291)|
|Vikings management (31)||Vikings off the field (281)|
|Vikings offense (366)||Vikings quarterbacks (257)|
|Vikings road games (77)||Vikings rookies (36)|
|Vikings roster moves (40)||Vikings special teams (37)|
|Vikings training camp (132)||Injury report (344)|
|Off the field (137)||On the road (81)|
|Quarterbacks (325)||Rookies (77)|
|Roster moves (17)||Vikings draft (267)|
|Vikings trade talk (2)||Vikings players (805)|
|Adrian Peterson (960)||Anthony Herrera (161)|
|Antoine Winfield (410)||Ben Leber (97)|
|Bernard Berrian (213)||Bobby Wade (16)|
|Brad Childress (639)||Brett Favre (808)|
|Brian Robison (170)||Bryant McKinnie (106)|
|Cedric Griffin (194)||Chad Greenway (202)|
|Chester Taylor (79)||Chris Kluwe (118)|
|Darrell Bevell (120)||E.J. Henderson (183)|
|Heath Farwell (50)||Jared Allen (408)|
|John Sullivan (206)||Kevin Williams (226)|
|Leslie Frazier (936)||Madieu Williams (78)|
|Pat Williams (154)||Percy Harvin (679)|
|Phil Loadholt (164)||Ray Edwards (173)|
|Ryan Longwell (145)||Sage Rosenfels (102)|
|Sidney Rice (273)||Steve Hutchinson (191)|
|Tarvaris Jackson (171)||Tyrell Johnson (151)|
|Visanthe Shiancoe (216)||Brad Childress (643)|
|Darrell Bevell (121)||Leslie Frazier (945)|