Top pick Laquon Treadwell, the wide receiver who caught only one pass in his disappointing rookie season, vowed Monday as he emptied out his locker stall at Winter Park that he will “come back ready next year.”
“The whole season was disappointing for me. I don’t think I helped the offense at all,” said Treadwell, the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 draft.
It appeared heading into training camp that Treadwell was the type of bigger-bodied possession receiver who could immediately contribute. But Treadwell, the youngest player on the team at age 21, finished his rookie season with only one catch — as many as quarterback Sam Bradford.
Treadwell appeared in only nine games for the Vikings this past season and played only 80 offensive snaps, making him the rare first-round wide receiver in recent years who did not earn a significant role right away.
Sunday’s season-ending win over the Chicago Bears was the third straight game that Treadwell missed due to an ankle injury. He also dealt with a thumb injury and a tweaked hamstring earlier in his rookie season.
He believed the ankle injury, suffered in the Week 14 win in Jacksonville, denied him an opportunity to finally make an impact late in the season.
“I believe that. I was feeling more comfortable and they were ready to put me out there,” Treadwell said. “I just went down on special teams. That’s a tough break for me, but I’ve got to get healthy and come back ready.”
Hunter’s talent plain to see
Defensive end Brian Robison, despite being one of the oldest players on the Vikigngs roster, made an impact in 2016 with 7.5 sacks, his highest total since 2013. But he realizes that his young backup, Danielle Hunter, might have played well enough to nudge him out of the starting lineup in 2017.
“He’s probably done enough to earn a starting position next year so I’m very proud of him,” Robison said. “He’s done a lot of good work.”
Robison was quick to point out that he does want to just give away his starting position. But he indicated that he would not grumble if the team wanted him to become a backup to Hunter, who led the team with 12.5 sacks.
“We’re going to have to battle it out during OTAs and things like that,” Robison said. “But he’s a heck of a player and he’s got a bright future.”
Asked about the possibility of having to take a pay cut to stick around, Robison, who has a salary cap number of $6.6 million next season, said he will worry about that if and when the Vikings approach him about it.
Harris hopeful for a return
Mike Harris, the one-time starting offensive lineman who spent the entire season on the non-football illness list with an undisclosed malady, said there is “no doubt in my mind” that he will be able to resume his NFL career and added that he is “expecting to be out here next year.”
Harris said he held out hope throughout the 2016 season that the medical staff and the team’s athletic trainers would clear him to resume playing. But even though he says he feels “great,” Harris has not yet been cleared.
“It’s doctor’s orders and I’ve got a long life to live,” the pending free agent said. “I’m only 28 years old and football isn’t everything. But it is to me.”
Harris said it was disappointing that he could not return to help out an offensive line that used eight different starting combinations in 2016.
Munnerlyn not ready to concede
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn figures to be one of the more desirable Vikings free agents if the team allows him to hit the open market in March. The 28-year-old slot specialist has made 80 career starts, 50 of them in Minnesota, and views himself as more than just a nickelback.
Munnerlyn suggested he would welcome a return to Minnesota if the price is right. But he also knows the Vikings drafted young corner Mackensie Alexander this past offseason to potentially replace him in the slot.
“The ultimate goal is to win but also to set yourself up to be in a good situation so you can be able to take care of your family,” Munnerlyn said. “But at the same time I hope I’m back around. I’m stumbling all around the place right now, about to get a little bit emotional. We’ll see.”
Veteran cornerback Terence Newman, who declined to discuss his future on Monday, is also set to become a free agent in a couple of months.
Forbath would welcome competition
Kai Forbath stabilized the kicker position after replacing Blair Walsh in November. While he missed three of his 14 extra-point tries, Forbath made all 15 of his field-goal attempts in seven games with the Vikings.
“I’m happy with it. I missed a few PATs that I wish I could take back but other than that I think it went very smoothly. I’m happy with the results on field goals,” Forbath said. “I think I did pretty much everything I could do for the most part to show them that I can be their guy here.”
Forbath is under contract through the 2017 season, so he will be back this spring. And if the Vikings bring in competition? Bring it on, he says.
“That’s something that I’m used to. I’ve had it every year since I’ve been playing in the NFL,” Forbath said. “So whatever they do, I’ll be ready.”
Easton believes he earned starting role
Second-year center Nick Easton admittedly performed unevenly after taking over for the injured Joe Berger in Week 13. But he feels starting the final five games of the season was beneficial for his development.
“It’s amazing how much you learn by playing compared to being on the sideline,” he said. “It’s night and day, so I definitely picked up on a lot.”
Berger, who played guard after returning the lineup in Week 15, will be back next season. But Easton believes he played well enough to start.
“We’ll see what the coaches think. Any way I can help the team, I want to do that. And for me personally, I think that means starting. But if the coaches disagree, I support their decision,” the 24-year-old said.
Inked new deals
The Vikings announced Monday morning that they have signed all nine of their practice-squad players to reserve/future contracts for next season.
Among those players are German wide receiver and 2016 sixth-round pick Moritz Bohringer, former Gophers safety Cedric Thompson and running back Bishop Sankey, a former second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.