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.
We’re tracking all things Purple, starting with what’s already happened and projecting what needs to happen as the Vikings work their way through free agency and the rest of the offseason.
Chad Greenway will be back with the Vikings in 2015.
The Vikings and the veteran outside linebacker have agreed to a restructured contract, a league source confirmed. Greenway has a new base salary of $3.4 million with $1 million guaranteed. He can make up to $4 million through bonuses, including $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses.
By convincing Greenway to accept this pay cut, the Vikings created $3.225 million in cap space.
Greenway was originally slated to make $7 million in 2015, the final year of his deal. But it seemed unlikely the Vikings would let the 32-year-old play at that salary, one of the highest on the team.
At the end of the season, Greenway, the team’s 2006 first-round draft pick, said he was receptive to restructuring his deal so he could play at least one more season with the Vikings. But he also said that the role the team envisioned for him would have to make sense for him to take a pay cut.
“It’s hard to be in a situation where you’re watching,” Greenway said at the time. “I’ve just never done that and I don’t really plan on it. I’m going to go somewhere I can compete to play. If you’re in a position where you had to go somewhere else, it’s a combination of those two things — where are you going to play and have success. I want to do that here.”
Earlier this month, General Manager Rick Spielman said he wanted Greenway to stick around, too.
“We’d love to have Chad Greenway back and finish [his career] as a Minnesota Viking,” he said.
This is the second straight offseason in which Greenway has taken a pay cut to remain in purple. Last season, he sacrificed $1 million in base salary to keep his spot on the team.
Greenway is one of the longest-tenured active Vikings players. He has played 125 games, all but one of them as a starter, for the Vikings. At one point, he had made 90 straight starts, most among NFL linebackers at the time, but the streak was snapped early in the 2014 season.
In Week 4, Greenway, who had played a week earlier with a broken hand and three broken ribs, missed his first game since his rookie season. He sat out three straight before returning in Week 7 and climbed to the team lead in tackles by early December. But he hurt his knee in Week 16, ending his season and his chances of a seventh straight season of leading the Vikings in tackles.
Still, Greenway’s six straight seasons were tied with Scott Studwell for the franchise record.
According to the Vikings’ tracking, Greenway, a two-time Pro Bowler, has made 1,203 tackles on defense in his nine seasons in Minnesota, which ranks fourth in franchise history.
Greenway, a leader on and off the field, has also made a major impact away from football.
He won the NFLPA’s prestigious Byron “Whizzer” White Award this past year for his community work. He has also been recognized as the Vikings Community Man of the Year in both 2011 and 2014 for his charity work in the Twin Cities and his home state of South Dakota. Greenway was also voted by Twin Cities media as the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award winner in 2012.
ESPN first reported this morning that Greenway had restructured his contract.
It felt like a mailbag kind of day when I walked downstairs this morning, put on a pot of coffee and looked outside and saw the beautiful blue sky. But then the Twitter questions started coming in.
Questions about the new tackle from Poland’s middle name. Questions, inspired by my good friend Randball, jokingly looking for updates on a player who signed with another team two weeks ago. Even some question about Adrian Peterson and a cat named after “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
To paraphrase what ESPN’s Bill Simmons says in his mailbags, yup, these are my Twitter followers.
Playful ribbing aside, I do get a kick out of most of my interactions on Twitter. And there were a handful of useful questions presented to me when I sent out the call this morning. So without further ado, let’s dive into the mailbag and tackle some non-Macho-Man-cat-related Vikings questions.
@mattvensel would you rather have: A) 36 year old Terrance Newman B) Josh Robinson C) a parking cone
— Stevens (@HEH4TEME) March 27, 2015
I totally get why there might not be much enthusiasm about the Vikings signing a cornerback who will be 37 when the season starts. Sure, they could have tried to get involved in the spending spree for the top free agents like Byron Maxwell and Kareem Jackson. But in a vacuum, I like the move. By signing Newman to a one-year, $2.5 million deal, the Vikings are adding depth and experience to the position and creating more competition at the other outside cornerback spot. He will compete with Captain Munnerlyn, who would probably be best off strictly in a nickel role, and Josh Robinson, who actually had a nice bounce-back season beyond the Bears’ big wide-outs posterizing him all day that one afternoon in Chicago. And you can probably count on an early draft pick being thrown into the mix as well. If Newman comes out on top in that competition, he will obviously be a stopgap. But if any coach can find whatever is left in Newman’s tank, it will be his old friend, Mike Zimmer.
@mattvensel Do you think the Vikings draft strategy has changed significantly as a result of what has happened so far in free agency?
— Paul Holland (@paulholland66) March 27, 2015
While I am fond of the Newman move, I’m not going to pretend the Vikings were major players in free agency. Newman, safety Taylor Mays and linebacker Casey Matthews could be useful players but probably not major difference-makers. Swapping out backup quarterback Matt Cassel for the cheaper Shaun Hill made sense, too. DuJuan Harris is probably just another backfield body. The only significant addition was trading for wide receiver Mike Wallace, but there is still no guarantee that will be anything more than a one-year flyer. So no, to answer your question, I don’t think it really alters their plan, which was always to lay low in free agency and continue to build through the draft. The Vikings still have several holes to fill, including at wide receiver, but none of their needs are so, so glaring that they absolutely must use their first-round draft pick to address one next month.
@mattvensel are we content with our current LG options
— Scott Amundson (@AmundsonScott) March 27, 2015
Guard seemed to be one area the Vikings might choose to address in free agency, but they have not done so beyond re-signing trusty veteran Joe Berger. Spending for one of the top free-agent guards like Mike Iupati or Clint Boling would have made sense from a football standpoint, but the Vikings already have a lot of resources tied up in the four other spots on the offensive line. The key to improved line play will be getting left tackle Matt Kalil’s groove back and getting right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Phil Loadholt back to full health and playing well. As of now, the top two candidates to start at left guard are Berger and 2014 fifth-round pick David Yankey, who did not compete for a job as a rookie. But look for the Vikings to add at least another lineman in the mix there, whether it is by drafting one or signing a free agent (like, say, if Evan Mathis hits the street).
@mattvensel do you think the coaches are comfortable with pattersons progression?
— Geoffrey Holmes (@geoffholmes23) March 27, 2015
There is no denying that Cordarrelle Patterson has a unique set of skills. His 2013 highlight reel is proof of that. But to be more than a gimmick player, it is up to him to put in the work to learn the offense, run acceptable routes, better understand spacing and figure out how to consistently get open down the field. That sort of development isn’t going to happen over a couple of months. We are still trying to figure out the identity of the mystery former NFL receiver he is training with, but I have heard he is taking this offseason seriously and so far Zimmer and the Vikings seem to be pleased with what has been reported back to them. I’m curious to see if there will be any change in Patterson when he shows up for voluntary spring workouts next month. I’m sure the coaching staff will need to see improvement firsthand before they start counting on a resurgent 2015 season.
— Yinka Ayinde (@Saxyprince) March 27, 2015
There was no way we were getting through another mailbag without an Adrian Peterson question. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I believe the Vikings are sincere in saying that they don’t plan to trade the disgruntled running back. And I predict that they will continue to dig in their heels as he and his agent appear to be trying to stiff-arm their way out of town. After all, allowing a player to force you to move him sets a bad precedent. So if the Vikings do stick to their guns here, Peterson will have two choices: play for the Vikings in 2015 or watch another NFL season from his sofa. I am not privy to what is being discussed by Team Peterson right now, but based on what we know about Peterson the competitor, it seems unlikely he will be content to sit out again and lose another season in his pursuit of Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record. If it comes down to it, I would guess that he will report if the Vikings do keep him. But it is fair to wonder how disruptive it could be to have a star player and team leader who has made it clear he feels he would be better off elsewhere.
Mike Zimmer wasn’t fibbing yesterday when he said a deal with Terence Newman was close.
The Vikings on Thursday finalized the terms of a one-year contract with the free-agent cornerback, according to a league source. The deal is for $2.5 million with $750,000 guaranteed.
Newman visited the Vikings last week but the two sides were unable to hammer out a deal until now. Now that he is joining the Vikings, Newman will be reunited with an old coach in Zimmer.
Zimmer was in Dallas when the Cowboys drafted Newman fifth overall in the 2003 draft. Zimmer coached Newman for four seasons there and another two in Cincinnati before Zimmer came here.
While Newman turns 37 in September, the signing makes sense because the Vikings need more depth at cornerback and his experience should be an asset to their young secondary. They also weren’t thrilled with how Captain Munnerlyn performed on the outside in his first year in town.
Newman has predominantly played left cornerback in his career, so he will presumably compete with Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson — and maybe a high draft pick — to start opposite Xavier Rhodes.
Newman is the third free-agent defender to come on board this week. Safety Taylor Mays, another of Zimmer’s former players in Cincinnati, and linebacker Casey Matthews both signed Tuesday.
The Vikings have crossed international waters in their pursuit of offensive-line help.
The Vikings announced today that they have signed 27-year-old offensive lineman Babatunde Aiyegbusi, a 6-foot-9 native of Olesnica, Poland. They have listed him as a tackle for now.
Aiyegbusi, who did not play college football, spent last season in the German Football League. He played in the Polish American Football League in 2013, winning a title with the Wroclaw Giants.
His name is pronounced bah-BUH-tune-day ah-YEG-boo-see. (Have fun with that, Paul Allen.)
The Vikings hosted Aiyegbusi at Winter Park on Wednesday, two days after he participated in a pro day at the University of Texas-San Antonio. He inked a contract with the team today.
The Vikings say Aiyegbusi is the fifth Polish player in NFL history, following defensive tackle Jason Manieki and three kickers — Rich Szaro, Chester Marcol and Sebastian Janikowski — into the NFL.
At 6-foot-9 and 351 pounds, Aiyegbusi is an inch taller and eight pounds heavier than right tackle Phil Loadholt, who himself is one of the biggest men in the NFL. You can see him in action here.
The Vikings also announced they waived linebacker Justin Anderson and guard Jordan McCray.
The frenzied first two weeks of free agency have come and gone, and several teams — including the Vikings — spiced things up by wheeling and dealing through trades. Soon the focus will switch, if it hasn’t already, back to the 2015 NFL draft, which begins five weeks from today.
The draftniks are already looking ahead, of course, and have started to publish post-free-agency mock drafts to reflect how team needs have changed. Still, with the Vikings picking pretty early with the 11th overall pick, not too tremendously much has changed in front of them.
That’s why when checking out the latest mock drafts, you will still see the same familiar names being mocked to the Vikings. The two most prevalent are wide receiver DeVante Parker, a popular man in our first mock draft roundup, and cornerback Trae Waynes, the go-to guy in the second.
A couple other prospects are being linked to the Vikings, though, in these notable NFL mock drafts:
Josh Norris, Rotoworld: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State. “There was a report that Waynes dealt with cramps or a leg injury, which led to poor change of direction drills at the Combine,” Norris wrote. “Waynes has makeup speed, but my question is the separation he allows on breaks. Mike Zimmer has a history of being connected to defenses that invest picks and/or money in corners.”
Bucky Brooks, NFL Network: Waynes. “Mike Zimmer wants an ultra-athletic bump-and-run corner to pair with Xavier Rhodes on the perimeter,” Brooks wrote. “Waynes has impressed evaluators with his speed and explosiveness in drills. He also has solid game tape to back up his credentials as one of the top cover corners in the draft.”
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville. “Reunited and it feels so good. Teddy Bridgewater and DeVante Parker are back together making beautiful music, this time in the NFL,” Miller wrote. “Parker is more than just a familiar face for Bridgewater, though. He’s a legitimate No. 1 receiver prospect. Parker is 6’3″, 209 pounds and can move with a 4.45 in the 40. He’s also an exceptional jump ball player who can win in the end zone with size and physicality.”
Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports: Brandon Scherff, OG/OT, Iowa. “Charlie Johnson and Vlad Ducasse were bad a year ago and Joe Berger is best served as a first man off the bench,” Edholm wrote. “Brandon Fusco’s return helps, and perhaps 2014 draft pick David Yankey can play eventually. But the bull-strong Scherff could be a Day 1 starter inside or at right tackle once Phil Loadholt is dumped (his contract is up after 2016, but he could be cut after this season without a major hit).”
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: Waynes. “Wide receiver and offensive line are strong possibilities with this pick, but the Vikings also have a need at cornerback,” Brugler wrote. “Waynes has the speed/size combination that will land him in the top 15 picks and Minnesota has shown interest.”
Charles Davis, NFL Network: Parker. “Reunion time in the Twin Cities,” Davis wrote. “Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater gets a college teammate as a big-time playmaker on the perimeter.”
Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Landon Collins, S, Alabama. “Reuniting Teddy Bridgewater with his play-making receiver DeVante Parker is awfully intriguing but so is adding a heat-seeking missile like Collins to pair with Harrison Smith in the secondary,” he wrote. “Given the passing attacks in the NFC North and head coach Mike Zimmer’s defensive background, Collins makes a lot of sense.”
Jamie Newberg, Scout.com: Waynes. “I have had Trae Waynes to Minnesota in most of my mock drafts and I am sticking to it,” Newberg wrote. “I just wonder if this former Michigan State star drops to No. 11? I have my doubts but if he’s there for the Vikings this would be a terrific landing spot. Waynes is the top cornerback in this class and is coming off an outstanding combine and pro day.”
|Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson||10||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker||2|
|Sporting Kansas City||1||FINAL|
|New York City||0|
|Red Bull New York||2||FINAL|