Access Vikings

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.

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New Vikings OT Aiyegbusi is tall, but not an anomaly

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 31st at 3:08pm 298186891

There has been a lot of curiosity in Vikingsland about Babatunde Aiyegbusi, the offensive tackle the team signed last week. The Polish product, who I wrote about in today’s newspaper, is 6-foot-9.

His height is certainly noteworthy, but height-wise, “Babs” is far from an anomaly in today’s NFL.

Because I have too much time on my hands at the moment and too few hobbies, I decided to scan through every NFL roster to see how many players are listed at 6-foot-8 or taller.

I counted 29 of them, including Aiyegbusi. The majority of these tall men are offensive tackles or defensive ends, though there are a few exceptions, including a guard (Dennis Kelly of the Eagles), a tight end (Levine Toilolo of the Falcons) and a quarterback (Brock Osweiler of the Broncos).

While no active player is 6-foot-10 or taller, eight others are as listed as being tall as Aiyegbusi.

Interestingly, only one of the 29 players who are 6-foot-8 or higher has been selected to a Pro Bowl. That would be Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (6-foot-8). However, despite their lack of Pro Bowl invites, Cardinals offensive tackle Jared Veldheer (6-foot-8) and Patriots offensive tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer (both 6-foot-8) are pretty good players in their own right.

Still, height isn’t everything, or the late Manute Bol would have been quite the NFL superstar.

Anyway, while Aiyegbusi is the tallest player on their 90-man roster, the Vikings do have three other offensive tackles who are 6-foot-7 or taller in left tackle Matt Kalil (6-foot-7), right tackle Phil Loadholt (6-foot-8) and backup Carter Bykowski (6-foot-7). Throw in Antonio “Tiny” Richardson (6-foot-6) and Mike Harris (6-foot-5) and every Vikings offensive tackle is at least 6-foot-5.

In other words, Aiyegbusi isn’t the only Vikings offensive tackle who has to duck into doorways.

Greenway says he's happy to be back with Vikings

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 30th at 3:27pm 298024581

Chad Greenway had to sacrifice a sizable chunk of his salary to remain with the Vikings in 2015, but the veteran outside linebacker is happy he and the organization were able to find middle ground.

“I’ve always wanted to be a Viking and finish my career here and obviously it’s important to the Wilfs as well,” Greenway said Monday morning in a radio interview with KFAN FM 100.3.

Greenway was supposed to make $7 million in the final year of the deal he signed in 2011. But after agreeing to take a pay cut, he 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.

The Vikings created $3.225 million in cap space by restructuring the final year of Greenway’s deal.

“Obviously, I signed my previous deal five years ago and I know personally that things can change [in the NFL],” Greenway said, later adding, “I’m a different player and I understand that and know how the league works, and I wanted to be conscious of that as we went through these discussions.”

Greenway admitted that after the 2014 season ended he was not confident that the Vikings wanted him back. But the team let him know they did. Greenway said he “had no leverage at all in this situation” given that he is a 32-year-old linebacker. But a satisfactory compromise was reached.

“There has to be some give and take,” Greenway said. “That’s how a negotiation works.”

Greenway also had words in the KFAN interview for anyone who feels he is washed up, insisting that Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer wouldn’t just keep him around for sentimental reasons.

“I know I have enough to help us win football games and be a leader on this team,” Greenway said.

Greenway agrees to pay cut to remain with Vikings

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 28th at 11:47am 297882341

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.

Vikings mailbag: Competition at corner, draft plans, guard options and would Adrian Peterson hold out?

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 27th at 1:07pm 297799451

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

Vikings finalize one-year deal with Terence Newman

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 26th at 10:30pm 297735631

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.

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NY Mets 2 FINAL
Washington 0
Pittsburgh 7 FINAL
Detroit 3
Miami 3 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Boston - WP: K. Couch 11 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Reavis 8
NY Yankees - LP: M. Tanaka 1 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: T. Milone 3
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Baltimore 3
Philadelphia 6 FINAL
Toronto 10
Chicago Cubs 15 FINAL
Texas 10
Cincinnati - WP: M. Lorenzen 10 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 4
Colorado 3 FINAL
San Francisco 4
Chicago WSox 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 1
Seattle 6 FINAL
Cleveland 8
Oakland - WP: J. Fuller 13 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: B. Loconsole 10
Texas 7 FINAL
Arizona 8
Houston 8 FINAL
Atlanta 5
Kansas City 4 FINAL
San Diego 1
Atlanta 95 FINAL
Detroit 105
Indiana 106 FINAL
Brooklyn 111
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Miami 81
Golden State 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 106
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Columbus 3
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Washington 4
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Boston 3
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Detroit 1
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NY Rangers 3 FINAL
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