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.



Free Agency Tracker '15: Vikings finally get into the signing game


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.

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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.

Vikings sign Polish-born tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 26th at 4:37pm 297699741

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.

Vikings mock draft roundup: Parker, Waynes still popular picks for the Vikings

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 26th at 1:19pm 297656231

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.”

Zimmer, again: 'We have no plans to trade Adrian'

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 25th at 2:53pm 297536611

Mike Zimmer, speaking at the NFL owners meetings this morning, reiterated the Vikings’ stance that they expect disgruntled running back Adrian Peterson to play for them this season.

Zimmer also clarified a comment he made to Pro Football Talk earlier in the offseason, saying, “I never once said I would accommodate him” by trading Peterson if that’s what he really wanted.

“I’m not going to speculate on what he wants or doesn’t want,” the head coach said. “Adrian’s under contract for three more years with us and that’s why you sign these contracts. That’s why you get these big bonuses, you know?”

Peterson has three years remaining on the six-year, $96 million contract extension he signed in 2011. He has a base salary of $12.75 million this season and can make $45 million total over the final three seasons of his contract. But there is no guaranteed money beyond this season.

While it’s unclear whether money or something else is his true motivation for wanting out of town, Team Peterson is trying to create leverage somehow by making his displeasure public.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the Vikings have no intentions of trading Peterson at this point.

Zimmer backed that up again today by emphatically stating, “We have no plans to trade Adrian.”

One more Peterson tidbit to note from the owners meetings: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that April 15 is still the relevant date when it comes to Peterson’s reinstatement and that he plans to meet with Peterson sometime before then to discuss where things stand.

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