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.
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.”
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.
“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.
Mike Zimmer said this morning at the NFL owners meetings that the Vikings are close to reaching a contract agreement with free-agent cornerback Terence Newman, one of Zimmer’s former players.
Newman visited the Vikings last week but left the Twin Cities without a deal. The two sides stayed in touch, though, and Newman now appears to be close to officially reuniting with Zimmer.
Zimmer was in Dallas when the Cowboys drafted Newman fifth overall in the 2003 draft. Zimmer coached Newman for four seasons there. Newman would later be selected to a pair of Pro Bowls.
After Newman’s play dropped from that Pro Bowl level, he signed in 2012 with the Bengals, whose defense was being coordinated by Zimmer at the time. Newman, who started for the Bengals the past three seasons, again benefited from the relationship before Zimmer joined the Vikings in 2014.
Last season, though, Newman wasn’t as sharp. And considering he turns 37 in September and will be one of the league’s oldest cornerbacks, it’s fair to wonder how much he has in the tank.
But the Vikings need more capable bodies at the position. Their depth wasn’t tested in 2014, with Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson all playing 16 games. Behind them on the depth chart were veteran punt returner Marcus Sherels and 2014 seventh-round pick Jabari Price.
That is why signing Newman is worth a shot, especially given his track record with the head coach.
The NFL this afternoon released the draft order for next month’s NFL draft, so we now know when the Vikings will make their — as of right now — seven total selections.
The Vikings have no sixth-round pick and two seventh-rounders after sending quarterback Matt Cassel to the Bills and acquiring receiver Mike Wallace from the Dolphins in two separate trades.
They sent their original fifth-round pick to the Dolphins in the Wallace deal and kept the fifth-round pick, which originally belonged to the Buccaneers, they received in the Cassel trade. That selection is 12 spots before their original pick, so they kept the better of the two fifth-rounders.
Anyway, here are the seven 2015 draft picks that the Vikings currently have to work with:
— 11th overall (first round)
— 45th overall (second round)
— 76th overall (third round)
— 110th overall (fourth round)
— 137th overall (fifth round)
— 228th overall (seventh round)
— 232nd overall (seventh round)
|Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman||4||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: J. Nathan||6|
|NY Mets||3||Top 8th Inning|
|LA Angels||0||Top 3rd Inning|
|Pittsburgh||1||1st Prd 3:51|
|New Jersey||0||1st Prd 4:44|
|Los Angeles||0||1st Prd :21|
|Arizona||1||1st Prd 2:53|
|Anaheim||0||1st Prd 4:04|
|Nashville||0||1st Prd 20:00|
|San Jose||1||1st Prd 19:41|
|NY Rangers||0||1st Prd 19:38|
|Florida||0||1st Prd 20:00|
|Wichita State||20||1st Half 8:37|
|North Carolina||6:47 PM|
|West Virginia||8:45 PM|
|St Johns||24||1st Half 2:26|
|NC State||31||1st Half 2:50|
|Missouri||28||1st Half 2:03|
|Oral Roberts||27||1st Half 5:42|
|Duquesne||21||1st Half 3:51|
|Ole Miss||7:00 PM|
|Northern Colorado||9:00 PM|
|St Marys-CA||9:00 PM|