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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Vikings' 2015 preseason schedule announced

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 10th at 8:11am 299237051

The NFL has revealed the 2015 preseason schedule. The Vikings, who have already been announced as one of the two teams playing in the annual Hall of Fame game, will play five preseason games.

They will open against the Steelers in Canton, Ohio. They then host the Buccaneers and the Raiders before finishing the preseason on the road against the Cowboys and then the Titans.

Here is their complete preseasons schedule:

Preseason Week 1 (Aug. 9, 7:00 p.m. CT): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Preseason Week 2 (Aug. 14-16): vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Preseason Week 3 (Aug. 21-23): vs. Oakland Raiders

Preseason Week 4 (Aug. 28-29): at Dallas Cowboys

Preseason Week 5 (Sept. 3): at Tennessee Titans

Fifth-year option decisions loom for Smith, Kalil

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 10th at 8:11am 299234921

NFL teams have started to exercise their fifth-year options on 2012 first-round picks. The headliner is Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick that year and now the franchise quarterback for the Colts.

The Vikings will soon have to make decisions on a pair of players in Harrison Smith and Matt Kalil.

Picking up the option on Smith, who was a Pro Bowl-caliber safety in 2014, is a no-brainer. The Vikings will have a tougher call on Kalil, who has regressed since making the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

In case you need a refresher on these fifth-year options, they are only available for teams to use on first-round draft picks. In the case of Kalil and Smith, the Vikings have the ability to keep them around through the 2016 season. Their fifth-year salaries — $11.1 million for Kalil and $5.3 million for Smith — would only be guaranteed in the event of injury. So if a healthy Kalil struggles, they can simply cut him before the 2016 league year and won’t have to pay him a dime of that $11.1 million.

The deadline for teams to exercise the option is May 3, the day after the draft wraps up.

I recently chatted with Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who now writes for CBS Sports, for another story I’m working on. While I had him on the phone, I asked him about the fifth-year options for Kalil and Smith. He agrees that Smith is a lock, but he’s curious to see how things play out with Kalil.

“Which Matt Kalil are you exercising the option for: the rookie year Matt Kalil or the one we saw the first part of last year? I guess that’s why it’s a decision,” Corry said. “It would be kind of hard not to since it’s not guaranteed unless there is an injury.

“So maybe you exercise it and take a wait-and-see approach,” he continued. “And if he isn’t what you thought he was — a cornerstone guy who is going to anchor the offensive line — then you don’t keep him after the 2015 season or you try to work out something for a lower salary in 2016 instead. You have more flexibility by exercising it. Because what if he puts it all together and lives up to his potential? Then you’re looking at the franchise tag, which would be more than the option.”

Last year, the first year that the fifth-year options came into play, the Vikings declined to use theirs on quarterback Christian Ponder, another young player who wasn’t living up to his draft status.

The expectation is that things will be different with Kalil and that they’ll exercise his option.

Vikings hope new stadium will be recruiting tool

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 10th at 1:54am 299085431

The Vikings invited local media for a tour of the construction site of their new downtown stadium and the stadium preview center today. The team has taken free agents on similar tours, too.

While a glimpse at the new stadium site wasn’t enough to convince defensive end Michael Johnson, the most notable free agent to visit, to sign with the Vikings, owner and team president Mark Wilf said he feels the prospect of the new stadium can be used as a potential recruiting tool.

“I think it makes a difference with the players,” Wilf said. “They’re starting to see what’s coming here. And a lot of great things are happening on the field with the coach and the team and I think that this building is part of something exciting that we’re building. It certainly helps. It certainly helps.”

This time a year ago, construction crews were finishing the demolition of the Metrodome.

Today, the Vikings and stadium officials said that construction of the new stadium is 50 percent complete, with more than $400 million of project funding having been put to use. The construction remains on track for the new stadium to be built and ready to go in time for the 2016 preseason.

And the Vikings can’t wait to show the world, including future free agents, the finished product.

“It’s a building that all Minnesotans and all Vikings fans are going to be super proud of. It’s a great building,” Wilf said. “I think it’s going to be a building that’s really going to wow the American sports public and the world. It’s a venue we’re really proud of.”

Off the Board: Trades galore in the top 10 picks

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 7th at 9:03pm 298895161

This installment of “Off the Board” should be a crowd-pleaser. The draft-night wheeling and dealing has made the first round of the NFL draft must-see TV. Trades are going to happen the night of April 30, and the Vikings and the NFL’s 31 other teams must be prepared to react to them.

So this time around, let’s throw in a trio of trades before the Vikings are on the clock at No. 11.

I’m not saying these trades are likely to happen. I will readily admit I’m just throwing stuff off the wall here. But remember, the purpose of these posts is to project how the Vikings might proceed.

So a blockbuster trade for Marcus Mariota? Let’s do it. A team trading up for Amari Cooper? Sure, why not? Another deal involving Kevin White? Go ahead and put that on the board, too. Then the question will be what will the Vikings do once the dust settles? Start reading for my best guess.

1. Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. Nothing changes here. Winston is the pick for the quarterback-needy Buccaneers, who cross their fingers and hope he matures off the field.

2. Eagles (trade with Titans): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. Our first big trade. I don’t know how, but the Eagles move up 18 spots to reunite Mariota with Chip Kelly, his old Oregon coach.

3. Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida. The Jaguars, who took Blake Bortles a year ago, have their choice of non-quarterbacks. Let’s give them Fowler, who may be the top edge rusher.

4. Raiders: Leonard Williams, DE, USC. The Raiders could also be a candidate to trade down. But with Williams still on the board, they add another difference-maker to help build their defense.

5. Rams (trade with Redskins): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. They just got a new quarterback in Nick Foles. Now they move up five spots for Cooper, the most pro-ready receiver available.

6. Jets: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska. The Jets stocked up on cornerbacks for Todd Bowles’ aggressive defense. Now they select an edge rusher in Gregory to help his blitzes hit home.

7. Bears: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson. The Bears are transitioning to a 3-4 defense and need pass rushers and bulk on the inside, too. Here, they take Beasley and look for big guys later.

8. Browns (trade with Falcons): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. The Browns, one of two teams with two first-rounders, trade a second-day pick to move up four spots to select White.

9. Giants: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford. The Giants historically have liked to spend their first-round picks on offensive and defensive linemen. In this scenario, they draft an offensive tackle in Peat.

10. Redskins (trade with Rams): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State. After dropping back in that trade with the Rams, they select Waynes, a potential Vikings target, to boost their secondary.

11. Vikings: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa. After all that activity before their pick, the Vikings could trade down, as well. But we’ll save that for a future installment of “Off the Board.” Instead, they stay put and choose from a cluster of players that includes Scherff, Louisville receiver Devante Parker and Missouri defensive end Shane Ray. All three of those players could help, but after they opted against upgrading the offensive line in free agency, Scherff would start at left guard right away.

OK, your turn. Leave a comment to tell me who you would want the Vikings to pick in this scenario.

Vikings, Sullivan agree to contract extension

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 7th at 12:12pm 298894371

The Vikings and center John Sullivan have agreed to tack another year onto his contract.

Sullivan and the Vikings finalized a contract extension that will keep him under team control through the 2017 season. Sullivan also receives raises in his base salary as part of the deal.

Sullivan has a new base salary of $5.9 million this season. He has a base salary of $5.4 million in each of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He had been scheduled to make a base salary of $4.65 million both this season and next.

While the offensive line did not perform up to expectations in 2014, Sullivan continued to be a consistent performer in the middle of the line. He started all 16 games for a third straight season and has started 93 total games since joining the Vikings in 2008.

ESPN first reported that Sullivan and the Vikings had redone his deal.

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Philadelphia - WP: A. Harang 5 FINAL
Washington - LP: J. Zimmermann 3
Atlanta - LP: S. Marimon 5 FINAL
Toronto - WP: B. Cecil 6
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 12 FINAL
Detroit - LP: A. Sanchez 3
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 4 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 2
Cincinnati - LP: H. Bailey 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: C. Martinez 5
San Diego - LP: C. Kimbrel 6 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: Z. Rosscup 7
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 4 FINAL
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1
Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 6
Miami - LP: M. Latos 4 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 5
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 4
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Odorizzi 0
Oakland - WP: J. Hahn 5 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: Y. Ventura 0
Arizona - LP: R. De La Rosa 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: C. Heston 4
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 3 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: Z. Greinke 6
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 1 FINAL
Seattle - WP: F. Hernandez 3
Washington 93 FINAL
Toronto 86
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Golden State 106
Milwaukee 91 FINAL
Chicago 103
Dallas 108 FINAL
Houston 118
Minnesota 1 FINAL
St. Louis 4
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Winnipeg 1 FINAL
Anaheim 2
Houston 1 FINAL
D.C. 1
Orlando City 0 FINAL
Columbus 3
Toronto FC 2 FINAL
FC Dallas 3
Seattle 3 FINAL
Colorado 1
Vancouver FC 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 0
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2

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