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 kept tabs on free-agent safety Taylor Mays since the start of free agency. Now they are bringing Mays, yet another of head coach Mike Zimmer’s former Bengals, in for a visit.
Mays will be in town tonight for dinner with team officials and will visit Winter Park tomorrow, a league source confirmed. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network first reported that Mays will visit.
I wrote about Mays a couple weeks ago when the Vikings first expressed interest. A second-round pick of the 49ers in 2010, Mays joined the Bengals in 2011 and played 50 games for them, mostly as a backup. Mays played a significant role as a sub-package defender when Zimmer was with the Bengals. But with Zimmer in Minnesota in 2014, Mays had a reduced role on the Cincinnati defense.
In five NFL seasons with two teams, Mays made 98 tackles, recorded one sack and forced one fumble. The 27-year-old has broken up six passes and has yet to record an interception in the NFL.
Mays will become the third former Bengals defender to visit the Twin Cities in the past week.
Free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson was in town over the weekend, but he rejoined the Bengals instead of reuniting with Zimmer with the Vikings. Veteran cornerback Terence Newman visited the Vikings on Monday and has yet to choose his team for the 2015 season.
It has been all free agency, all the time at Access Vikings the past couple of weeks. But I figured no one would mind if I took a break to look ahead to the draft, which is a little over a month away.
The first installment of this “Off the Board” series was published three weeks ago, right after the combine. In case you missed that one or need a refresher, the purpose of this series is to examine how the Vikings might proceed with their 11th overall pick based on what unfolds in front of them.
Last time, we looked at what the Vikings might do if the top three wide receivers were gone before they were on the clock on April 30. Since that post, the Vikings addressed the position by trading for Mike Wallace. But will the addition of Wallace preclude them from taking a wide receiver early?
In this installment of the series, let’s look at what the Vikings, who still have a big hole at left guard, might do if there is a run on offensive linemen before they are on the clock. Will they pounce on a wide receiver who falls to them or tackle another need, such as cornerback or defensive end?
1. Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. We haven’t heard much lately about Winston, other than reports he won’t attend the draft in person. The silence is probably a good thing for Winston, the overwhelming favorite to go first overall to the quarterback-needy Buccaneers.
2. Titans: Leonard Williams, DE, USC. The Titans focused on defense in free agency, keeping edge rusher Derrick Morgan, adding another in Brian Orakpo and signing safety Da’Norris Searcy. Throw in Williams to play in their 3-4 scheme and the Titans have the makings of an improved unit.
3. Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida. The Jaguars spent for age-appropriate veterans such as tight end Julius Thomas and cornerback Davon House to complement their young core. They are still looking for an elite pass rusher, though, and Fowler has the potential to be that in the pros.
4. Raiders: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. They tried to add weapons, such as wide receiver Randall Cobb, for quarterback Derek Carr but no one would take their money. So they seem likely to use this pick on one of the top pass-catchers in the draft. White might have the most upside.
5. Redskins: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska. They are in need of another edge rusher after losing Orakpo in free agency. Which do they prefer? I don’t know. But let’s slot Gregory here.
6. Jets: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. The Jets traded for wide-out Brandon Marshall and signed about half of the cornerbacks available in free agency. They still need that quarterback, though.
7. Bears: Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri. The Bears need play-makers for their new 3-4 defense. It’s probably too early to take nose tackle Danny Shelton, so Ray makes a lot of sense at this spot.
8. Falcons: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa. The first offensive lineman comes off the board. They took Jake Matthews sixth last year. Now they double down with Scherff to play right tackle or guard.
9. Giants: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford. The Giants have invested some high picks into their line, but it remains a problem. So we could see them take a tackle, too. We’ll give them Peat in this scenario.
10. Rams: La’El Collins, OT, LSU. Like the Falcons, the Rams took a lineman, Greg Robinson, early last year. But plenty of work is left to be done here, too. Collins can play tackle or guard for them.
11. Vikings: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. The run on linemen might force the Vikings to make a difficult decision, although this would be a good problem to have. Sure, they could have interest in someone like Scherff to solidify the left guard spot. But in this scenario, the Vikings get to choose from Cooper, Michigan State corner Trae Waynes, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley and others. I don’t think coach Mike Zimmer would mind adding a talent like Waynes or Beasley to his defense. But Cooper is a polished prospect who could end up being the best receiver in this class. Yes, they just added Wallace, but help is still needed and nothing is guaranteed for Wallace beyond 2015.
OK, your turn. Leave a comment to tell me who you would want the Vikings to pick in this scenario.
The Vikings announced this morning that offensive tackle Mike Harris has re-signed with the team.
Harris was a restricted free agent and the team tendered him last week to secure his rights. Terms of the deal are not yet known, but Harris will make $1.542 million in 2015 if he simply signed his RFA tender.
The Vikings claimed Harris last August after the Chargers waived him during their final preseason roster cuts. Harris, the team’s backup swing tackle, ended up starting five of the 12 games he appeared in due to the season-ending injury to right tackle Phil Loadholt. Injuries also forced him to play right guard, something he hadn’t done since youth football, in the Week 7 loss to the Bills.
Harris showed enough when he got on the field for the Vikings to keep him around for this season.
Presumably, he will compete to again back up left tackle Matt Kalil and Loadholt. He is not built like a guard, so it would be surprising if the Vikings gave him a shot to fill their vacant left guard spot.
The Vikings quietly had free-agent cornerback Terence Newman — another one of Mike Zimmer’s old players in Cincinnati — in for a visit yesterday, the team confirmed this morning.
Newman was the fifth overall pick for the Cowboys in the 2003 draft. Yes, that was a long time ago by NFL standards, but even at 36, Newman was a decent player for the Bengals in 2014.
Zimmer was in Dallas when the Cowboys drafted Newman and coached him for four seasons there. In 2012, after Newman’s play dropped from a Pro Bowl level, he reunited with Zimmer in Cincinnati. Zimmer helped clean up his technique while coaxing two more productive seasons out of him.
Last season, with Zimmer in his first season as head coach of the Vikings, Newman wasn’t as sharp. He was graded as Pro Football Focus’ 76th-ranked cornerback in pass coverage. But he did start 13 games for the Bengals and was credited with 14 passes defended to go with one interception.
Newman, who turns 37 in September, will be one of the league’s oldest cornerbacks in 2015.
The Vikings soared to seventh in the league in pass defense under Zimmer. But their depth was not tested at cornerback as their top three cornerbacks — Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson — all played 16 games. The Vikings would be wise to add more bodies there, and if one of them could challenge Munnerlyn and Robinson for a starting spot, that would be a big bonus.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network first reported the news, and added that Newman will meet with the Patriots today. So as was the case with Michael Johnson, the Vikings aren’t the only suitors.
The Vikings have hired two new assistants to head coach Mike Zimmer’s staff.
Robert Rodriguez joins as assistant defensive line coach, and Andrew Janocko will be offensive quality control coach.
Rodriguez, an assistant at Texas-El Paso, will work under defensive line coach Andre Patterson. Rodriguez replaces Robb Akey, who joined the Redskins last month.
Rodriguez played linebacker at UTEP and is among the school’s all-time leaders in tackles. He spent time with the Panthers and Titans in 2005 but never played in a regular-season NFL game. He had stints in NFL Europe in 2006 and the CFL in 2006-07 before getting into coaching.
He joined UTEP’s staff as an assistant in 2008 and was promoted to linebackers coach in 2010. The past two years the 33-year-old was their nickels coach and assistant special teams coordinator.
Janocko, 26, was quarterbacks coach at Mercyhurst last season after working as an offensive assistant for Tampa Bay (2012-13) and a graduate assistant at Rutgers (2011). He was a backup quarterback at Pitt from 2007-10.
|Boston - LP: C. Buchholz||2||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran||4|
|San Francisco||9:05 PM|
|Detroit||34||2nd Qtr 8:23|
|LA Clippers||34||2nd Qtr|
|Charlotte||26||2nd Qtr 9:11|
|LA Lakers||6:30 PM|
|Golden State||7:00 PM|
|UCLA||10||1st Half 9:25|
|NC State||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Kent State||9:00 PM|
|Michigan State||9:07 PM|
|(15) North Carolina||15||1st Half 10:00|
|(3) South Carolina||9|
|(18) Iowa||0||1st Half 17:15|
|(9) Arizona State||8:30 PM|
|(7) Florida State|
|(14) Stanford||9:00 PM|
|(2) Notre Dame|