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 sign former Packers running back Harris

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 19th at 4:48pm 296929121

The Vikings have signed former Packers, Steelers and Jaguars running back DuJuan Harris to a one-year deal. His agent, Andy Simms, announced the signing on Twitter.

The 26-year-old rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries in 15 games with the Packers in 2014. He also returned 22 kickoffs for 456 yards.

Harris started his career in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Troy. He played five games for the Jaguars that year, rushing for 42 yards on nine carries.

After a brief stint with the Steelers in which he didn’t appear in a game, he joined the Packers’ practice squad in 2012. He ended up starting two games for the Packers that season and totaled 157 yards and two touchdowns in four games.

Harris, who is listed at 5-foot-8 and 203 pounds, missed the entire 2013 season a knee injury.

With Harris signed, the Vikings now have seven running backs on their roster. The others are Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard, Henry Josey, Jerick McKinnon, Domonique Williams and, yes, Adrian Peterson.

Greenway wins NFLPA's 'Whizzer' White Award

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 18th at 5:11pm 296785081

The NFLPA announced today that veteran Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway has won the Byron “Whizzer” White Award, given to the NFL player who best “serves his team, community and country.”

Greenway, who has spent his entire career with the Vikings, founded his Lead the Way Foundation in 2008. The foundation, which serves families in Minnesota and his home state of South Dakota, provides resources and opportunities to chronically and critically ill children and their families.

Greenway, the team’s Man of the Year for 2014, is involved in other charitable endeavors, too.

Greenway was nominated by his teammates and edged out four other finalists — Dustin Colquitt, Malcolm Jenkins, Jameel McClain and Charles Tillman — to win the award, along with a $100,000 donation from the NFLPA to his Lead the Way Foundation.

“I can’t tell you what an honor this is. There are so many good guys in this league, and it is such an honor to be part of this group of men,” Greenway said today while receiving the award in Maui. “This foundation is something that my wife Jenni and I wanted to do as an example for our children, to use this platform of the NFL to do better and do more.”

Greenway is the second Vikings player to win the award since it was established in 1967. Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter also won it back in 1999.

Free-agent safety Taylor Mays to visit the Vikings

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 19th at 8:39am 296779591

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.

Off the Board: O-Line run drops gift in Vikings' lap

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 18th at 3:59pm 296737241

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.

Vikings re-sign RFA swing tackle Mike Harris

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated March 17th at 1:07pm 296583991

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.

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