Irv Smith Jr.

Vikings Eyeing TE MyCole Pruitt

The Vikings have lost a couple of tight ends this offseason, so they’re naturally looking toward free agency for reinforcement. Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter) that Minnesota has “sent out some feelers” on free agent tight end MyCole Pruitt. Tomasson notes that “nothing is close” when it comes to a potential signing.

Pruitt actually started his career with the Vikings back in 2015, with the former fifth-rounder spending one-plus seasons with the organization. After bouncing around the league a bit, the tight end found a home in Tennessee in 2018. While Pruitt never put up big numbers during his stint with the Titans (20 receptions for 241 yards and one score), he had a consistent role as a blocking tight end, appearing in 42 games (15 starts) in three years. Pruitt also saw time in five playoff games for Tennessee, hauling in six receptions.

The Vikings have likely been looking for extra depth at tight end since moving on from Kyle Rudolph earlier this offseason. The team also watched as backup Hale Hentges called it a career. The team’s depth chart is currently led by former second-rounder Irv Smith Jr. and former fifth-round pick Tyler Conklin.

While the team’s interest in Pruitt makes sense from a depth perspective, general manager Rick Spielman seemed to hint recently that he’d feel comfortable with Smith and Conklin atop his depth chart.

“Irv does it with his ability to run and his athletic ability … [hopefully we get the] same type of production going forward,” Spielman said (via Eric Smith of the team’s website). “And I think the other guy that really jumped out at the tight end position was Tyler Conklin, and last year he took a significant jump when he got his opportunity to play, not only making some plays in the passing game but in his development as a blocker at the line of scrimmage as well.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Giants, Ryan, Fuller

After dealing Markus Golden to the Cardinals, it appears the 1-6 Giants have officially declared themselves sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Though GM Dave Gettleman may be reluctant to trade away veteran talent that could theoretically help Big Blue win a few games — and perhaps save Gettleman’s job in the process — players like Evan Engram, Kevin Zeitler, and Golden Tate could be available, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes (though Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says the club is unlikely to deal Engram).

2017 second-round DT Dalvin Tomlinson could also be on the move, per Dunleavy. Tomlinson is playing out the last year of his rookie contract, and while he has expressed interest in staying with the Giants long-term, there has been little progress in contract talks.

As we creep closer to the November 3 deadline, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league:

Vikings To Sign Irv Smith Jr.

Vikings second-round pick Irv Smith Jr. has reached agreement with the club on his rookie deal, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets. As of this writing, the tight end is the highest-drafted 2019 rookie to put pen to paper. 

Smith was widely regarded as one of the top tight ends in this year’s class after a strong showing at Alabama. After Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson went to the Lions (No. 8 overall) and Noah Fant fell to the Broncos (No. 20), Smith stood out in a group that still included Washington’s Drew Sample, San Jose State’s Josh Oliver, and Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger.

Now in Minnesota, the No. 50 overall pick could theoretically displace Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph, who is consistent yet unremarkable, is under contract for one more year. Dumping Rudolph would save the club $7MM+ in cap room. On draft week, the Vikings received calls on Rudolph, so there’s definitely a market for his services.

Per the terms of Smith’s slot, he’ll earn $5.8MM over the life of his four-year deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Vikings, Lions

After surprisingly getting canned by the Packers midseason, Mike McCarthy had remained conspicuously quiet. Until now. If you haven’t read it yet, you should check out Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com‘s recent interview with McCarthy. McCarthy finally dished on everything related to his firing, and expressed his displeasure with how it was handled. McCarthy was apparently blindsided by the decision to fire him midseason, and said it “couldn’t have been handled any worse” by Green Bay’s management.

Notably published just one day before the explosive reports of dysfunction within the organization from Bleacher Report, McCarthy downplayed any tension between him and Aaron Rodgers. All McCarthy did to acknowledge a potential strain in their relationship was saying “to think you can be in a relationship that long and not have any frustrations, that’s unrealistic.” McCarthy also told Demovsky that he 100 percent plans to continue coaching in 2020. The longtime Packers coach was reportedly a candidate for the Jets and Browns openings, and it’s still unclear if he pulled himself out of the running or if he just wasn’t able to land a job.

Here’s more from around the NFC North:

  • With Trevor Siemian bolting for the Jets, the Vikings are still trying to figure out their backup quarterback situation. They met with quarterback David Fales on Friday, per a team announcement. Fales spent last year as Miami’s number three quarterback behind Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler. Minnesota also hosted former Rams backup Sean Mannion on a visit last week, but he left without a contract. Even though there was no agreement, Mannion is still “VERY much on the Vikings radar,” tweets Darren Wolfson of 5News Minneapolis. As of this writing, Kyle Sloter is the only other QB on the roster behind Kirk Cousins.
  • When T.J. Lang opted to retire, he left a big hole on the right side of the Lions’ offensive line. But Detroit is apparently confident they’ll be able to replace him, according to recent comments head coach Matt Patricia made, via Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website. As Twentyman and Patricia broke down, the team has a number of options. They have Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins returning from last year, and they added Oday Aboushi this offseason. Patricia also said that second-year offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby could play some guard.
  • Speaking of the Lions and holes, they had a massive one at tight end last year after Eric Ebron left. They got virtually nothing from the position last year, so it won’t be surprising if they draft one early in this year’s draft. To that end, the team hosted Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. for a visit on Thursday, according to a tweet from Josh Norris of Rotoworld. Smith Jr. is most analyst’s third-rated tight end, and could go as high as the first round. He caught 44 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns for the Crimson Tide last season.

Patriots Notes: Kraft, Flowers, Tate

Patriots owner Robert Kraft will likely not face many legal repercussions from his prostitution charges, according to a Florida criminal defense attorney (via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe). Kraft will probably be required to pay a several hundred dollar fine and attend counseling of some sort, at which point the charges may be dropped.

But the consequences from an NFL standpoint are likely to be much more severe. Volin believes commissioner Roger Goodell should “come down hard on Kraft” and impose at least a six-game suspension and a hefty fine (the maximum fine is $500K). Kraft is obviously one of the most prominent and powerful owners in the league, but he may be relieved of some of his duties (he is a part of five major ownership committees). He was supposed to guide the league through a potential 2021 lockout and lead negotiations with television networks when those contracts expire in 2022, but that is all in question now.

Volin still believes Kraft will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his induction will now be delayed, and the 77-year-old may not be around to enjoy his enshrinement when it does happen (Volin says Kraft was likely to get the HOF nod in a year or two). And, while Kraft will almost certainly not be forced to sell the club or hand it off to his son, Jonathan, this incident will be a permanent blot on his reputation.

Now let’s take a quick look at a few on-field notes from Foxborough:

  • Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers will be a hot commodity if he hits the open market, but Jim McBride of the Boston Globe says locking him up to a long-term deal is high on New England’s list of priorities. The Pats are unlikely to use the franchise tag on Flowers, and they are unlikely to keep him if it takes an Olivier Vernon-esque deal to do so (five years, $85MM). However, McBride believes Flowers will ultimately return to New England on a multi-year contract, even if he tests the free agent market first.
  • In the same piece linked above, McBride looks at the other Patriots eligible for free agency and their chances of returning to the club. For instance, he believes specialists Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen will certainly be back, while Eric Rowe and Danny Shelton are more likely to find homes elsewhere.
  • Assuming the Patriots don’t trade out of the first round, Doug Kyed of NESN.com sees tight ends Noah Fant (Iowa) and Irv Smith Jr. (Alabama) and DB Taylor Rapp (Washington) as potential fits.
  • Golden Tate would be a good fit in the Patriots’ offense, but Kyed does not believe the Pats will be willing to meet Tate’s asking price.
  • Brothers Devin McCourty and Jason McCourty have announced that they will continue their careers in 2019 after some retirement speculation prior to the Super Bowl. Devin is still under contract with the Patriots, but Jason is eligible for free agency.