- The Vikings have signed defensive tackle Jarrod Clements and waived defensive end Caleb Kidder. Clements, who goes by “Chunky,” went undrafted out of Illinois this year. He saw action in each of his four years there, racking up 26.5 tackles for loss and six sacks along the way. Pro Football Focus offered a tepid review of his game in a pre-draft scouting report. Kidder only spent three and a half months with the Vikings, who signed him May 1 as an undrafted free agent from Montana.
- Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer says he would love to use rookie Dalvin Cook as his kick returner. However, he says the decision will ultimately be up to head coach Mike Zimmer (Twitter link via SiriusXM). The Vikings believe that Cook can be their lead running back of the future (and they have the ability to void Latavius Murray‘s contract after this season), so they might not want to give the high-risk role to him.
Floyd recently completed a stint in house arrest stemming from his DUI conviction. During the house arrest, Floyd failed a drug test for alcohol. The wide receiver blamed kombucha (a fermented tea) for the positive result and the Vikings supported his claim. He received just one day in jail for his infraction, but it will still be a while before he takes the field thanks to the four-game ban.
It was expected that Floyd would serve no less than a two-game suspension for driving while intoxicated. However, the league has gone for an even harsher penalty in light of how drunk he allegedly was at the time of the arrest. NFL policy allows lengthier bans when in cases where a player’s blood alcohol content is above .15. Floyd’s was at .217, a level that put him into Arizona’s “Super Extreme DUI” category.
The Vikings have Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright, and Laquon Treadwell as their top receivers, but Floyd is pushing to make the cut as the WR5 on Minnesota’s depth chart. The one-time Cardinals WR2 faces competition from Isaac Fruechte and late draft picks Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley for a roster spot.
Floyd will be eligible to return to the Vikings’ active roster on Monday, October 2 following the team’s October 1 game against the Lions. Between now and then, he will be eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Vikings have backed wide receiver Michael Floyd since he violated his probation by testing positive for alcohol last month, after which he insisted that he unknowingly ingested it when drinking kombucha tea. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer spoke about Floyd’s situation Thursday, telling Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press: “Do I believe it? I don’t know how much tea he drank. I have no clue. I don’t have any doubt why there’d be skepticism, but he told me that he wasn’t (drinking). That it was legit.” Zimmer buys Floyd’s story, but he did issue the wideout a warning when the two spoke on the phone after his failed alcohol test. “I said, ‘If I find out you’re lying to me, I’m going to cut you,’ ” revealed Zimmer, whose team will go without Floyd early in the season because of a forthcoming suspension.
A bit more from the NFC:
- Both the Redskins and Kirk Cousins are reportedly OK with the quarterback playing 2017 under the franchise tag, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if the club will nonetheless make him a last-ditch offer by Monday’s deadline. The expectation is that Cousins will need at least $52MM in guarantees in order to sign a long-term pact, though Florio suggests that something between that figure and the $40MM the Raiders gave Derek Carr could get Cousins to bite. If Cousins says no, the Redskins could leak the details of the offer and make him “seem greedy and selfish,” writes Florio.
- Thurston Armbrister is among Lions linebackers with an on-the-bubble status entering training camp, writes Tim Twentyman of the team’s website. Armbrister wasn’t much of a factor on defense in 2016, his first season as a Lion, as the ex-Jaguar only played 63 snaps and made nine tackles in 14 appearances. However, he was one of Detroit’s key special teamers, racking up the fourth-most snaps (260) for a unit that Football Outsiders ranked as the sixth best in the NFL.
- Earlier Thursday, PFR reviewed the offseasons of two NFC teams, the Giants and Eagles.
One year after taking the NFC North crown with an 11-5 record, the Vikings witnessed the loss of their starting quarterback, injuries all along their offensive line, and a season-ending health issue to franchise icon Adrian Peterson. Following an 8-8 campaign and a third place divisional finish, Minnesota had several key areas to address this offseason, mostly on the offensive side of the ball.
- Riley Reiff, T: Five years, $58.75MM. $26.3MM guaranteed.
- Mike Remmers, T: Five years, $30MM. $10.5MM guaranteed.
- Latavius Murray, RB: Three years, $15MM. $3.4MM guaranteed. $2.3MM available via incentives.
- Datone Jones, DE: One year, $3.75MM. $1.6MM guaranteed. $1.25MM available via incentives.
- Terence Newman, CB: One year, $3.25MM. $1.5MM guaranteed.
- Case Keenum, QB: One year, $2MM. $750K guaranteed. $250K available via incentives.
- Ryan Quigley, P: Two years, $1.565MM.
- Michael Floyd, WR: One year, $1.41MM. Maximum value of $6MM.
- Will Sutton, DT: One year, $690K.
The Vikings actually boasted enviable depth heading into the 2016 season, but injuries and other factors led the club’s front five to perform like a sieve by the end of the campaign. Phil Loadholt retired before the season got underway, John Sullivan was released, Mike Harris dealt with a mysterious illness that wiped out his entire year, and Matt Kalil and Andre Smith played only six combined games before going down with injury. The result was an over-matched offensive line that started the likes of T.J. Clemmings (among the worst offensive tackles in the NFL), ranked 30th in adjusted line yards, and 17th in adjusted sack rate.
Quarterback Sam Bradford was heavily affected by the lack of blocking up front, as he rarely had time to throw intermediate-to-deep passes and finished 33rd in average depth of target, as Matthew Coller of 1500 ESPN details. An offensive line that performed at just a mediocre level would have done wonders for the Vikings offense, so the club attacked the weakness by bringing in free agents Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers.
Both deals were overpays, to be sure, as Reiff and Remmers both graded in the middle of Pro Football Focus‘ offensive tackle rankings (Nos. 48 and 51, respectively, among 78 qualifiers). Reiff, specifically, is now the eighth-highest-paid left tackle in the NFL, and received the third-most guaranteed money. That’s an exorbitant sum for a middling lineman, especially one who didn’t even play on the blindside a year ago.
Remmers’ contract is a bit more manageable, but the fact remains that Minnesota spent large to ensure a baseline level of production — and that’s not a bad idea. With the emergence of quick passing games, it’s more important than ever to simply not be terrible up front. Not every team needs to employ a Tyron Smith or a Joe Thomas to enjoy success, as it’s weak links — instead of All Pro performances — that often differentiate between offensive lines. The Vikings are also paying for availability, as Reiff has only missed three games during his five-year career, while Remmers has played in 32 consecutive contests since becoming a full-time starter.
Running behind Reiff and Remmers will be Latavius Murray, who signed a three-year deal to leave the Raiders. Originally viewed as a replacement for Adrian Peterson, Murray’s role is now murky after the Vikings traded up in the second round to select running back Dalvin Cook. There are certainly still carries to go around, as Minnesota ran the ball 380 times a season ago, but Murray probably isn’t going to be the bell-cow back he thought he signed up to be. Mike Clay of ESPN.com (Twitter link) projects 169 carries for Cook, 111 for Murray, and 69 for Jerick McKinnon.
The Vikings’ final notable offensive addition was wide receiver Michael Floyd, who struggled to find a market after being charged with Extreme DUI last year. Floyd, whose contract with Minnesota doesn’t contain any guaranteed money, is certainly a bounce-back candidate, and could make for an excellent value signing. However, he’s likely to serve a minimum two-game suspension, so he won’t be on the field immediately. The NFL recently held a hearing on Floyd’s case.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings didn’t add much to a unit that already ranked ninth in DVOA and is returning many of its players. One such returnee is cornerback Terence Newman, who miraculously graded as the league’s ninth-best corner in his age-38 season, per PFF. At some point, Newman is going to experience a decline, but until that time, he’ll continue to team with Xavier Rhodes in one of the NFL’s best secondaries. He’ll hold down the fort for 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes, who has disappointed in two pro seasons.
Like Waynes, Datone Jones is a former first-round pick who hasn’t contributed much during his NFL career, but he could be in for a fresh start after coming over from the division-rival Packers. Yanked around from position to position in Green Bay, Jones was even playing outside linebacker with the Packers. In the the Vikings’ 4-3 front, Jones will move back to his more natural end position, and could even see time at three-technique defensive tackle.
The Vikings selected Ohio State center Pat Elflein in the third round of this year’s draft as part of the team’s offseason push to revamp its offensive line (Elflein’s selection marked the first time since 2012 that Minnesota used a pick in the top three rounds on an offensive lineman). Elflein has an excellent pedigree and certainly has the talent to become a top center in the league, but as Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune writes, Nick Easton served as the starting center during the later spring practices this year, including the three-day minicamp. However, Vensel says Elflein will get his chance in training camp, and he will need to make an early impact if the Vikings’ O-line is to become a strength this season.
The Vikings’ defense finished 2016 ninth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), third in yards allowed per game, and sixth in points allowed per game. In short, Minnesota boasted a pretty strong defense, and there is a lot of credit to go around for that performance.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes deserves a great deal of that credit. Rhodes, whom the Vikings selected in the first round of the 2013 draft, turned in the best season of his career in 2016, which earned him his first Pro Bowl nod. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics were fairly kind to his overall effort, as Rhodes graded out as the 29th-best corner in the league out of 111 qualified players, but PFF really loved his performance against the run, where he graded as the top CB in football. Whatever issues he had in coverage he helped to make up for with his five interceptions, one of which he returned 100 yards for a score.
Minnesota picked up Rhodes’ fifth-year option last year, so he is currently under contract through 2017, and he is set to earn a tidy $8.026MM this season. But that doesn’t mean Rhodes wouldn’t be open to a long-term deal, and the Vikings do have a history of signing key players to extensions during contract years. Indeed, we heard back in February that the team was expected to begin negotiating a new contract with Rhodes, and while there have been no public reports of such negotiations, it does not appear that either side has put a deadline on contract talks. As such, it could be that a deal gets hammered out at some point during the season.
Former NFL agent Joel Corry says Desmond Trufant‘s recent extension with the Falcons could serve as a barometer for Rhodes’ negotiations with Minnesota. Trufant, whose total contract value is currently the third-highest in the league among cornerbacks — and who was drafted three picks ahead of Rhodes — pulled down a five-year, $68.75MM deal from Atlanta, including $41.53MM in guaranteed money. In addition to being just about the same age, Trufant and Rhodes are similarly talented players, both solid in coverage and stout against the run, so it would not be a surprise to see Rhodes land a contract that matches or exceeds Trufant’s pact.
Since he became a full-time starter in 2014, Rhodes has also been pretty durable. He started all 16 regular-season contests in 2014 and 2015, and after missing the first two weeks of 2016 with a knee injury, he started and finished the remaining 14 games. The Vikings have about $13.5MM in cap space at the moment (under the Rule of 51), so theoretically they could even front-load a Rhodes extension to give themselves some wiggle room down the road. In any event, expect to see Rhodes and fellow Pro Bowler Harrison Smith sharing Minnesota’s defensive backfield for the next few years.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- While the Broncos are set to hold a quarterback competition, the Vikings have a long-term dilemma at the position. None of the three ESPN.com reporters surveyed believe the Vikes should offer Sam Bradford a long-term extension. Bradford’s two-year deal he signed with the Eagles expires at season’s end. Jeff Dickerson and Rob Demovsky would encourage a franchise tag scenario similar to Washington’s Kirk Cousins course of action, while Michael Rothstein said a Bradford deal makes sense only if the 29-year-old signal-caller would be amenable to a one- or two-year pact. Teddy Bridgewater re-emerged to do some on-field work in late May, although the recovering passer has yet to return to official Vikings practice. He has a complex contract situation, but the Vikings did not pick up his fifth-year option.
- Just over a month after signing running back Latavius Murray in free agency, presumably to start, the Vikings selected ex-Florida State rusher Dalvin Cook in the second round of the draft. Murray addressed that Wednesday, telling NFL Network (per Kevin Patra of NFL.com): “I was home, watching the draft — I try to keep up regardless, just with the game itself. So they draft him. It wasn’t a surprise. When you see a guy, again, first-round potential sitting there in the second round, they snatch him up, you can’t be surprised. It motivates me regardless, because they’re always going to bring in somebody to take over for your position.” Even with Cook in the fold, Murray expects to rack up the lion’s share of the Vikings’ rushing attempts in 2017, and the ex-Raider plans to mentor the younger back. “As I said, MJD [Maurice Jones-Drew], Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, those guys did everything they could to try and help me be a better player, and I’m going to do the same for Dalvin,” Murray noted. “Again, it’s going to come down to who is going to be the best player that can play. Because I give Dalvin knowledge and try to help him, doesn’t mean, OK, that I shouldn’t go out there and outperform him and outcompete.”
- The Vikings believe they may have a steal on their hands in another newcomer, defensive tackle Will Sutton, suggests Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune. Sutton, whom the NFC North rival Bears cut in May and who signed with the Vikings a week later, wasn’t playing in an ideal scheme in Chicago, according to Minnesota’s brass. “We felt like when [the Bears] went to a 3-4, it was probably not a real good fit for him,” said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. “His game is based on quickness and acceleration and penetration, so we’ve kind of had our eye on him for a while.” Pro Football Focus disagrees with Zimmer, for what it’s worth, as the outlet gave Sutton easily the best grade of his three-year career last season. He posted poor marks over the two prior seasons, though, including a rookie campaign (2014) spent in a 4-3.
Although Michael Floyd escaped a failed alcohol test with only a single-day jail sentence, the new Vikings wide receiver isn’t likely to get off so easy in terms of NFL punishment. The league held a hearing on Floyd’s conduct last week, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, and he’ll face a minimum two-game suspension.
However, Floyd’s league-mandated ban could far exceed the minimum length, reports Florio. For one, Floyd plead guilty to extreme DUI, meaning the NFL could hand down an even harsher penalty, as NFL policy allows lengthier bans when a blood alcohol content is above .15% (Floyd’s was at .217).
Additionally, Floyd’s probation violation could theoretically be considered a second offense, which would put him in line for further punishment. If the league takes such an approach, Floyd could be suspended for eight games (although Florio doesn’t expect that to be outcome).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.