- 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell had an underwhelming rookie campaign, but Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is confident that the wideout can still be a productive player. “Laquon came in, and he had some durability issues through OTAs, and had some things on and off during camp,” Spielman told Brian Murphy of The Pioneer Press. “I know that he is maybe the hardest-working kid I’ve ever seen. He is so determined to be a good player, and he has the skill set to do it. But we were never able to get him on track. He is going to be a good player with us. I do believe that in my heart.” Treadwell finished his first season with one reception for 15 yards.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman hasn’t yet spoken with Adrian Peterson‘s agent regarding the running back’s future, but that will change at next week’s combine, tweets Jason Cole of Bleacher Report. Peterson is due a $6MM roster bonus March 11, two days after the market opens, and Spielman said Thursday that the seven-time Pro Bowler’s fate will become known prior to free agency. Spielman will also meet with the agent for cornerback Terence Newman next week, relays Cole. Newman is coming off his age-38 season, in which he totaled 38 tackles and an interception across 15 appearances (nine starts), and is on track to hit free agency. The 2016 campaign was Newman’s second in Minnesota, which re-upped him to a $3MM pact last March.
More on the Vikings and two other NFC franchises:
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has a $6MM roster bonus due March 11, two days after the market opens, but general manager Rick Spielman told reporters Thursday that the rusher’s future “will get addressed here before free agency starts” (via Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune). Spielman hasn’t yet spoken to Peterson or his representative, but it’s fair to suggest that the Vikings likely won’t exercise the seven-time Pro Bowler’s option. Even if they don’t, though, Spielman indicated he’s amenable to bringing back the soon-to-be 32-year-old Peterson at a lesser cost in 2017. “If we don’t exercise that option, we always will keep the door open on all of our players,” Spielman said.
Regardless of whether Peterson returns next season as Minnesota’s No. 1 back, it has “got to run the football better,” head coach Mike Zimmer told Lindsey Young of the team’s website. The Vikings finished dead last in rushing (1,205) and yards per carry (3.2) last season, and barely having Peterson available didn’t help. While Peterson posted a microscopic 1.9 YPC, he did it over just 37 carries, having missed most of the year because of a torn meniscus.
More from Spielman:
- Sam Bradford will start under center next season for the Vikings, but the quarterback position is “in flux” beyond that, according to Spielman. The Vikings have another starting-caliber signal-caller, Teddy Bridgewater, though he missed the 2016 campaign and might not play next season on account of the devastating knee injury he suffered last August. Spielman responded to that by trading the club’s first-round pick in this year’s draft (and a fourth in 2018) to the Eagles for Bradford, and the executive maintains that he “would do that over in a millisecond to get Sam Bradford on our football team with the circumstances we were dealing with.” Bradford is “just right now in the prime of his career,” Spielman opined, and is due to hit free agency next winter. Although the Vikings only went 7-8 with Bradford (8-8 overall), the 29-year-old fared respectably atop an ultra-conversative passing offense, having set the single-season completion percentage record (71.6) and posted 20 touchdowns against five interceptions.
- Like Bradford, Bridgewater could also become a free agent next offseason if the Vikings don’t control him via his fifth-year option, which they’ll have to exercise or decline by May. In updating Bridgewater’s recovery, Spielman said: “He’s in the process of working through his motion. I know he’s doing specific things in rehab to get him back to being functional. When he’s going to be ready for football, dropping back and things like that — I think that’s still to be determined.”
- Elsewhere on offense, the Vikings could lose longtime No. 1 left tackle Matt Kalil to free agency. Spielman, though, seemed to imply interest in re-signing the 27-year-old. “We have a plan in place on everything,” he stated. “But I also know I have a pretty good history of trying to keep our own guys as well.” Kalil missed all but two games last year because of a hip injury, and he hasn’t lived up to expectations since going fourth overall in the 2012 draft. However, he racked up 16 starts in each of his four seasons prior to 2016 and now stands as one of the most accomplished pending free agent tackles in a weak class.
- Defensively, Spielman noted that tackle Sharrif Floyd, a potential cap casualty, is “under contract.” Like Peterson and Kalil, Floyd barely took the field last season (one appearance). But “he’s a pretty good player” when healthy, offered Spielman, who added that the team’s defense missed Floyd last season. Floyd sounds safe based on those comments, then, but Spielman could cut him by March 9 and get out of the 25-year-old’s entire $6.75MM-plus cap hit for 2017. As with Floyd, linebacker Chad Greenway‘s fate for next season will become known by the first day of the league year. Greenway, 34, will decide by then whether to retire. The pending free agent revealed last month that he’d only continue his career as a Viking, with whom he has spent all 10 of his seasons.
- The Vikings made a “strong push” for free agent cornerback K’Waun Williams, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, but ultimately lost out to the 49ers. Williams, 25, didn’t play in 2016 while dealing with an ankle injury, but would have given Minnesota another slot option given that Captain Munnerlyn is a free agent. Per Goessling, Williams’ relationship with San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley heavily factored into his decision to head to the Bay Area.
Schwartz, 30, spent last summer on the Lions’ offseason roster after signing a one-year, minimum salary benefit deal with Detroit. Expected to serve as a reserve at several positions along the line, Schwartz was waived at the end of August. As he writes in his retirement piece, Schwartz fully expected to land another contract after parting ways with the Lions, but after weeks passed with no contact from interested clubs, Schwartz realized his career was likely over.
Nevertheless, Schwartz’s seven-year NFL run can’t be considered anything other than a success, especially given that Schwartz entered the league as seventh-round pick and suffered a devastating hip injury soon after becoming an established starter. After bouncing around with the Panthers and Vikings, Schwartz played his best ball with the Chiefs in 2013, grading as one of the best guards in the NFL.
After parlaying his seven-game starter stint in Kansas City into a four-year deal with the Giants, Schwartz dealt with injury once again, managing to play in only 13 games over two seasons thanks to ankle, toe, and leg issues. Having struggled to stay on the field, Schwartz was released by New York last February.
Schwartz has already begun his post-NFL career in media: not only does he pen excellent pieces at SB Nation, but he’s co-authored a book with his brother, Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz. For offensive line junkies, Schwartz’s Twitter account is a must-follow, as is his podcast.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With Cincinnati’s offensive line facing offseason uncertainty, a reunion with former Bengal/current Viking right tackle Andre Smith could make sense for both parties, as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines (Twitter links). Smith, whom the Bengals made the sixth overall pick in 2009, played seven seasons in the Queen City before inking a one-year deal with Minnesota last year. If he did rejoin Cincinnati, Smith would slot back in at right tackle, where 2015 first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi recently struggled. One problem with such a scenario, per Dehner, would be forcing 2015 second-round pick Jake Fisher — who played well at right tackle last year — to guard, a position he hasn’t played much of in the NFL.
Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:
- Although Kyle Juszczyk would view a return to the Ravens as “phenomenal,” the veteran fullback would consider other any offers that might be proposed this spring, he tells SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). The 25-year-old Juszczyk led all NFL fullbacks in both offensive snaps (465) and receptions (37) in 2016, although the lack of fullback usage in the league figures to drive down his market. In terms of positional spending, the Chiefs’ Anthony Sherman currently leads all fullbacks with a $2.1MM annual salary. Juszczyk, a former fourth-round pick out of Harvard, will join a free agent fullback class that includes Patrick DiMarco (Falcons), Marcel Reece (Seahawks), and Jerome Felton (Bills).
- Former Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner has joined the University of Michigan as an offensive analyst, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. Turner’s father, Norv, resigned as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator midway through last season, and while Scott was retained to finish out the campaign, he was fired by the Vikings last month. Although Turner had coached in the NFL since 2011, he didn’t have many options around the league if he wanted to continue leading quarterback rooms — the only QB coaching job still available is in Kansas City, per Dan Hatman of The Scouting Academy (Twitter link).
- Cornerback Bene Benwikere‘s one-year deal with the Bengals is worth $690K, the minimum for a player with three years experience, according to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Still only 25 years old, Benwikere took visits with four other clubs (including the Jets) before signing with Cincinnati. He’ll compete for a spot in the Bengals’ secondary that includes Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson III, Josh Shaw, and pending free agent Dre Kirkpatrick.
We learned yesterday that at least a few GMs are concerned about how much Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has left and whether or not he’d be willing to accept a contract commensurate with a running back on the downside of his career. The Giants are one team that Peterson has indicated he would like to play for if he does not remain in Minnesota, but as Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes, Big Blue has expressed no interest in acquiring the former league MVP (although the Giants have not indicated that they are uninterested either, Peterson just does not appear to fit from a schematic standpoint). Of course, the more teams that drop out of the Peterson race, or decline to enter the race at all, the more likely it is that he will stay with the Vikings on a lesser salary.
- Speaking of Peterson, Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune lays out a list of teams that the long-time Vikings star is most likely to play for next season, and the Buccaneers are at the top of the list.
- Captain Munnerlyn awaits re-entering the free agency scene, with the Vikings cornerback tentatively expecting to test the market for the second time in his career. The 28-year-old corner would enjoy a return to Minnesota but appears to acknowledge that’s not a given. “Hopefully they value my position, value my talent and bring me back,” Munnerlyn said, via Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I’m an older guy, I want to win. I definitely want to win. In Minnesota, I definitely feel like we have a chance to win.” The seasoned slot specialist will be set for his ninth season. He profiles more as a player who will score a medium-length contract, as he did when he signed three-year Vikings pact in 2014, on a market housing more highly touted UFAs.
Adrian Peterson might not be able to be especially picky when it comes to selecting a second NFL employer, provided the Vikings send him to free agency for the first time in his career. Surveying several GMs, CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora reports a skepticism exists about multiple facets of Peterson’s career going forward.
The aforementioned GMs expressed “real concerns” about how much Peterson has left and whether or not he’d be willing to accept a contract commensurate with a running back on the downside of his career. The high-level decision-makers wonder if the soon-to-be 32-year-old ball-carrier would take a one-year, $5MM deal with an incentive-laden structure if that’s what a team was offering. He made at least $11MM in base salary from 2013-16.
“It only takes one team to do something stupid,” an NFL contract negotiator told La Canfora, “but I can’t see there being much out there for him once the Vikings let him go.”
As far as possible interest in going to the Giants or Cowboys, La Canfora notes Big Blue would be better off using potential Peterson money to upgrade their offensive line and target a younger back to complement Paul Perkins, while the reporter questions how Peterson would co-exist with Ezekiel Elliott in a situation where the three-time rushing champion would be a backup. The Patriots warranted a mention here, given their penchant for cheap veterans, but La Canfora suggests the running back’s recent film sample may not appeal to Bill Belichick. Despite winning the 2015 rushing crown, Peterson’s averaged 2.9 yards per carry in the eight games prior to his meniscus tear in September of 2016.
Noting questions would ensue about Peterson’s willingness to be a five- or 10-touch player as a backup on a contending team, along with those about his durability, La Canfora does not expect Peterson to encounter a seller’s market. Instead, a Frank Gore-esque contract (the Colts’ starter signed for $12MM over three years in 2015) could be the reality with which Peterson is confronted.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Free agent cornerback K’Waun Williams will take his visit with the Vikings next Tuesday, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Williams, 25, had meetings with the Lions and Jets earlier this week, and is expected to convene with the Dolphins and 49ers at some point, as well. After starting 10 total games during his first two years in the NFL, Williams was sidelined for all of 2016 thanks to an ankle injury.
- The Vikings have are expected to hire former Purdue and Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell as their new wide receivers coach, according to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link). Hazell, who was fired only six games into the Boilermakers’ 2016 campaign, has a career NCAA record of 25-43. Internal offensive assistant Drew Petzing was also thought to be a candidate for the position, but instead it’s Hazell who will replace George Stewart, who left for Los Angeles.
- While they’ll face decisions on unrestricted free agents Matt Kalil, Captain Munnerlyn, and Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings are also expected to begin negotiating a contract extension with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, according to Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Thanks to his fifth-year option, Rhodes is signed through the 2017 season, during which he’ll earn $8.026MM. A long-term deal could nearly double his salary, as Josh Norman currently leads all cornerbacks with a $15MM annual figure.