- The Vikings are considering moving left tackle Riley Reiff to left guard, but it appears that is contingent on how the draft goes. Reiff will likely only move inside if Minnesota selects a first-round tackle, per Dave Campbell of the Associated Press. Reiff has only played tackle in the NFL. The Vikings “wouldn’t hesitate” to move center Pat Elflein to guard, Campbell adds, but that will also be contingent on the draft. Minnesota failing to add a center worth relocating Elflein would presumably nix that move. Either way, the Vikings’ embattled line will likely look a bit different post-draft.
- New Vikings backup quarterback Sean Mannion‘s one-year deal is a minimum salary benefit pact, tweets Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune. As such, Mannion will only carry the salary cap charge of a second-year player despite having four years of NFL experience under his belt. The former Rams signal-caller received a $90K signing bonus to become Kirk Cousins‘ understudy.
Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor met with the Bengals on Tuesday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Taylor, who stands 6’5″ and 328 pounds, certainly has the size requirements favored by new Cincinnati offensive line coach Jim Turner, but it’s unclear if the ex-Gator will be available when the Bengals make their first-round selection at No. 11. Along with Jonah Williams (Alabama), Andre Dillard (Washington State), and Cody Ford (Oklahoma), Taylor is considered one of the best tackle prospects available in the 2019 draft. If selected by the Bengals, Taylor could immediately take over at right tackle, displacing the recently re-signed Bobby Hart, and would be a long-term option to replace Cordy Glenn on the blindside.
Here’s more on the 2019 NFL draft:
- Speaking of Ford, the Oklahoma offensive lineman has been extremely busy during the pre-draft season. Per Aaron Wilson the Houston Chronicle, Ford has met with and/or worked out for the Patriots, Eagles, Buccaneers, Vikings, Texans, Cardinals, and Falcons. That’s in addition to his previously-reported stops with the Bengals and Panthers. Ford was a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2018 and helped Oklahoma win the Joe Moore Award, given to the country’s best offensive line. A left guard in both 2016 and 2017, Ford shifted to right tackle for the 2018 campaign.
- The Texans are meeting with Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat on Wednesday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Sweat is considered of the best defensive ends in the draft (especially after blowing up the combine), so Houston would likely need to trade up from No. 23 overall in order to land him. After starting his collegiate career at Michigan State, Sweat spent two years with the Bulldogs, racking up 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss during that time.
- Washington cornerback Byron Murphy has met with the Panthers, Chiefs, and Cardinals in addition to his visit with the Steelers, tweets Wilson. In 2018, Murphy earned a spot on the first-team All-Pac-12 list after putting up 37 tackles, four interceptions, and 13 interceptions. Regarded as a first-round pick by most observers, Murphy is the No. 6 overall player on Pro Football Focus’ draft board after allowing only a 47.7% completion percentage against and forcing 17 incompletions.
- The Rams hosted Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram on Tuesday, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Abram, who has also met with the Cowboys and Cardinals, is part of a closely-clustered safety class that could start coming off the board at the end of the first round. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, notably, ranks Abram as the No. 1 safety prospect of 2019. Arbam posted two interceptions, three sacks, and nine tackles for loss last year.
Harris, 27, had primarily been a special teams player throughout his Vikings career until midway through last season, when starting safety Andrew Sendejo went down with a groin injury. Harris stepped in opposite Harrison Smith and went on to post a breakout campaign, posting 46 tackles, three interceptions, and six passes defensed. Pro Football Focus was incredibly impressed with Harris’ play, ranking him as the NFL’s third-best safety.
Harris will earn a $3.095MM base salary in 2019 before hitting unrestricted free agency. While the Vikings could pursue an extension for Harris, they’re already projected to be among the most cap-strapped clubs in the NFL, and have several other players — including cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander and tight end Kyle Rudolph — scheduled to hit the open market next year. If Harris isn’t extended, he’d join a free agent safety class that will also include Kevin Byard, Devin McCourty, Damarious Randall, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Midway through a rather notable offseason, given the recent behind-the-curtain look at their previous power structure, the Packers are investigating some high-end quarterback prospects. They are obviously set at sports’ marquee position, but with Aaron Rodgers set to turn 36 by season’s end, Green Bay is at a similar point compared to when it last made a major quarterback investment. The Packers will host Drew Lock on a visit Tuesday, Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com reports (on Twitter). They also tried to set up a summit with Daniel Jones, but the parties’ schedules did not line up, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (via Twitter). The Packers took Rodgers when Brett Favre was 36 and sat him for three years. While Green Bay pulling the trigger on a passer would be rather surprising, especially given Rodgers’ contract status, the team does have two first-round picks this year.
Here is the latest from the draft world, staying on the subject of quarterbacks:
- Lock will also meet with the Chargers, per Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com (on Twitter). Teams have ramped up their signal-caller-related preparation, in the event Kyler Murray does not go No. 1, according to Robinson, who notes some teams believe this year’s passers could slide a bit should Murray not be the Cardinals’ choice atop the draft. Some modest steam picked up on this notion earlier Monday.
- The Dolphins, who already met with Jones, will head to the Duke campus to work out the former Blue Devil starter, Rapoport reports (on Twitter). Teams only have a few more days to host prospects on “30” visits but can still work them out after that deadline passes. Miami will also host Michigan linebacker Devin Bush and Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
- Devin White‘s stock has risen during the pre-draft process, to the point he may be the rare off-ball linebacker to be picked in the top five. One of the teams holding such a selection, the Raiders, brought in White for a visit, Rapoport tweets. The Buccaneers, who hold pick No. 5, have been closely connected to the LSU ‘backer. The Raiders have the No. 4 overall pick. Oakland, which also holds the Nos. 24 and 27 selections, will meet with tight end Noah Fant, on Monday as well, Rapoport tweets. The Raiders lost their starting tight end of the past two seasons, Jared Cook, in free agency.
- For weeks, the Jets have been viewed as a team that would love to trade down. They are meeting with a prospect Tuesday that would support the fact this is a consideration. Ed Oliver will visit the Jets, per Schefter (on Twitter). While the defensive tackle is a surefire first-round talent, he has not been mocked as a player who would be a consideration at No. 3 overall.
- The Titans are visiting with defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, per Rapoport (on Twitter). This is the Notre Dame-developed defender’s second known visit, the first having come with the Saints recently. Tillery remains in rehab after surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum.
- Not much has surfaced about which teams are researching an Andre Dillard pick. That has changed. The Washington State tackle prospect is visiting the Falcons on Monday and will meet with the Chargers later this week, Schefter tweets. Additionally, Schefter adds the first-round offensive line hopeful has already visited or worked out for a host of teams — the Giants, Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Titans, Panthers, Vikings, Jaguars, Bills, Texans, Bengals, Packers, Redskins.
One of the biggest surprises of free agency this year came when linebacker Anthony Barr, who had agreed to sign with the Jets, suddenly reversed course and opted to re-sign with the Vikings for less money than he would have earned with Gang Green.
At the time the news broke, we knew only that Barr wanted to remain with Minnesota and that the Vikings had sweetened their offer to convince him to return. But in a lengthy and fascinating piece that is worth a full read, Courtney Cronin and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com detail exactly how Barr’s decision played out.
The ESPN scribes write that, when the legal tampering period opened on March 11, Barr had a few suitors, but the Jets quickly rose to the top of the list because of how much money they could offer. Barr had identified the Jets — who planned to capitalize on his athleticism as a blitzer and his ability to drop into coverage — as his top choice if he couldn’t remain with the Vikings. New York, which signed linebacker C.J. Mosley not long before Barr canceled his deal with the Jets, had every intention of bringing Mosley and Barr into the fold.
And as it turns out, New York’s offer was even higher than was initially reported. Per Cronin and Cimini, Barr’s agent, Ryan Williams, could tell that his client was very hesitant to accept the Jets’ pitch — in response to New York’s initial offers, Barr simply said, “where’s Minnesota?” — and Williams convinced the Jets to increase their offer to over $15MM per season, which Barr had indicated he would accept. But when Williams called Barr to tell him the Jets had met his asking price, Barr said, “I feel like I just made the worst mistake of my life.”
Barr did not want to back out of the Jets deal since he had given them his word, but Williams called Gang Green to let them know Barr was having second thoughts. Minnesota, meanwhile, was convinced it could not re-sign Barr because of its shortage of cap space, and rather than extending what it felt would be a disrespectful, low-ball offer, it stayed out of the sweepstakes entirely.
So the Vikings were very surprised to get a “frantic” call from Williams asking for the team’s best and final offer. Minnesota extended itself as far as it could go, the Jets offered to fly Barr out to New York to convince him to come to the Big Apple, and the decision was in Barr’s hands. Of course, he ultimately chose to accept Minnesota’s offer, and the excitement he felt when Williams told him he was back with the Vikings proves to him that he made the right choice.
Barr said, “I was trying to convince myself of something I knew that in my heart didn’t feel right, and I think if you follow the heart, I can live with the results.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
A day after locking up Adam Thielen with a huge extension, the Vikings are making a much more under the radar move at the wide receiver position. Minnesota is signing Jordan Taylor, a source told Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
Per Wilson, it’s a one-year deal for Taylor. Taylor visited with the Vikings on Monday, and they apparently liked what they saw. He comes to Minnesota from Denver, where he spent the first four years of his career. An undrafted free agent from Rice, Taylor signed with the Broncos back in 2015. He spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad, but made a big impact in his second year. In 2016 he appeared in all 16 games, catching 16 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns while also contributing on special teams.
Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times tweeted that the Seahawks “had also shown interest” in the wideout. In 2017 Taylor missed some time with injury, catching 13 passes for 142 yards in ten games and two starts. Nicknamed ‘Sunshine’, Taylor became a fan favorite during his time in Denver. He missed the entire 2018 season while recovering from hip surgery, but is apparently healthy now. He’s likely to be little more than a depth piece in Minnesota, assuming he makes the team.
We heard recently the team wasn’t going to be bringing back Aldrick Robinson and was looking for other options, so perhaps Taylor could fill his role. Robinson had 17 receptions for 231 yards and five scores last year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Vikings and star wideout Adam Thielen have agreed to a four-year, $64MM extension with a maximum value of $73MM, per Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune. He will earn $35MM in guaranteed money. We heard last month that the two sides were working on a new deal, and they were able to hammer out an agreement that pays Thielen at a rate commensurate with his abilities and recent production.
Thielen had two years and $13.5MM remaining on his present contract, so as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network tweets, it appears as if he is now under team control for the next six seasons at a $77.5MM base value. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Thielen will receive $35MM in guaranteed money.
Of course, extensions can be difficult to come by when a player has more than one year remaining on his contract, but Thielen is not just any player. An undrafted Division II product, Thielen has put together back-to-back 1,200-plus-yard seasons, going for 1,373 and a career-high nine touchdown receptions in 2018. He watched teammate Stefon Diggs sign a five-year, $72MM extension with $40MM guaranteed last summer, and now he has leapfrogged Diggs in terms of average annual value (he is now the sixth-highest paid WR in the league in that regard).
Thielen, who will turn 29 in August, has earned Pro Bowl nods in each of the last two seasons, and he figures to be a critical part of the team’s fortunes going forward. He was due to carry an $8.1MM cap hit this season, but that will likely be reduced as a result of the extension.
His deal continues the Vikings’ trend of locking up core players before they can taste free agency. The team now has a foundation of Thielen, Diggs, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, Riley Reiff, Shamar Stephen, and Mike Hughes under contract through at least 2021 (hat tip to ESPN’s Field Yates on Twitter).
Thielen will address the media tomorrow.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are Thursday’s minor moves. More Alliance of American football alums are finding NFL homes.
- Claimed off waivers from Cowboys: G Parker Ehinger
- Waived: CB Jalen Myrick
New York Giants
- Signed: DB Henre’ Toliver (AAF)
San Francisco 49ers
- Signed: OL Daniel Brunskill
- Signed: LB DeMarquis Gates (AAF)
Today’s minor moves:
- Re-signed: DE Eddie Yarbrough (ERFA)
- Waived: G Parker Ehinger, DT Aziz Shittu
Green Bay Packers
- Re-signed: TE Robert Tonyan (ERFA)
- Signed: S Cody Brown (AAF)
Los Angeles Rams
- Signed: QB John Wolford (AAF)
- Signed: LB Greer Martini (AAF)
New York Jets
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Signed: S Orion Stewart (AAF)