- Shifting to the Vikings‘ center spot, Pat Elflein did not participate in minicamp but is expected to be ready to return by Minnesota’s training camp, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes. Price’s former Buckeyes teammate underwent ankle surgery in January.
- Rookie defensive end Jalyn Holmes suffered a broken hand and is not participating in Vikings minicamp, Mike Zimmer said (via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, on Twitter). Slated to be a backup edge defender behind Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, the fourth-round pick is expected to be ready for training camp.
- Running back Latavius Murray says he never gave any consideration to leaving the Vikings after they requested his salary be cut from $5.15MM to $3.65MM for 2018 (via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press). Even though he might go back to a reserve role, he wanted to stay with a winner. “The most important thing apart from my family and those things that I believe in is winning. So, that’s how I made my decision,” Murray said. “We had been talking throughout the offseason. It didn’t get to the point (that I considered leaving Minnesota), and thankfully I didn’t have to.”
The Vikings roster is quickly getting expensive. As Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com points out, six players have salary-cap numbers that exceed $10MM for next season: quarterback Kirk Cousins, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen, offensive tackle Riley Reiff, and safety Harrison Smith. The team is also paying more than $8MM to defensive tackle defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson, and they still have to extend wideout Stefon Diggs and defensive end Danielle Hunter.
With money quickly running thin (the Vikings currently have $17MM in cap space, and Tomasson believes part of that will be used for extensions), general manager Rick Spielman acknowledged that it’s difficult managing the team’s budget.
- The Vikings have lost undrafted free agent edge rusher Hercules Mata’afa for the season after he suffered a torn ACL today, reports Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com (Twitter link). While he ultimately wasn’t selected in the draft, Mata’afa was labeled as a potential fifth-rounder by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, who lauded Mata’afa’s toughness and motor. Mata’afa, a Washington State product, would have had to make the Minnesota roster on special teams, but he’ll now have to wait until his second NFL season for another opportunity. He’ll be waived/injured and removed from the Vikings’ active roster, and then placed on injured reserve if he’s not claimed.
Last month, it was announced that Vikings defensive end Brian Robison was taking a pay cut to stay with the team in the final year of his contract. The longtime Viking was scheduled to make $3.5MM initially, but his pay cut reduced his base salary to $1.015MM plus a $90K workout bonus.
Now Robison, who has been with the Vikings since being drafted by the team in the fourth round back in 2007, appears ready to hang up his cleats. He recently told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’ll “more than likely” retire after the 2018 season.
If the 2018 season is indeed Robison’s last in the NFL, it will be the end to an unusually long run with a single team for a role player. Normally only a star player would wind up playing for the same team for 12 seasons, but Robison has carved out a similar situational pass-rushing role with the Vikings year after year through multiple coaching staffs and front offices. He has 60 sacks, 19 passes defended, and 13 forced fumbles throughout his career, only missing three of a possible 176 games since entering the league.
Here’s more on the Vikings:
- Vikings first-round cornerback Mike Hughes is “pretty close” to signing his rookie deal, Hughes told Tomasson. Hughes, the only Vikings draft pick yet to sign, was taken with the 30th overall pick in April’s draft out of Central Florida.
- Tomasson reports that rookie kicker Daniel Carlson “has looked better than Kai Forbath in the battle to be Minnesota’s kicker.” Since the Vikings used a fifth-rounder on Carlson, they likely have every intention of having him be their kicker. Forbath, the incumbent, was underwhelming last year and appears likely to be cut.
- Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph is working his way back from offseason ankle surgery, and recently returned to the field. Tomasson notes that Rudolph is ahead of schedule in his recovery and wasn’t supposed to get back to work for a few more weeks.
John DeFilippo played a big part in the Vikings‘ quarterback search. The new Minnesota offensive coordinator began studying film of the team’s three previous quarterbacks — Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum — on his first morning with the team in mid-February, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. This process of finding a potential long-term option in Kirk Cousins also included scouting of QBs that weren’t Cousins or the Vikings’ free agent trio, per Goessling, who adds QBs coach Kevin Stefanski was also involved in this process, along with Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer. DeFilippo and Cousins met at dinner the night before the new Minnesota starter signed his three-year, $84MM contract, per Goessling. Minnesota has not had a quarterback make it through three straight seasons as the primary starter since Daunte Culpepper in the early 2000s, and DeFilippo called the franchise’s signal-caller search as thorough as anything he’s been involved with in the NFL.
Here’s the latest from the Twin Cities:
- Previously stationed at right tackle at Vikings OTAs, Mike Remmers took reps exclusively at right guard during one of the OTA sessions this week, Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune reports. Third-year UDFA Rashod Hill, in turn, lined up at right tackle. This was the Vikings’ arrangement at the end of last season. Remmers worked as the Panthers’ starting right tackle from 2014-16. Tom Compton, who worked as the primary right guard last week, alternated at left guard with Danny Isidora, per Krammer. Slotting Remmers at guard would give second-round pick Brian O’Neill an easier path to playing time, but it’s uncertain what Remmers’ primary position will be this season.
- Anthony Barr reported to the Vikings this week and did so after taking out an insurance policy, Krammer notes. He missed the first week of Vikes OTAs while he ironed out this policy, which will cover him for injury while he’s still attached to his rookie deal. Barr remains hopeful he and the Vikings can come to terms before training camp. Minnesota agreed to extensions with Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph in a 10-day span just as camp began last year, and it would make sense Barr — one of the team’s big re-up candidates this year — would be the top priority for a pre-camp deal.
- Despite being a first-round pick, Laquon Treadwell has 21 receptions (and no touchdowns) in two years. However, the Ole Miss product is not categorizing 2018 as a make-or-break year, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes. The Vikings cut Jarius Wright and have not re-signed Michael Floyd, potentially giving Treadwell a chance to move into the No. 3 wideout role. However, Minnesota’s Kendall Wright deal could impede that. Neverthless, it could be a stretch the Vikings pick up Treadwell’s fifth-year option in May of 2019 at this rate.
- It was reported yesterday that Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr had reported to OTAs after skipping the first few sessions. Now, Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune says that he “wouldn’t be surprised if there were some candid talks in the last week” and adds that the Vikings have a “long and productive” relationship with Barr’s agent (Twitter link). It’s nothing concrete, but it’s another sign that Barr and the Vikings could be inching closer to working something out.
When talking to the media at OTAs, Vikings guard Nick Easton made it clear he’d like to stay in Minnesota longterm and would like an extension sooner rather than later. He told The St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson that he’d “love to be here long-term” and answered “I hope so” when asked about the possibility of the Vikings giving him an extension soon (Twitter link).
Easton is playing under a one-year $2.9MM restricted free agent tender after he was tendered at the second-round level by the Vikings. Easton signed the tender back in April and will be a free agent after the season.
While Easton has now made his preference publicly known, he may have to wait a while. After giving Kirk Cousins a historic fully guaranteed contract, the Vikings currently don’t have a ton of cap space with which to sign their impending free agents, and will have to allocate their limited resources wisely. They have a slew of young players all set to be free agents at the end of the year. Young defensive studs Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, and Eric Kendricks are all heading into the final year of their contracts, as is star wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
The Vikings may decide to let Easton walk in favor of signing some of their other young guys. What they decide to do will likely depend on how they feel about the rest of their interior linemen. Easton is locked in as the starting left guard, and the other guards on the roster are underwhelming and not realistic options to replace him. If the Vikings don’t add more guard help between now and next offseason, there’s a good chance Easton will get the extension he’s looking for.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.