Vikings Rumors

Vikings To Sign Dede Westbrook

We heard yesterday that free agent receiver Dede Westbrook would be visiting the Seahawks on Sunday. It sounds like that visit has been scrapped. Westbrook will instead be signing a one-year deal with the Vikings on Sunday, a source told veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson (Twitter link).

Westbrook worked out for Minnesota earlier today, and apparently that workout went well. It was reported yesterday that Seattle, the 49ers, and the Bengals were all still on his radar, but the Vikings edged them all out. There’s a connection here, as Vikings receivers coach Keenan McCardell was Westbrook’s position coach in Jacksonville.

A fourth-round pick in 2017, Westbrook spent the first four years of his pro career with the Jaguars. In 2018 and 2019, he had at least 63 catches, 660 yards, and three touchdowns both season. Last year he only played in two games before tearing an ACL in October, finishing with just one catch for four yards.

We don’t have the financial terms yet, but coming off that injury he likely had to settle for something pretty cheap. It certainly took a while for his market to heat up.

The Oklahoma product has also shown plenty of potential as a returner. The Vikings of course have Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, but not a ton else at receiver beyond them, so this is a decent depth signing. Westbrook says he’s fully recovered from the ACL tear, responding “most definitely” when Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press asked if he’d be ready to roll for the start of training camp on Wednesday (Twitter link).

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Rick Dennison Off Vikings’ Staff After Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine

6:29pm: Dennison’s agent has chimed in on this situation, indicating his client remains in the picture for the Vikings, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling (on Twitter). There still does not seem to be any gray area here. Dennison will need to either be vaccinated or be unable to coach Vikings O-linemen in person this season.

3:31pm: The Vikings released a statement indicating that while Dennison does not have a medical or religious exemption to avoid the vaccine under the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, he and the team continue to hold discussions, the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson tweets. These discussions would seemingly be centered around Dennison changing his mind on the vaccine, but it does not appear he is 100% out the door just yet.

2:44pm: Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison will not be with the team going forward. The longtime NFL assistant is done with the Vikings due to his refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com reports.

While the NFLPA bargained for players to not be required to receive the vaccine, coaches must provide medical or religious grounds in order to refuse it. Otherwise, they cannot work with players onsite. Dennison’s refusal will wrap his two-plus-year tenure with the Vikings, who hired him as their O-line coach in January 2019. Minnesota will promote assistant O-line coach Phil Rauscher to fill the position, Cronin adds.

The Vikings hired Dennison after bringing Gary Kubiak aboard as offensive coordinator, and he was set to work under new OC Klint Kubiak this season. Dennison, 63, was set to serve as a key aid for the younger Kubiak this season. He is believed to be the first coach to part ways with a team due to a vaccination refusal. The Vikings also hired Ben Steele to fill Rauscher’s assistant O-line coach post, per Cronin. Steele spent the past two seasons with the Falcons; he worked as their tight ends coach in 2020.

Dennison had been on Gary Kubiak’s Super Bowl-winning Broncos staff as OC and initially rose to an NFL offensive coordinator role by succeeding Kubiak in that post in Denver in 2006. Dennison later worked under Kubiak as OC in Houston and was the Bills’ OC in 2017. The former Broncos linebacker has been an NFL assistant since Mike Shanahan began his HC tenure in Denver in 1995.

This marks the second time in four years the Vikings have needed to replace their O-line coach in July. Tony Sparano‘s death in July 2018 forced Minnesota to rearrange its staff. Dennison became Sparano’s full-time replacement months later, also working as the team’s run-game coordinator.

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Dede Westbrook Schedules Seahawks Visit; Vikings, 49ers, Bengals Still On Radar

Dede Westbrook is in Minnesota for a Vikings visit Saturday, but he is still considering interest from other teams. If the Vikings are unable to sign Westbrook, he will pay a visit to the Seahawks, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. Westbrook plans to visit the Seahawks on Sunday, veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweets.

The former Heisman finalist and Jaguars starter said the 49ers and Bengals are also in the mix; both teams expressed interest in Westbrook earlier this offseason. While both teams and Seattle appear to be on Westbrook’s radar, the Vikings have an edge and appear to be the favorites.

In addition to a need alongside Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, the Vikes employ ex-Jaguars receivers coach Keenan McCardell. The former Jags Pro Bowler and recent Vikings hire coached Westbrook in each of his four Jacksonville seasons and convinced the veteran wideout to visit the Vikings before the Seahawks, Tomasson adds (via Twitter). Seattle initially appeared first on Westbrook’s travel itinerary, but the Vikings now have the first crack at signing him.

I was kind of set on Seattle and he was like ‘Darn you’re not even going to come out and give me a chance? I coached you the past four years and you’re just going to fly out to Seattle and not give Minnesota a shot?’” Westbrook said of a conversation with McCardell (via Tomasson, on Twitter). “... I love everything about the Vikings. I like their offensive scheme; I like the things that they’re doing as far as gidget-gadgets that they have going on. … Just their whole offensive scheme and I think I can fit in perfectly.” 

Westbrook, 27, is coming off an ACL tear. That certainly slowed his market. He intimated that if the Vikings and/or Seahawks do not land him, workouts with the Bengals and 49ers may follow.

The Vikings’ need for a No. 3 wide receiver appears clearer than the Seahawks’. They drafted D’Wayne Eskridge with their top pick (and only pick on the draft’s first two days). The 49ers, however, have a void behind Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Cincinnati features no such vacancy, with its Ja’Marr ChaseTee HigginsTyler Boyd trio essentially locked in. Auden Tate remains on the team as well. The Bengals did lose A.J. Green and John Ross this offseason.

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Vikings To Audition Dede Westbrook

The Vikings are working out former Jacksonville wide receiver Dede Westbrook on Saturday (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). If all goes well, Westbrook could reunite with former Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell.

Westbrook has two other teams interested in his services, but RapSheet hears that the Vikings are his preferred destination. It’s been just nine months since Westbrook suffered his torn ACL but Westbrook appears to be ready for training camp.

Westbrook recorded 66 grabs in both 2018 and 2019 for an average of 699 yards and four touchdowns per slate. He was hoping to build on those marks in 2020, but he was limited to only a pair of games thanks to the torn ACL and an unrelated early-season injury. We heard earlier this year that the wideout was drawing interest from multiple teams, including the Vikings, 49ers, Bengals. The wide receiver was also being recruited by Chiefs players, but it’s not clear if he got into serious talks with the front office.

A healthy Westbrook could give the Vikings’ opposition fits this year. Kirk Cousins is already armed with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen at wide receiver — not to mention weapons like Dalvin Cook, Irv Smith, and Tyler Conklin.

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Vikings’ Michael Pierce Suffers Injury

Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce suffered a calf injury while working out this week (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). He could miss the start of training camp, but doctors believe that he’ll be good to go for the season opener.

The Vikings inked Pierce a three-year, $27MM deal last March. Then he opted out, so they haven’t seen him in live action.

In 2019, his last time out on the field, Pierce logged 35 tackles (two for loss) in 14 starts for the Ravens. Previous to that, he graded as one of the top interior defenders in football in 2017 and ’18, per Pro Football Focus. The advanced metrics pegged him as a middle-of-the-pack defender in his contract year, but he still managed a decently-sized deal in free agency — a pandemic-altered offseason no less.

Barring any setbacks, Pierce projects to start at nose tackle with Dalvin Thompson, Danielle Hunter, and Stephen Weatherly joining him up front. Of course, the recently-signed Sheldon Richardson also figures to get into the mix.

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Latest On Vikings’ Jeff Gladney

Prosecutors will present their case against Vikings cornerback Jeff Gladney to a Texas grand jury on Thursday, July 22 (via the Minneapolis Star Tribune). Gladney is facing a felony family violence assault charge with the potential for anywhere between two to ten years in prison.

Gladney’s girlfriend alleges the 24-year-old corner struck her with closed fists during an argument in April. The accuser told police that Gladney punched her in her stomach, ribs and back. She also alleges that Gladney strangled her and dragged her across the ground.

The Vikings selected Gladney No. 31 overall last year as they revamped their cornerback group. He started in 15 games last year, notching 81 tackles and forced a fumble. He has not participated in the team’s offseason program this year. Needless to say, the Vikings are not banking on Gladney’s availability for 2021. And, no matter what happens from here, the NFL will surely suspend him.

Beyond Gladney, the Vikings’ cornerback group includes Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, Harrison Hand, and Dylan Mabin.

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2021 Cap Space For All 32 NFL Teams

There are still plenty of quality free agents left on the board as we look ahead to training camp. Cornerback Steven Nelson, tackle Russell Okung, and longtime Legion of Boom leader Richard Sherman headline the list, along with accomplished edge rushers like Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, and Olivier Vernon. That list will only grow larger, of course, as more teams shed veterans to redirect their funds elsewhere.

With that in mind, here’s a look at every NFL team’s cap situation, starting with the league-leading Jaguars:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars — $32.7MM
  2. Denver Broncos — $28.9MM
  3. New York Jets — $28.5MM
  4. Cleveland Browns — $20.6MM
  5. Los Angeles Chargers — $19.9MM
  6. Detroit Lions — $17.9MM
  7. San Francisco 49ers — $17.8MM
  8. Cincinnati Bengals — $17.4MM
  9. Washington Football Team — $16.7MM
  10. Indianapolis Colts— $14.3MM
  11. Carolina Panthers— $14.3MM
  12. Minnesota Vikings — $13.5MM
  13. Pittsburgh Steelers — $13.1MM
  14. New England Patriots — $13.1MM
  15. New Orleans Saints — $11.4MM
  16. Arizona Cardinals — $11.3MM
  17. Buffalo Bills — $10.5MM
  18. Baltimore Ravens — $8.8MM
  19. Atlanta Falcons — $8.6MM
  20. Seattle Seahawks — $8.3MM
  21. Tennessee Titans — $8.3MM
  22. Kansas City Chiefs — $7.9MM
  23. Los Angeles Rams — $7MM
  24. Chicago Bears — $6MM
  25. Dallas Cowboys — $6MM
  26. Miami Dolphins — $5.3MM
  27. Green Bay Packers — $5MM
  28. Houston Texans — $5MM
  29. Las Vegas Raiders — $3.3MM
  30. Philadelphia Eagles — $3.2MM
  31. New York Giants — $2.4MM
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — $489K

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S Harrison Smith Discusses Future With Vikings

Harrison Smith has spent his entire nine-year career in Minnesota, and the Pro Bowl safety naturally wants to end his career with the Vikings. However, during a recent appearance on All Things Covered, Smith admitted to the hosts, current teammate Patrick Peterson and former NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden, that anything could happen.

“Yeah,” Smith said. “I mean I don’t know what happens at the end of careers. I was listening to, it might’ve been the [episode] with Champ [Bailey], Pat Pete was saying at that ten-year mark, sometimes things change. I don’t plan on that happening, but the NFL is the NFL. It’s always wild. But I’ll always consider myself a Viking no matter what.”

These comments are relatively timely; we learned earlier this week that the Vikings were exploring an extension with the veteran defensive back. Smith signed a five-year, $51.25MM deal nearly five years ago, but his AAV is now 11th among safeties. Smith is set to hit free agency next offseason.

Given Anthony Harris‘ offseason departure, it would make sense for the Vikings to explore another deal with Smith, and it’d make sense for Smith to look for a slight pay bump. Another five-year deal is probably not in the cards, but Smith has remained a high-end safety into his 30s, with Pro Football Focus rating him as a top-15 player at the position in each year of his current contract.

The 2021 season will be Smith’s 10th, and while the 32-year-old defender saw his five-year run of Pro Bowls cease in 2020, he matched his career high with five interceptions last season. He did so for a Vikings defense that cratered after defections and numerous injuries stripped away veterans. Minnesota let Harris walk to Philadelphia — on merely a one-year, $4MM deal — but signed ex-Dallas starter Xavier Woods and drafted Camryn Bynum in Round 4 this year.

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Vikings Discussing Extensions With Harrison Smith, Brian O’Neill

Harrison Smith recently expressed a desire to stay in Minnesota beyond the duration of his current contract, which expires after this season, but it did not sound at that point like notable extension talks had commenced. However, the sides may be prepared to come together on another agreement.

The Vikings have discussed another extension with Smith, according to SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson, who adds the talks have picked up “significantly” (h/t Sean Borman of VikingsTerritory.com). Given Anthony Harris‘ offseason departure, it would make sense for the Vikings to explore a second Smith extension. He has been one of the NFL’s better safeties for many years.

Smith signed a five-year, $51.25MM deal nearly five years ago today. That July 6, 2016 agreement, however, is no longer a top-market contract. Counting Marcus Maye and Marcus Williams‘ franchise tags, Smith’s AAV ranks 11th among safeties. The market has eclipsed $15MM per year, and seven safeties are now attached to $14MM-AAV accords. Jamal Adams‘ likely forthcoming Seahawks extension stands to raise it higher.

The 2021 season will be Smith’s 10th, and while the 32-year-old defender saw his five-year run of Pro Bowls cease in 2020, he matched his career high with five interceptions last season. He did so for a Vikings defense that cratered after defections and numerous injuries stripped away veterans. Minnesota let Harris walk to Philadelphia — on merely a one-year, $4MM deal — but signed ex-Dallas starter Xavier Woods and drafted Camryn Bynum in Round 4 this year.

Although another five-year deal is almost certainly not in the cards, Smith has remained a high-end safety into his 30s. Pro Football Focus has rated him as a top-15 player at the position in each year of his current contract. The former first-round pick will be expected to play a key role in elevating the 2021 Minnesota defense, which looks considerably better than last season’s iteration.

Additionally, Wolfson notes the Vikings and Brian O’Neill have begun extension talks. A 2018 second-round pick, O’Neill is going into a contract year. O’Neill has been a critical piece for Minnesota’s offensive line. He enters the 2021 season as that unit’s longest-tenured starter, having been a first-string right tackle in 42 games since his rookie year.

The Vikings seemingly have an open slot for an O’Neill extension, with none of their current starting O-linemen tied to notable veteran contracts. The bulk of Minnesota’s blockers are not yet eligible for extensions, putting O’Neill in an interesting spot. The team has some big-ticket deals for offensive standouts on its payroll, having added Dalvin Cook to this group last year, but also shed the Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs contracts over the past year and change.

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Everson Griffen Wants To Return To Vikings

Everson Griffen played for two teams last season, with the Cowboys trading him to the Lions in October. The veteran defensive end has not surfaced on the radar much this offseason, but he wants to play a 12th NFL slate and would like to do so in a familiar place.

The longtime Vikings pass rusher wants to return to the team, according to Vikes play-by-play announcer Paul Allen. The 33-year-old edge defender texted Allen he “never should have left the Vikings,” with the KFAN radio host noting Griffen “desperately” wants to rejoin the Vikings (h/t SI.com’s Will Ragatz).

Despite playing for two teams and missing two games due to contracting COVID-19, Griffen finished with six sacks last season. No Viking rusher compiled more than five. Yannick Ngakoue reached five before the Vikings traded him in October; no one still with the team tallied more than three sacks in 2020. The Vikings finished with just 23 sacks last season, which ranked 28th in the NFL. While Allen said Griffen (80.5 career sacks) has support from some with the Vikings, he does not expect the four-time Pro Bowler to be back in Minnesota this season.

Minnesota’s D-line situation looks better going into the 2021 season. Danielle Hunter is on track to return after missing all of last season due to a neck injury. The team has three veteran D-tackle starters — Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson and Sheldon Richardson — set to join Hunter. The Vikings also used third- and fourth-round picks on ends — Patrick Jones II (Pittsburgh) and Janarius Robinson (Florida State) — in April. That said, Griffen could profile as a veteran stopgap opposite Hunter. He has three double-digit sack seasons on his resume and was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2019.

The Cowboys added Griffen midway through their 2020 training camp. Griffen catching on elsewhere this year will likely involve a similar transaction, with teams’ rosters largely set. A few teams figure to upgrade at defensive end, via starter or situational pass rusher, in the near future. A glut of veteran edges remain available. Griffen joins Justin Houston (32), Melvin Ingram (32) and Olivier Vernon (30) on the market.

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