I've done a lot of thinking about a Vikings offseason plan, and posted my thoughts over at the Vikings Authority. I've thought about it since then, and have a few things to change as a result. More than that, I was encouraged by Mark's consistent offseason posts and thought I'd give it a try to get some feedback from you all.
I've agreed with Mark that the Vikings should work with the $9.6 million number, and I don't want to mess with carryover space. It's a long-term plan, not a win-now plan.
I'll quote my Vikings Authority piece fairly liberally to save myself time where appropriate, but I have made changes.
So, first the cuts:
Mistral Raymond can be easily replaced by Jamarca Sanford, and the Vikings wouldn't incur any cap penalty for cutting him. In fact, they would net $500,000 of cap space by doing so. Given Sendejo's improvement and the good depth at the bottom of the draft for safeties, the Vikings should cut him and save that space.
Cap space: $10.1 million.
Marginal players like Nick Taylor and George Johnson might also find themselves cut, unless they find themselves onto the practice squad and replace someone like LaMark Brown. Either way removing two players of that caliber will save $1 million in cap space [be it by moving them to the practice squad and cutting a reserve player, or by cutting them outright].
Cap space: $11.1 million
The two nose tackles—Letroy Guion and Fred Evans—are cause for concern, but the Vikings would not do well to cut both of them. They need to find a new nose tackle to start in what may be the most important position of the Tampa-2 defense. Guion was rated as the worst defensive tackle—regardless of scheme—by Pro Football Focus. His play on the field showed it, too. He couldn't penetrate into the backfield, was moved around in the run game, and couldn't redirect traffic.
Fred Evans was much better in backup, outperforming Guion by a significant margin. Superior penetration and a stouter stance did well for him, and he was a better difference-maker. Guion would do well as a backup, but his cap hit is three times that of Evans at $4.5 million.
Cutting Guion would normally incur a $500,000 [dead space] cap hit, but using the post-June 1st designation that allows teams to select two players and treat their cuts as if the next year's guaranteed money was irrelevant, Guion would not cost the Vikings anything in dead space. Cutting him would save an even $4.5 million for the cap.
That grade makes a lot of sense to me, by the way. Guion not only couldn't make the most of opportunities, he simply didn't stay put in the run or pressure against the pass.
Cap space: $15.6 million
[T]he Vikings need to upgrade from Charlie Johnson, who is more than serviceable at backup, but isn't ideal as a starter. Unfortunately, he'll cost $4.5 million in cap space in 2013, and that sort of investment isn't wise for a backup. Either the Vikings need to restructure his deal, or cut him. In the first instance, his net cap hit would be below $2 million. In a scenario that finds the Vikings cutting Johnson, his dead space would cost $1.5 million.
Because those seem about the same, it's safe to work with a figure of $3 million added cap space.
Cap space: $18.6 million
Dead space is a common problem I've had to deal with in formulating these plans. It consists of all future guaranteed money (in the form of guaranteed base salary or prorated signing bonus) accelerated into one year. That is why John Carlson's net cap hit if cut outright would actually be negative $1.15 million. His dead space penalty would be about $5.4 million (his $9.1 million guaranteed minus his first year's guaranteed money and $3 million in the signing bonus) and he takes up $4.25 million in cap space.
The Vikings could choose to even out the hit (like all dead space hits) over two years, but it still isn't "worth" it, as a new tight end would likely cost more than $500,000 (the net savings from spreading out the hit, using the post-June 1st designation and cutting him).
The Vikings need to rehaul their receiver corps, and cutting Michael Jenkins fits the bill.
Michael Jenkins is getting worse and wasn't great in 2012. He had 40 receptions for 449 yards-similar to Domenik Hixon, Rod Streater and Harry Douglas. His 2012 cap hit was the same as those three receivers combined. Cutting him would net $2.5 million in cap space after assessing a $700,000 cap hit in dead space.
Cap space: $21.1 million
I chose not to cut Stephen Burton, as letting go of all the receivers makes the task too difficult. Burton showed significant improvement last offseason and he could do so again.
Next, we need to restructure:
Two players I've targeted for restructured contracts are Kevin Williams and Jared Allen. Mark thinks it might be insulting Kevin Williams to offer a contract that has his cap hit of $4 million, but I disagree. Not only does Williams not have leverage (he can be cut without any cap hit worries—all of his guarantees have been paid out), he's indicated a willingness to restructure his contract several times now.
Last time a player offered to restructure his contract, the Vikings were able to negotiate Antoine Winfield to a contract averaging over $3 million in salary, so long as the Vikings limited his snap count:
The compromise they came to on Thursday is an interesting one and could be termed a de-esclator and potentially esclator clause. The verbiage states that if Winfield loses his starting job in 2011 and moves to the nickel role, the following season his salary of $7 million will be cut in half, meaning he will be paid as a top nickel corner rather than a top starting corner. But if Winfield eventually gets the starting job back his salary will jump back up to its previous terms.
That didn't happen, so the Vikings are on the hook for all $7 million, but the Vikings could manage Kevin Williams more responsibly and avoid that problem by hooking him up with a contract extension that beings with a 2013 cap hit of $4 million.
Cap space: $25.1 million
Jared Allen is a bigger problem. He can play for a lot of teams, and is willing to. He might not be as willing to renegotiate as Williams, so I'm taking a cue from Mark and trading him. He has Allen going for a 2nd round pick and a conditional fourth, but I think that is too high. I think the Vikings would receive Seattle's 3rd round pick (#87), early 5th round pick (#131) and a conditional 3rd in 2014. He is aging, coming off his first surgery and a down season. Defensive ends do find themselves productive after 30, but I think the examples everyone cites are the exception, not the rule.
There are four players who have had at least 100 sacks by age 30. Simeon Rice only had 18 sacks in the 3 seasons after that. Reggie White and Bruce Smith had absurd career arcs, and are what people are looking for. It is hard to tell from that small a sample size.
The seven other players who had at least 85 sacks by age 30 almost all had serious dropoffs in play by 30 or 31, with only five double-digit sack seasons between the seven of them (of 26).
Cap space: $42.2 million
After that, some more trades
I identified five teams that might be interested in a trade for Toby Gerhart: Arizona, Cincinnati, Detroit, Green Bay and Pittsburgh. While Mark thinks the Vikings would get a fifth-round pick for him, I am more optimistic and think the Vikings would net a fourth-round pick. I chose the Steelers (#112).
Cap space: $43.2 million
I am not trading Harvin. I think he can be extended during the 2013 season (a reason to keep the cap space clean, even with carryover space). While I think the Vikings are shopping him for a trade, that could be just to determine his value (which can be leverage in a negotiation or a serious offer). The Vikings have the ability to franchise Harvin (twice) and will likely receive a third-round compensatory pick if he walks. It is hard to combat that leverage.
Free agency—current Vikings
Brinkley has been consistently terrible, and cannot fulfill the responsibilities of a Tampa-2 linebacker. He's been OK at best in run support, but his coverage skills are severely lacking. He should find a good fit in a 3-4 defense, where he probably has starting capability. Washington and the New York Jets should be able to use him, provided he can cut down on missed tackles (19, fifth most in the league in 2012 and the most of 4-3 inside linebackers).
Aromashodu has never lived up to his potential, and will be 29. There's a reason he's moved to seven different teams, and was cut from a wide receiver-weak Chicago Bears in 2010. His speed hasn't translated into production, and he'll start regressing from his athletic peak.
Marcus Sherels is an average punt returner, but one of the worst coverage players in the NFL. He allowed an astounding 13.7 yards per attempt in coverage-more than any cornerback who played 25% of their team's snaps in 2012. By an entire yard. His value as a backup is negative, and if the Vikings can find a decent punt returner-and they should be able to-Sherels needs to go.
Marvin Mitchell and Larry Dean are both below average backups, but Larry Dean has age and upside to save him from cuts. Mitchell, a poor special teams player at best, has neither of those qualities. Given that special teams has been his calling card throughout the league, he shouldn't survive another camp.
Another player who has bounced around teams is the ever-disappointing Troy Kropog, who hasn't lived up to his fourth-round billing as a prospect. His awareness has been below-average in his time at camps, and that was his strength. While he has been a good fit for zone-blocking systems, the Vikings want more power from their offensive linemen (the reason for Fusco's place on the roster over Schwartz this last year).
Guard Geoff Schwartz would be lovely to re-sign, as I think he is better than Fusco. Unfortunately, it seems like he won't stick around or entertain an offer from the Vikings—he's "moved on," which is his right.
First up is the easiest to fathom—Phil Loadholt.
Phil Loadholt might have the hardest contract to predict. He's had an up-and-down career, but ranked as the seventh-ranked right tackle by Pro Football Focus. In 2011, he was a dominant run-blocker but a very weak pass protector. The opposite was true the two years previous. An enigmatic tackle who may have finally come into his own this year in all phases of the game, he could command less than he's worth.
Free agent right tackles have had a number of deals offered to them, making Loadholt a particularly difficult puzzle to solve, but there's a good chance his cap hit for 2013 would be between Tyson Clabo's 2012 hit ($4.8 million) and Todd Herremans' hit ($3.7 million).
Clabo had an extraordinary 2011, so it is more likely that Herremans' deal will match Loadholt's. A 5-year, $28 million deal that has a $6 million dollar signing bonus with $8 million total guaranteed makes sense. The low guaranteed total is to ensure a safer deal from an inconsistent player. That should make Loadholt's cap hit $4.3 million in 2013.
Loadholt played like a very good right tackle, but still has penalty problems and cannot prove that he plays well consistently. I have given him the bottom of the high-end right tackle deals.
Cap space: $38.9 million
I do not want to sign Felton to a long-term deal, but I do think he should be re-signed.
Making the Pro Bowl helped Jerome Felton quite a bit, but with Rhett Ellison having had extraordinary improvements in run blocking, Jerome Felton's value to the Vikings is lower than it might be to other teams. Unluckily for Felton, there are not many teams looking for a run-blocking fullback. Other than Vonta Leach, fullbacks haven't been getting very much money.
While Ellison's run-blocking has been better as an in-line end than a lead blocker, his value long-term to the organization is greater than Felton's. A short-term contract is preferable. Given Felton's poor negotiating leverage, he may not be able to accept much else, but he will still likely demand a high percentage of guaranteed money. A 3-year, $8.5 million dollar deal, with $6.5 million guaranteed certainly fits. If the Vikings front-load the guaranteed money, they should be in a good spot to choose between Ellison and Felton in 2015. The cap hit for 2013 should be around $2.3 million, in that case.
Cap space: $36.6 million
More enigmatic than even Loadholt's contract is Erin Henderson's, who played below expectations but above average in 2013.Erin Henderson is a prototypical weak-side linebacker who can navigate traffic, fly from one side of the field to the other and wrap up. He did better in relief in 2011 than he did as a starter in 2012, but he has the chops to continue producing at a high level. He's a good linebacker who only missed three tackles all season, the lowest any outside linebacker had with at least 600 snaps or 40 tackles (Henderson had 702 snaps and 74 tackles). He was worse in coverage, but still has the natural ability to improve this part of his game.
Matthias Kiwanuka came off a more productive season in 2011 than Henderson did in 2012, and ended up with a $21.75 million contract over 4 years. Quincy Black, in 2010 had a good year and scored a (much too lucrative) 5-year $29 million contract. Other successful outside linebackers have had 4-year deals worth anywhere between $17 million and $22 million in the past two years, and Erin Henderson should find a 4-year deal worth $20 million to be palatable. With $8 million guaranteed, and an initial cap hit of $4.5 million, the Vikings could end up with a steal—his talent exceeds his leverage.
Cap space: $32.1 million
Jamarca Sanford, should be re-signed. He is neither a beacon of strength for the Vikings, nor a point of weakness. Regardless of what happens in the draft, he's a solid starter who would also contribute in a big way as a backup if need be (the role he was nominally assigned before Mistral Raymond's injury). He may have been unnoticed, but his ability to generate fumbles, tackle ball carriers and perform more than serviceably in coverage is scarce enough to covet.
A good model for Sanford's contract is the potentially underpaid Thomas DeCoud of the Falcons. He signed a 5-year, $17.5 million contract after a few years of above-average play in Atlanta. He only had $4 million guaranteed, $3 million of it in signing bonus (and the rest paid through in the first year). Sanford's year-to-year inconsistency and his need to improve in coverage will depress his price, and the Vikings could easily get away with signing him to a short-term deal while they look to replace him in the next few years.
The Vikings should attempt to sign him to a 3-year deal worth $8 million, with only $2 million guaranteed. Sanford doesn't have much leverage to sign anything other than an incentive-laden contract. His excellent run support is valuable, but he can't shop himself to a better deal around the league with his history. That means he'll likely suck up a $2 million cap hit on the first year, and that's fine. For a player that could be either a backup or a starter, he can't ask for much more.
Cap space: $30.1 million
I think the biggest surprise will be here, with Jerome Simpson. He doesn't have any leverage, so it shouldn't be a huge deal.
He's not lived up to his potential, but he's very cheap and could be cheap once more. With a back injury limiting his production, the Vikings should take another cheap risk by signing Simpson to another one-year "prove it" contract of perhaps $1.7 million, given his poor leverage. He has an underrated ability to read his coverage and adjust to holes in zones, and the Vikings could use that.
Cap space: $28.4 million
Next is a favorite of mine.
After losing both Johnson and Schwartz (one to cuts and the other to free agency), the Vikings should keep Joe Berger, who has performed poorly on other teams but did extremely well in backup for John Sullivan in 2011. He's a good guard and center who might have the capability to start for other teams, but has no leverage with the Vikings or the rest of the NFL given his history and age (he will be 31).
His status as a veteran will help his position, but he'll ultimately end up with a shorter deal (perhaps 3 years). He shouldn't see more than $4.3 million over those three years, and should have a cap hit of $1.5 million in 2013.
Cap space: $26.9 million
A.J. Jefferson should be re-signed both as depth and as a punt returner. Despite his drops in gameplay in 2012, he was an exciting and impactful returner in college-something he would be more likely to replicate in 2013 than his limited play and practice the year before. As a coverage player, he gets turned around too easily, and was actually fairly poor-allowing over nine yards per target.
He still has more potential than Sherels in that he has more fluidity, athleticism and physical tools to improve. He has no leverage, and should be resigned for the league minimum, at $630,000. He should be fifth on the chart after a player they pick up in free agency or the draft.
Cap space: $26.3 million
The Vikings might want to re-sign Andrew Sendejo, who has shown improvement at the position over the past two years, having moved off the practice squad to a serious spot on the roster. A good special teamer, he should be resigned for the minimum at $630,000.
Further, the Vikings should reserve $6.1 million for the draft—the amount the picks cost in 2012 multiplied by the increase in the salary cap (and then some).
Cap space: $21.2 million
I love Mark's free agents, and actually came to them on my own in a previous article. I'll stick with them here, although I speculate the Vikings will not be able to sign Vasquez.
Starting with Desmond Bryant, a nose tackle from Oakland-a team over their cap for 2013 by $8.3 million-the Vikings can immediately upgrade on the defensive line. Bryant can play at nose, undertackle or defensive end. At 27, he's young enough to provide vigor, but old enough to provide experience.
Bryant deservedly gets a mention on ESPN's "under the radar" list of free agents, and finished as the sixth-best defensive tackle in PFF's defensive tackle rankings in 2012, and the top nose tackle (in 3-4 and 4-3). With an extraordinary amount of pressure for a nose tackle, he effectively redirected runners and stayed stout against double-teams.
His underrated status should give the Vikings the leeway they need to secure him to a smaller contract; they could potentially sign him to a deal similar to Brandon Mebane's current deal-5 years for $25 million. He'll require more guaranteed money than Mebane received, but not something to worry about too much. A signing bonus of $3 million, with an additional $4 million guaranteed might be something the Vikings could swing. The first year, the cap hit will be around $4.1 million.
After that, guard Louis Vasquez is worth a serious look. Underrated out of San Diego, he's been consistently good for a team not known for its offensive line play. Brandon Moore is a better player, but has already entered the peak of his ability. Despite the fact that the Jets won't be able to sign him (with over $24 million in cap hits to get rid of), he will likely come a bit more expensive than need be and will be 33 when the season starts.
The biggest name is Andy Levitre, but he could command money on par with Carl Nicks ...
Instead, Vasquez could be signed for cheaper, despite pro scouts falling "in love" with him. He was the AFC West's 2009 rookie of the year, and he deserved the honor. Injuries in 2010 and 2011 hurt him and his play, but a strong 2012 campaign (for him, not his team) have moved him back in place as a good guard target.
At the end of the day, the recent interest in Vasquez could ratchet his price out of the Vikings' reach, and they could instead sign a true left guard (Vasquez played on the right) in Giants free agent Kevin Boothe (the Giants are $10 million over the cap for 2013).
If the Vikings cannot sign Vasquez for a 5 year deal totaling $24 million, they should sign Kevin Boothe for 4 years (he's older, at 29) at $16 million.
The second case is more likely, so the 2013 cap hit is close to $2.5 million in 2013.
The third target, Brad Jones, will come from a familiar source-the Green Bay Packers. They are expected to return A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, and D.J. Smith. Along with that, Rob Francois is a restricted free agent, and will likely return as well. Jones, who moved from outside linebacker in a primarily pass-rushing role, found his niche as an inside linebacker.
Most surprising is Jones' coverage capability. He doesn't drop deep quickly enough to be a cornerstone in a Tampa-2 system, but he certainly outpaces most of the free agent linebackers on the market, and could stay on for a few years in competition with a drafted linebacker. Jones' conversion hasn't convinced everybody, so a short front-loaded 3-year deal would be ideal.
His ability to cover tight ends will raise the price (and he covered Chris Johnson well enough out of the backfield when they played the Titans), but a 3-year, $14 million deal with $8 million guaranteed (a $3.5 signing bonus and big portions of the 2013 and 2014 season paid out) for a cap hit of $3.4 million in 2013 should suffice.
Cap space: $11.2 million
I did add one more. Instead of Dwayne Bowe (who I eliminated because it will be hard for the Vikings to attract a high-profile player), I went after Danario Alexander.
There are statistical signs that Alexander is primed for a breakout year. Stuck behind Vincent Brown and Malcom Floyd on his depth chart, it might be difficult for Alexander to truly meet his value, and his agent could steer him towards a WR-needy team.
It's not just the simple physical tools that Alexander has that make him a desireable target; he's a threat to score deep, on an intermediate route or short. He's had seven targets (six catches) behind the line of scrimmage and run them for 74 yards after the catch—averaging 12.33 yards after receiving his screen option. Harvin averaged 12.86 out of his screen passes (29 of them), for context. No draft-eligible receiver averaged more than 6.5 yards per catch off of screen passes.
Alexander has all the tools you would expect from a Vikings receiver. He's a great blocker (he dropped off this year, but should otherwise be considered an "elite" blocking receiver, if that is a thing), who has top-notch speed and make-you-miss ability. He needs work as a route-runner (improved this year) and does not always keep his hands on the ball. His drop rate was slightly above average last year, but he had struggles the year earlier.
Nevertheless, the rate of his improvement as a receiver is remarkable, and he's just waiting to break out and pull out a huge season.
I would sign him to a 5-year, $24 million deal. It is more than Lance Moore's contract after a similar trajectory and skill set, and more than Brandon Lloyd's deal (who probably lost money due to recent performance and age). Nate Burleson received slightly more. That should make Alexander's cap hit somewhere around $4.8 million in the first year.
Cap space: $6.4 million
In addition, the Vikings will want to add depth by signing veterans to small deals, and compete with incoming rookies for a roster spot. Players like OT/OG/C Stephen Peterman (good swing depth for the Lions), WR Derek Hagan (Raiders), TE Chris Cooley (Redskins), CB Will Allen (Patriots), CB Alan Ball (Texans), ILB Brandon Johnson (Steelers) and OLB Kirk Morrison (Bills).
Signing four of them would be ideal, and Peterman, Morrison, Allen and Hagan should all command small deals. In this instance, I am signing those four for just above veteran's minimum.
Cap space: $2.7 million
The Vikings should use that cap space and any carryover space ($8.1 million) to sign front-loaded contracts for Chris Cook, Percy Harvin, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison. If the Vikings can sink their cap hit into the $11.4 million 2013 cap, they can ameliorate the cap hits in 2014 and 2015 of these free agents. The 2014 cap hit will luckily increase by more than $1 million (possibly up to six million), so it's not as big a deal. But saving money in the future is always good.
As of this portion of the plan, the Vikings have picks #23, #52, #83, #87, #99, #112, #117, #131, #148, #179, #197 and #214. First, the Vikings should trade out of the first round for Arizona's second-round pick, third-round pick and a third-round pick next year. Those are #38 and #69. That would occur before the draft, so Arizona can target their LT and a QB in the first round.
After that, the Vikings should give up picks #69, #112 and #197 to get Miami's #54. They have a lot of needs, and may prefer to trade out of five early picks to grab a bevy of picks later.
That gives the Vikings three second-round picks, two third-round picks, two fourth-round picks, two fifth-round picks and one seventh-round pick.
This would accomplish Spielman's goal of getting about eleven picks. Most of the evaluations below are quoted directly from my Vikings Authority post.
#38: DeAndre Hopkins can also provide a deep-threat capability, and is easily the most NFL-ready of any wide receiver in the draft. He has incredibly polished moves for a receiver, great speed and excellent hands. At Clemson, he was asked to make plays at every level, with 10% of his passes coming from behind the line of scrimmage, 20% from 1-5 yards, 25% of his passes going from 6-10 yards, 25% of his passes coming between 11-20 yards and the final 20% going deep. He adjusts well to the ball in the air and can certainly make an immediate impact for the Vikings.
#52: Arthur Brown might not be the best linebacker in the draft, but he's the best fit in the Tampa-2 that the Vikings run of any linebacker in the draft. He's not just quick, but instinctive in zones. He can backpedal perhaps better than any other top-tier linebacker and plays coverage like a pro. With quick hips and good coverage up the seam, he's the opposite of Jasper Brinkley. He's undersized, but has historically played well against bigger blockers than people imagine.
#54: Brandon Williams is a fantastic prospect with good balance, speed and aggression to play at either defensive tackle spot. He played at every interior position on the line at Southern Missouri, but played most of his snaps at the undertackle spot. His size and balance fit well as a nose tackle, but he needs technique work to play well in the NFL. His performance at the Senior Bowl, general strength and surprising quickness should make him an impact player in less than a year.
#83: Robert Alford might be the best small-school prospect, but a mid-tier cornerback class that wide could drop him to the top of the third. He surprised at the Senior Bowl, and has strong hands in press coverage. He has the quickness to play in the slot, and is perfectly fit to back up Antoine Winfield for a year. While he doesn't have great deep speed, he's got great closing speed and good play in underneath zones. Alford could easily challenge Jefferson for a punt return spot, giving him extra value here.
#87: To back up Erin Henderson and prepare for a potential exit a few years later, the Vikings could go the direction of Zavier Gooden—an athletic wonder who impressed in his all-star performance at the Senior Bowl. While he needs work placing himself correctly and shedding blocks, placing him at the Will minimizes his weaknesses and maximizes his strengths. He's great in coverage and gives the Vikings a number of options in nickel packages that they didn't have before, with excellent man-to-man play and deep drops (and instinctive play) in zones.
#99: Time to add to that depth. I'll be grabbing a tackle/guard prospect who projects as a guard but played tackle in college later on in the draft. For now, it's a pure tackle to back up Loadholt and Kalil. Terron Armstead was absolutely shocking in his ability coming out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He consistently impressed in the East-West Shrine Game, with great feet, excellent athleticism, and impressive fundamentals. With polished mechanics and an armspan (81 1/2") to boot, he could really develop into an impact player. He also is supposed to be a guard backup prospect as well. For now, the Vikings will train him to be a tackle.
#117: Corey Fuller is a better receiver than his more well-known counterpart Marcus Davis, and should be drafted here. He has speed (projected 4.45 40-yard dash) and the size (6'2") to add something to the Vikings offense. He's played more in the slot than anywhere else, but could line up outside. He has short-area quickness and the ability to generate yards after the catch. Most impressive is his footwork, ability to set up defensive backs and stay in routes (he can improve his precision here). He's a smooth runner who rarely tips off defensive players as to what he'll do and could make an impact soon in the NFL.
#131: Mike Gillislee can provide a change of pace at running back. He's too often patient at the line, but has excellent acceleration through gaps. He is slated to be a third-down back, as he doesn't take on contact when running well (he doesn't shy away from it) but can run smoothly in routes and has nice hands. Very fast, he won't likely challenge Chris Johnson for any combine records, but can get away from defenders quickly. He puts up a good effort in pass protection despite his build.
#148: Garrett Gilkey also rose because of his all-star performance, but it's his versatility that makes him a tantalizing pick in the fifth round. He lined up as a tackle at Chadron State, and his quick feet from playing as a tight end in high school translated well to his play. More impressive, he had the power to play well at guard, even knocking over strong defensive tackles like Johnathan Jenkins and Josh Boyd. His good footwork and versatility make him an excellent backup who could even challenge for a starting spot in a few years.
#179: The Vikings need to pick a Notre Dame player, and here's a good spot. Also, Zeke Motta actually offers value. At 6'3"and 215 pounds, he's an intimidating safety that can take on strong safety responsibilities in specific packages. He's a downhill player that can close on the ball quickly and reads plays well enough to place himself. While he has a lot of footwork changes to make, and needs to rotate coverage better, he works best in a Cover 2 system more than anything else. He's surprisingly good in man coverage, and can offer a few changes for the Vikings while adding skills the Vikings may not have in Jamarca Sanford. Also, there should be some degree of chemistry between him and fellow Notre Dame alum Harrison Smith.
#214: This late in the seventh round, it might be better to pick someone with upside than proven talent, and that's exactly what Wes Horton represents. Probably underrated, his frame and speed around the edge make him a chancy prospect to challenge D'Aundre Reed for a backup spot and provide the Vikings with something they love-defensive line depth. He has violent hands, but needs a lot more work in placement and balance. He needs more rush moves, but has flashed potential. If he can beat a kick-slide outside or counter-move inside, he can develop into a devastating rusher.
Tyrone Goard (WR, Eastern Kentucky), Michael Clay (OLB, Oregon), Braden Hansen (OG, Brigham Young), Ray Ray Armstrong (S, Faulkner State/Miami (Fl.)), Blaize Foltz (OG, TCU), Quinton Dial (DT, Alabama), Alex Carder (QB Western Michigan), Phillip Lutzenkirchen (TE, Auburn), Chris Pantale (TE, Boston College), Dan Buckner (WR, Arizona), Baker Steinkuhler (DT, Nebraska), Will Pericak (DT, Colorado), Meshak Williams (DE, Kansas State), Mike Catapano (DE, Princeton), Ray Polk (FS, Colorado), Dann O'Neill (OT, Western Michigan), Demontre Hurst (CB, Oklahoma), Nigel Malone (CB, Kansas State)
Some of those folks may get drafted, but they are all worth a look. Alex Carder and Ray Ray Armstrong in particular excite me. Buckner has serious red flags, but could be a solid WR and would normally have been a third-round receiver without them.
Roster going into camp
QB: Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Alex Carder
HB: Adrian Peterson, Mike Gillislee, Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard
FB: Jerome Felton, Rhett Ellison
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, LaMark Brown, Chase Ford, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Chris Pantale
SE: DeAndre Hopkins, Danario Alexander, Jerome Simpson, Dan Buckner, Greg Childs, Chris Summers
FL: Percy Harvin, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, Tyrone Goard, Derek Hagan
LT: Matt Kalil, Terron Armstead, Kevin Murphy
LG: Kevin Boothe, Garrett Gilkey, Tyler Holmes
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger, Stephen Peterman
RG: Brandon Fusco, Braden Hansen, Blaize Foltz
RT: Phil Loadholt, DeMarcus Love, Dann O'Neill
RDE: Everson Griffen, Meshak Williams, Wes Horton
UT: Kevin Williams, Brandon Williams, Christian Ballard, Quinton Dial, Will Pericak
NT: Desmond Bryant, Fred Evans, Chase Baker, Baker Steinkuhler
LDE: Brian Robison, D'Aundre Reed, Mike Catapano
SLB: Chad Greenway, Larry Dean, Michael Clay
MLB: Arthur Brown, Brad Jones, Audie Cole
WLB: Erin Henderson, Zavier Gooden, Kirk Morrison
LCB: Antoine Winfield, Josh Robinson, Brandon Burton, Greg McCoy, Demontre Hurst, Nigel Malone
RCB: Chris Cook, Robert Alford, A.J. Jefferson, Will Allen, Rod Williams, Bobby Felder
SS: Jamarca Sanford, Robert Blanton, Zeke Motta, Ray Ray Armstrong
FS: Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Ray Polk
There are a few more camp spots available, so perhaps I would not be so quick to cut George Johnson and Nick Taylor, but they would likely not survive camp cuts. There is also room to add another linebacker.
What do you think?