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Minnesota Vikings Post Senior Bowl Off Season Plan and Mock Draft

I wanted to offer up an off season plan and felt now was a good time to do so. I wanted to see the Senior Bowl and there was plenty of other Vikings news going on as well. This is going to be kind of long and a bit rambling. I am just putting it out there for discussion.

Sean Gardner

I loved the hire of Mike Zimmer and the subsequent hire of Norv Turner.  I do not know enough about George Edwards but he does have over 20 years of coaching experience.  Plus, Mike Zimmer said this in his press conference ...

Q: How involved do you plan on being with designing the defense?

A: Very. I plan on it being very similar to what I have done in Cincinnati. It’s always going to be part of my little baby because that is who I am and what has got me here. So that will always be a big part of me.

... so I think he will be very hands on with the defense and is not going to just let Edwards do whatever he wants.  I think they will be working closely together.

As far as the Vikings free agents are concerned here is the list I found ...

Josh Freeman, QB
Toby Gerhart, RB
Jerome Simpson, WR
Joe Webb, WR
J'Marcus Webb, OL
Charlie Johnson, OL
Joe Berger, OL
Jared Allen, DE
Everson Griffen, DE
Fred Evans, DT
Kevin Williams, DT
Marvin Mitchell, LB
Desmond Bishop, LB
Chris Cook, CB

... I think I would start off by deciding what to do about Everson Griffen.  It is hard to say how much to give him.  Cliff Avril signed a two year 13 mil deal with Seattle.  I would think that Griffen wants to be paid nicely but I really cannot see how you can go past 5 or 6 mil per year.  The Vikings gave Brian Robison a 3 year 13.5 mil deal with a  6.5 mil signing bonus and 6.5 mil guaranteed after his rookie contract.  It is hard to argue that Griffen deserves more although he had more sacks.  Robison had more assisted tackles.  But with inflation I think I would offer Griffen a 5 year 34 mil deal with a 7 mil signing bonus and 15 mil guaranteed. He could have annual salaries of 3.5,4.5,5.5,6.5, & 7 mil.  Of course he could turn this down but considering he has not even started a full season the Vikings would be pretty fair with this deal.  I suppose they could take off one or two years if they wanted in order to allow him to hit free agency again sooner.

If the Vikings do not or cannot sign Griffen then maybe they go after Michael Johnson DE from the Bengals.  Having Mike Zimmer here should be a plus and may make it more attractive to Johnson.  But he turned down a 5 year 40 mil deal from the Bengals prior to last season and played on the franchise tag of 11.5 mil.  He is going to cost a lot more than Griffen.  But is he worth it?  I think it would take 5 year 45 mil or more to get him to sign here.

I would rather go for Griffen and then see what players become available that can be had for cheap (like last year with Shaun Phillips, etc).  Maybe the Vikings try and sign Justin Tuck for cheap and let Griffen walk?  Then they can sign another lower level inexpensive free agent like Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and draft a player.

There is nobody else I would try to sign right away.  I would let them all test free agency.  I would like to maybe hang onto J'Marcus Webb but he probably is going to want to see if he can start.

Other free agents I would target are ...

Linval Joseph, Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, or Arthur Jones (although he played in a 3-4) for the defensive tackle position.
Captain Munnerlyn, Alterraun Verner, Aqib Talib, Vontae Davis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tarell Brown, or Charles Tillman for the cornerback position.
Wesley Woodyard, Donald Butler, or Daryl Smith at the linebacker position.
Jarius Byrd, Chris Clemons, Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, or Taylor Mays at the safety position.
John Jerry, Jon Asamoah, or Shawn Lauvao at the guard position.
Ed Dickson, Andrew Quarless, or Fred Davis at the tight end position.
Danario Alexander, Kenny Britt, or Jeremy Mclin at the wide receiver position.

If I had my wish list and for this plan I would sign these players ...

Linval Joseph DT 6'4" 323 (25 years old turns 26 October 10th) - 5 year 37 mil with a 7 mil signing bonus and 15 mil guaranteed

Last year Desmond Bryant signed a 5 year 34 mil deal with a 5 mil signing bonus and 12 mil guaranteed

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB 6'2" 193 (27 years old turns 28 April 7th) - 5 year 31 mil with a 6.5 mil signing bonus and 13 mil guaranteed

Last year Sean Smith signed a 3 year 16 mil deal with a 6.75 mil signing bonus and 7.465 mil guaranteed
Last year Keenan Lewis signed a 5 year 25.55 mil deal with a 6 mil signing bonus and 10 mil guaranteed

Jon Asamoah OG 6'4" 305 (25 years old turns 26 July 21st)
- 5 year 28 mil with a 5 mil signing bonus and 11.5 mil guaranteed

Last year Andy Levitre signed a 6 year 46.8 mil deal with a 10.5 mil signing bonus and 13 mil guaranteed
Last year Louis Vasquez signed a 4 year 23.5 mil deal with a 5 mil signing bonus and 10 mil guaranteed

Donald Butler LB 6'1" 242 (25 years old turns 26 October 17th) - 5 year 37.5 mil with a 7 mil signing bonus and 15 mil guaranteed

Last year Dannell Ellerbe signed a 5 year 34.75 mil deal with a 7 mil signing bonus and 14 mil guaranteed
Last year Philip Wheeler signed a 5 year 26 mil deal with a 7 mil signing bonus and 13 mil guaranteed

Nate Allen S 6'1" 210 (26 years old turns 27 November 30th) - 5 year 30 mil with a 7 mil signing bonus and 13 mil guaranteed

Last year Dashon Goldson signed a 5 year 41.25 mil deal with a 8.25 mil signing bonus and 18 mil guaranteed
Last year William Moore signed a 5 year 30 mil deal with a 8.25 mil signing bonus and 14 mil guaranteed
Last year Laron Landry signed a 4 year 24 mil deal with a 7 mil signing bonus and 11 mil guaranteed
In 2012 Thomas DeCoud signed a 5 year 17.5 mil deal with a 3 mil signing bonus and 4 mil guaranteed

Andrew Quarless TE 6'4" 252 (25 years old turns 26 October 6th) - I would probably try to sign him for a deal that is somewhere around 2.5 to 3 mil per year for only 2 to 3 years.

Danario Alexander WR 6'5" 217 (25 years old turns 26 August 7th) - I would probably try to sign him for a deal that is somewhere around 2.5 to 3 mil per year for only 2 to 3 years.

... I also think there could be other signings too but they would be more for depth.  Joseph would be my #1 target followed up quickly by Cromartie, Asamoah, and Butler.  Note: Cromartie reportedly said he may retire if they win the Super Bowl.

Well, now to the cuts.  If they got rid of Guion then they would save 4 mil.  I would talk to Greenway about a restructure (i.e., cut) or probably have to release him because it is doubtful another team takes on that contract.  If they got rid of Greenway then they would save 4.8 mil on the cap. I think John Carlson is either going to retire or probably be let go.  That would save another 2 mil.   If they got rid of Jamarca Sanford they would save 2.25 mil.  If they got rid of Erin Henderson they would save 2 mil.

I don't think they would get rid of Greenway and Henderson but they need to do something about Greenway's deal.  Which brings me to the elephant in the room.

Adrian Peterson.  What should the Vikings do about his contract?  Spielman came out and said that AP is going nowhere which is not saying much considering he said that about Harvin too.  But the situations were different obviously.  So let us assume he is telling the truth. 

Right now AP does not have any guaranteed money on his contract.  If he gets hurt at any point in time he could be released with very little cap hit.  I do not think the Vikings would do that but it all depends on the injury.  If he sustains another major knee injury then there is no way they should keep him AND pay him his salary.  They would be smart to do an injury settlement.  I am not banking on that happening but a smart organization has to be prepared for all contingencies.

So, if the Vikings do see AP as being part of this obvious rebuild/retool then they would be wise to redo his deal.  He is due 12 mil in 2014, 13 mil in 2015, 15 mil in 2016, and 16 mil in 2017 (all the years include a 250,000 workout bonus). I do not see any fathomable reason why the team would pay AP those amounts in 2016 & 2017.  I even think paying him 13 mil in 2015 is crazy.  So what kind of deal would be fair and he would be willing to accept?

He is making way more than Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, and Matt Forte.

I could suggest a deal of 4 year 45.75 mil with an 8 mil signing bonus and 21.75 mil guaranteed but why would AP accept that deal to stay here?  I would like to believe that he would want to get some guaranteed money but if it also includes a pay cut, well, then who knows?

Here are the expected franchise tag numbers  for 2014 ...

2014 Franchise Tag Projections

Pos     Cap Number
Quarterback     $16.2 million
Defensive End     $12.6 million
Wide Receiver     $11.6 million
Cornerback     $11.3 million
Offensive Lineman     $11.2 million
Linebacker     $11 million
Defensive Tackle     $9.2 million
Running Back     $9.1 million
Safety         $8.1 million
Tight End         $6.8 million
Kicker/Punter     $3.4 million

All I know is that sooner or later his contract is going to be a real problem if it is not already.  I think it is already.  Not because he is not a great player and probably worth a lot of money.  Just that it is way more than other top backs who are just as productive if not more (especially when you include receiving yards).  Since he joined the league he has led the league in yards from scrimmage twice.  The others I mentioned above have been right around the top of the league too.

The way I see it is the team is going to probably have a tough time if they get a rookie QB and he starts right away.  If they get a guy later in the draft then we are probably looking at Matt Cassel starting unless they bring in another veteran (maybe Jash Freeman).  So if the QB they select later in the draft is ready to start in 2015 then he is going to struggle for at least his first year and probably the first two for sure.  By then we are into that 14.75 mil year for AP.  This is not good.

I really do not know what they are going to do but I think it would be wise to explore all trades now.  I would take the best package I could get and then re-sign Toby Gerhart and probably another free agent as well as drafting a RB.  I just do not know what kind of package they can get.  I would like to believe they could get a first round pick but that is thinking like a fan. 

I think the Vikings will let it play out one more year unless a team gives them an offer that they cannot refuse.  I still am in favor of a trade with the Cowboys.  I would ask for their 1st round pick this year, Demarco Murray, and their 3rd round pick next year.  I think he would redo his deal for them and accept a reduction in pay.

I believe he will be here next year and probably the year after.  Then I think he will probably be asked to take a pay cut or just flat out released.  I do not believe he will have any trade value worth a dang after this year.

I do not anticipate including a trade of AP in of my future mocks/plans and there is none in this one.  I just thought I would share how I feel about the situation.  I wont be mad if they do trade him and would be very interested in the package they could get.  I will leave it be now.

Now to the draft.  Obviously I did not mention anything about the QB spot.  I think the team can go in many different directions this year.  They could evaluate the prospects and feel none are worth the #8 pick or if there is one that player will be gone.  They are not likely move up but I would not be surprised if the did move up.  They could try and re-sign Josh Freeman.  Spielman obviously likes him and maybe Norv Turner does too?  If they did that then Cassel could bolt.  Then the Vikings will probably grab a guy late in the draft for developmental purposes.  Maybe a Keith Wenning, Jeff Matthews, Connor Shaw, or Keith Price?

I think they will draft a guy in the first round.  They can move up, stay put, or move down.  I am going with the move down option.

Here is how I think the draft plays out ...

1. Houston - They need a QB and may feel they can get one at the top of round 2 that would be just as good as anyone they get here.  Plus they could like Clowney, Matthews, or Barr.  I am thinking they want to beat the Rams to the punch and trade down.  I think Cleveland has the ammo to trade up and surely does not want to disappoint their fans once again by not going for the guy they want.

So the Browns trade with the Texans giving up their #4, #72, and a 2015 4th round pick. Now I know a lot of people will say that this is crazy and it does not match up with the old trade chart.  Well, I think that thing is antiquated and not all GMs stick to it religiously.  The Vikings traded down with the Browns and got nowhere close to what would have been fair using the old chart.  But most here claim Spielman fleeced the Browns.  Go figure.  I think it was a good trade and do give Spielman credit for getting what he did for moving one spot down.  No, I think the trades are not going to always match that old chart and there is a new chart that may be better ...

And the pick is ...

Cleveland - Teddy Bridgewater  QB  Louisville  Jr  6-3  205

2. St. Louis - Now the Rams are also looking to trade down.  They are hoping to find another Dan Snyder but there is only one of them. That being said, there could be a team out there that is desperate enough.  But who would make the move.  Jacksonville?  Tampa Bay?  Oakland?  I doubt it.  But I do believe Atlanta wants to get Clowney in the worst way.  They do need a better offensive line but I think they will take their chances later.  You cannot wait on a pass rusher.

So the Falcons trade their #6, #68, and a 2015 5th to move up to #2.

And the pick is ...

Atlanta - Jadeveon Clowney  DE  South Carolina  Jr  6-5  274

3. Anthony Barr  OLB  UCLA  Sr  6-4  248
I think a lot of people believe Jacksonville will go for a QB here but I think they also will wait and could possibly still have faith in Gabbert.  Since they missed out on Clowney they go with Barr.  I think Barr is better suited to the 4-3 anyway.  His number one job will be getting after the QB.

4. Houston - Blake Bortles  QB  UCF  rJr  6-3  230
I think this is the guy Houston (and more specifically O'Brien) wants the most.  There will be talk about taking the hometown kid Manziel but that will create extra pressure on him to perform.

5. Oakland - Sammy Watkins  WR  Clemson  Jr  6-1  205
It is hard to say what direction the Raiders may take.  Do they draft a QB here?  Do they go with an offensive tackle?  They do need to resign Jared Veldheer and if they take a tackle would they move him over to the right side?  That seems to be foolish.  You can get a right tackle later.  They definitely need help at wide receiver but this year the class is deep.  I think it comes down to Manziel or Watkins or maybe even Louis Nix. I think they go for Watkins and he is clearly a fantastic wide receiver.  As we well know, a QB needs weapons and the Raiders do not have many.

6. St Louis - Jake Matthews  OT  Texas A&M  Sr  6-5  305
The Rams trade down and get a decent return plus get the guy who can help them a lot and who they probably want anyway.  Many have stated that jeff Fisher does not taking offensive linemen in the first.  But if they want to keep Bradford upright then they will have to break that pattern.

7. Tampa Bay - Greg Robinson  OT  Auburn  rSo  6-5  320
I think people want to believe the Bucs will want someone else besides Mike Glennon and I have no idea why.  They could go for an offensive tackle here and Greg Robinson may just be the pick.  But what about getting Mike Evans?  He would be something to pair with Vincent Jackson.  But they do have Mike Williams returning from surgery and this draft is deep at wide receiver.  I think they will be smart and protect Glennon.  Plus Donald Penn will turn 31 on April 27th.

8. Minnesota - Now here are the Vikings looking at Manziel and Carr.  A lot of people think neither are worth the pick at #8 and while I think that is foolish, I do like to trade.  I am thinking that the Rams want to get a big time WR.  Brian Quick has been a disappointment and while Austin Pettis, Chris Givens, and Stedman Bailey are all interesting players none are going to be confused for a #1 WR.

So the Rams trade the #13, #75, and a 2015 5th to move up to #8.

And the pick is ...

Rams - Mike Evans  WR  Texas A&M  rSo  6-5  225

9. Buffalo - Khalil Mack  OLB  Buffalo  rSr  6-3  248
I do not know if Mack can play in a 4-3 but I think they take the BPA here.

10. Detroit - C.J. Mosley  ILB  Alabama  Sr  6-2  232
The Lions were hoping Mike Evans made it to them but the Rams beat them to the punch.  I also think they would look hard at Mack here.  But CJ Mosley is not a bad consolation prize.  They need someone better than Ashley Palmer.

11.  Tennessee - Taylor Lewan  OT  Michigan  rSr  6-7  315
The Titans need to replace David Stewart and Michael Roos is 31 years old.  They have to replace whomever it is they have at QB.  It is possible that they go for one here but I think they will wait to see who is falling.

12. Giants - Cyrus Kouandjio  OT  Alabama  Jr  6-5  310
The Giants need to protect Eli Manning.  They gave him a bunch of money and they did not envision him spending a lot of his time on his back or running for his life.  It is possible that they try and get a tackle later and take a CB like Dennard or DT like Nix here but that seems foolish.

13. Vikings - Johnny Manziel  QB  Texas A&M  rSo  5-11  210
Finally the Vikings are back on the clock and the two QBs that no one thinks is worth a first round pick are still here.  What do the Vikings do?  Do they go with the dynamic playmaker in Manziel or the rifleman Carr?  But I think the phone will be ringing off the hook.  The Steelers, Dolphins, and Cardinals could all be wanting to get Zach Martin. I think the Dolphins will be the team with the most interest since they are probably losing Incognito and Martin.  The question becomes do the Vikings take a another risk of moving down and seeing another team possibly move back up?  I think they will refuse all requests and just take JFF!!!!

I really like Carr a lot and he could be the pick here very easily.  But I think the Vikings will be swayed by the similarity he has to Sir Francis.  He is going to be very exciting one way or another.

I will not do the rest of the first round.  Just the remaining Vikings picks.

13. Johnny Manziel  QB  Texas A&M  rSo  5' 11" 210
40. Christian Jones  ILB  Florida State  Sr  6' 3 3/8" 234
72. Stanley Jean-Baptiste  CB  Nebraska  Sr  6' 2 3/8" 215
75. Joel Bitonio  OT  Nevada  rSr  6' 4" 307
96. Charles Sims  RB  West Virginia  rSr  5' 11 7/8" 214
104. Caraun Reid  DT  Princeton  rSr  6' 2 1/8" 301
136. Kenny Ladler  FS  Vanderbilt  Sr  6' 0 1/8" 200
168. Brent Urban  DE  Virginia  Sr  6' 6 3/4" 298
200. Deandre Coleman  DT  California  rSr  6' 5" 315
Trade.  The Vikings trade their 2015 6th round pick to the 49ers for #218
218. Spencer Long *  OG  Nebraska  rSr  6' 4" 315

Gator Hoskins  FB  Marshall  Sr  6-1  244
Larry Webster  DE  Bloomsburg  rSr  6-6  240
Nickoe Whitley *  FS  Mississippi State  rSr  6-0  205
Silas Redd *  RB  Southern California  Sr  5-9  200
Eric Ward  WR  Texas Tech  rSr  5-11  205
Keith Wenning  QB  Ball State  Sr  6-2  220
Colt Lyerla  TE  Oregon  Jr  6-5  250
Xavius Boyd  OLB  Western Kentucky  Sr  6-1  243
Kevin Graf  OT  Southern California  rSr  6-6  295
Trevor Gillette  LS  Rice  Sr  6-3  240

I think that the first pick could be Carr over Manziel.  The Vikings might like him for a different reason or another team could take Manziel like the Raiders..  I wanted to take Kyle Van Noy at #40 but I think he could go earlier.

In summary ....

According to this site ...
the Vikings have 103.48 mil allocated to the cap for the top 51 players next year.

According to this site ...
the projected 2014 NFL salary cap is going to be 126.3 mil.

That leaves the Vikings with approximately 22.82 mil in cap space. Now if you find numbers that are different then please list them in your comment as it will help all of us better understand the situation.

Players released ...
Letory Guion - save 4 mil in cap space
Chad Greenway - save 4.8 mil in cap space
John Carlson - save 2 mil in cap space
Jamarca Sanford - save 2.25 mil in cap space
Erin Henderson - save 2 mil in cap space

total savings is 15.05 in cap space

Players signed ...
Linval Joseph DT
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB
Jon Asamoah OG
Donald Butler LB
Nate Allen S
Andrew Quarless TE
Danario Alexander WR

total spent in first year could be 26.1 mil in cap space

Even after all this the Vikings could still have 11.77 mil to use on rookies and in other smaller signings.

Now of course this is a very ambitious plan.  It is likely the Vikings do not land any of the free agents I listed.  But this is my wish list right now.