StarTribune.com

February 2007


QB updates

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

It comes as no surprise that the Atlanta Falcons have put a high tender on quarterback Matt Schaub, meaning it’s unlikely he’s going anywhere. Meanwhile, Fox Sports is reporting that the Kansas City Chiefs have agreed on a three-year deal with quarterback Damon Huard .

Harris set to hit market

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

It appears as if Vikings linebacker Napoleon Harris will become an unrestricted free agent at 11 p.m. Thursday. While this isn’t a surprise, it does mean the Vikings almost certainly will have a new middle linebacker next season. This is a key position, of course, in the Tampa-2 defense. The middle linebacker must be athletic and able to drop back into pass coverage. E.J. Henderson seems the likely choice to get a chance to replace Harris.

The Vikings coaches often talk about “position flexibility” when it comes to the linebackers, meaning these guys can play any of the three positions.

Harris rebounded with a strong 2006 campaign after struggling in his first season with the Vikings. His subpar performance was due in part to injury and also because he was used out of position on the strong side. Considering the fact this free-agent crop isn’t very strong, it’s likely Harris will get an offer the Vikings don’t want to match.

Vikings receivers Bethel Johnson and Travis Taylor and defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej also appear set to become free agents. Kolodziej’s agent, Chris Murray, was told last week that his client would not be re-signed before free agency started.

The Vikings have told backup offensive lineman Jason Whittle they want him back and it appears something could be worked out before the end of this week.

You can go home — maybe

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

The Washington Post reported today that many in the Redskins organization would be open to signing Fred Smoot if/when the cornerback is released by the Vikings this week. Smoot spent his first four seasons with Washington before signing as a free agent with the Vikings in 2005.

Kelsay off the market

Monday, February 26th, 2007

The Bills have retained defensive end Chris Kelsay with a four-year deal that includes about $13 million in guaranteed money, according to the NFL Network. Meanwhile, Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins, due to become a restricted free agent, receives a four-year contract that includes a $6 million signing bonus. See why we say it’s not going to be easy to find a defensive end in free agency? Maybe Gaines Adams is the Vikings guy.

The answer(s)

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Considering Monctonvike had a large influence on this Q&A starting in the first place I guess it’s only fitting that he asked about 10 of the questions today. I won’t get to all your questions Monc but you do get to bat leadoff.

Q. Who from the Vikings orginization conducts the player interviews at the combine? What type of questions do they ask? – Moncton

A. The Vikings had a cast of thousdands (or it seemed so) in Indy during the time the interviews were going on and many of them get access to the prospects. As far as how many were in the room during each 15-minute session the number can change — if Zygi Wilf wants to be there I’m sure he’s not told, ‘sorry, but get out’ — and depending on the player’s positions the coaches present could be different. The Vikings spent about 5 hours Friday and Saturday night talking to players — and this came after they conducted more than 90 interviews at the Senior Bowl. The players get all types of questions and follow-ups, especially if there are any issues about their background. VP Rick Spielman was saying Thursday that with a player like Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas you are aware of the fact he’s a good kid and there aren’t as many concerns. The same holds true for Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson. To show just how much work is done to find out what type of guy each player is, the Vikings not only brought director of player development/legal Les Pico to Indy but also have director of security Kim Klawiter on site.

Q. Do you have a player-by-player list of the 2007 cap? Not cash salary, but how much each player will suck up our $109 million. BTW, thanks for the continual updates. — VikingJay

A. No problem, it’s my pleasure. As for the player-by-player list this is not readily accessible to the media (we have access to cash salaries) but we do work to get this information. However, with contracts being reworked (something that doesn’t always get out) and other manuevers made, these figures can change quickly this time of year.

Q. Did you eat peanuts on the plane? — Moncton

A. You know they don’t even give you peanuts anymore. At least not on the Indy to Minneapolis flight. I didn’t even get the entire can of diet Pepsi. Honestly, considering the weather, I was just happy to get home yesterday.

Q. How much is it going to cost the Vikes to move up to get Calvin Johnson and whatever it is, do you think it’s worth it? — Bones

A. It would cost a lot but I came away from the combine feeling that it might be worth it. This draft is deep with receivers but Calvin Johnson is special. Really special. Not only is this guy a great player but evidently he’s a good guy, too. I know some mock drafts have the Vikings taking Ted Ginn Jr., but can this team afford to use the seventh pick on a guy who is a great athlete but not necessarily a polished receiver? (see Williamson, Troy). As far as the cost, the Vikings would have to give up at least a couple of picks this year, including No. 7, and a few down the road. It would be a gamble for a receiver but Johnson could be the No. 1 guy around here for a long time.

Q. If the Vikings make no attempt to move up for Calvin Johnson, would their be anything wrong with taking Adrian Peterson in the seven spot and going with a two back game plan like New England, Jags, Giants, etc. I think their is a lot of upside to having two different kinds of backs, and our depth in the position is not great in my opinion. — NC Vike

A. This team has so many needs that I can’t see taking Peterson with the seventh pick. If the Vikings don’t manage to use the pick on a receiver or move up, the next option could be a pass-rushing end such as Clemson’s Gaines Adams. (I still can’t believe they are going to take Brady Quinn at No. 7, although the Vikings are trying to convince people they would seriously look at that option if Quinn is available.) Peterson could be a heck of a back but Chester Taylor is going to remain the main man next season and he’s being paid big-money to be that guy. Remember, Taylor had no real wear and tear on his body before last season so it’s not as if he should be worn down after one year of carrying the work load.

Q. Is it possible the Vikings will overpay for Atlanta’s Patrick Kerney to shore up their outside pass rush, then concentrate soley on drafting offense? — Bucky Scribner

A. There will be a big market for the defensive end, who voided the final two years of his contract with the Atlanta Falcons last weekend. The fact Justin Smith (Cincinnati), Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis) and Charles Grant (New Orleans) all have had franchise tags placed on them makes Kerney that much more valuable. A few things to keep in mind on this issue. 1) The Vikings have $12.4 million in cap room and 19 teams are expected to have more than $20 million. In other words, this isn’t going to be like last year when the Vikings essentially had the ability to get anyone they wanted. 2) I asked around about Kerney at the NFL combine and the response from a few people was, “Yeah, it would be a good addition if he’s healthy.” Kerney tore a right pectoral muscle around the mid-way point of 2006. He finished with 4.5 sacks. There is a good chance that offense will be the Vikings’ focus in the draft but I don’t think it’s because they will have Kerney on their roster.

Q. Has Childress given any indication of what he is going to do with the linebacker situation? Will Chad Greenway get a shot even though he was out all of last season? — Craig

A. Childress said he does have some ideas about how the Vikings would replace Napoleon Harris at middle linebacker. Harris is an unrestricted free agent and considering the Vikings already have made major investments in E.J. Henderson, Ben Leber and Greenway it’s expected that Harris will be allowed to leave. Among the things Childress mentioned was moving Dontarrious Thomas into the starting role in the middle or looking to the draft for help. In reality, I think this is how the linebacker group looks on opening day: weakside, Greenway; middle, Henderson; strongside, Leber.

Q. In your opinion are both Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith with the Vikings next season? — Bones

A. Sharper questioned his future with the franchise following the regular-season finale and there has been recent speculation Smith could be let go in a salary-cap move. Sharper, however, has since said he wants to return, and Childress said Friday that Smith is one of his “starting safeties.” But how many safeties is too many? Veteran Tank Williams, who missed all of last season because of a fractured knee cap, has signed a one-year deal with the Vikings and will return. Greg Blue certainly will be in the mix for a starting job in training camp. The reason to keep all four, however, would be a concern about Williams’ health. My guess at this point is Smith and Sharper do return.

Q. What do you make of Childress’ comments about Brady Quinn? Is he seriously a consideration or is it a smokescreen for trade bait with our pick? — FargoVikesFan

A. See the above answer. I’d go with the latter.

Q. Are we going to upgrade the right side of the offensive line or are we stuck with Hicks, Johnson and Rosenthal? — MyVikesAZ

A. Childress acknowledged Friday that the right side of the line must show improvement. He’s right but I’m not sure that happens with big changes being made. The problem is that Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk already are making big money and it appears as if Birk is in line for a new deal. How much more can be spent on the line Profootballtalk.com reported this weekend that the word at the combine was the Bengals Eric Steinbach and Chargers Kris Dielman are in line to sign contracts worth $7 million per year in free agency. It’s unlikely the Vikings will get into bidding wars like that for offensive linemen. My guess is Artis Hicks gets another chance to prove himself at right guard. What the Vikings do at right tackle will be interesting. Ryan Cook finished the season at that spot last season but remains very raw at the position. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marcus Johnson gets another chance to win this job. It seems early to give up on a guy who was a second-round pick.

Q. A lot has been made about potential players that will be released prior to March. When do you think they will start letting players go? Or do you believe they will pay some of the bonuses and use these players as trade bait (Fred Smoot, Brad Johnson)? — Billy

A. I believe that Johnson, Smoot and a few others will be let go before Friday. There isn’t much incentive to release them before that point. I’m sure the Vikings would love to get something in return for Smoot, Johnson, etc., but just don’t see that happening. Not when teams know they can sign these guys for nothing. Plus, how big of a market is there for a guy like Smoot?

Q. With the possibility that tight end Daniel Graham hits the free-agent market, would the Vikes look at him to replace Wiggins? How much more cap space would Graham take vs. Wiggins? Is Graham worth it? (considering how little the IHOP playbook calls the TE’s #) — Vikefan in big D.

A. I expect the Vikings will call about Graham but so will about 10 other teams. You bring up an interesting point when it comes to how Childress used the tight ends last season. If I’m a top-flight tight end or receiver I’m not sure if this is where I want to play. Not unless I get a guarantee that things will change in 2007. As for the cap hit, Graham certainly would be an expensive acquisition, more so than Wiggins, but he certainly would be a bigger part of the offense and therefore probably worth the investment. Wiggins, by the way, is due to make $1.1 million in 2007 and $1.5 million in 2008.

This just in

Monday, February 26th, 2007

The Packers confirmed Brett Favre underwent surgery on his ankle Monday. Here’s the statement the team issued from GM Ted Thompson: “Quarterback Brett Favre underwent minor ankle surgery this morning in Green Bay. The procedure went as expected and he is recovering at this time. We expect no complications and that he will be cleared to participate in offseason workouts similar to his schedule in 2006.”

Access Vikings

Join Vikings beat writers Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins on a usually informative and often irreverent journey inside the Vikings.

Just like the NFL, Zulgad and Scoggins go at it all year long -- on and off the field.