Vikings Rumors

Vikings’ Adam Thielen Wants New Deal

Adam Thielen is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He’s also among the most underpaid players in the league. Thielen’s agent, Blake Baratz, says he’s optimistic about getting an extension hammered out this offseason, but added that his client will not engage in a holdout. 

Adam’s not that type of person,” Baratz told SKOR (via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin). “I would never condone a player to hold out or be disruptive if it wasn’t for a very valid reason, and [what’s not] a valid reason, to me, is both sides working in good faith to come to a conclusion that makes sense for everybody.”

Without a holdout, it’s hard to see the Vikings caving. Thielen’s under-market extension has him under contract for just $5.85MM in base salary this season and $6.5MM in 2020. Often times, teams elect to hold off on extension talks until the final season, meaning that the 28-year-old (29 in August) may have to play out one more season at a bargain rate before pushing for a new deal.

This team has a lot of really good things in place for it, and I know they want to take care of Adam and I know they want Adam there and I know they want to reward Adam,” Baratz said.

Thielen followed up his 91/1,276/4 line in 2017 with a 113/1,373/9 stat line in 2018. The Vikings disappointed on the whole in 2018, but Theilen had an exceptional year en route to his second-straight Pro Bowl appearance.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings’ Anthony Barr Likely To Hit Free Agency

Anthony Barr has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past four seasons and has been a stalwart on the Vikings’ defense since Minnesota drafted him with the 9th overall pick of the 2014 draft, but it appears the two sides are headed for a parting of the ways. Per Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, there is no indication that Barr and the Vikings have recently engaged in contract talks, and given the cost of the franchise tag for linebackers ($15.9MM), Minnesota is highly unlikely to tag him.

As such, Barr is set to hit the open market, and he will surely get paid handsomely. He was a 3-4 outside linebacker at UCLA –racking up 23.5 sacks in his last two years with the Bruins — and though he converted to a 4-3 ‘backer when he came to the Vikings, his pass rushing abilities have not left him. As Krammer observes, Barr has twice been rated Pro Football Focus’ most efficient blitzing linebacker, including the 2018 season, though he has been one of the league’s top 10 most frequent blitzers just once in his first five years in the league.

He could therefore hold significant appeal to a number of clubs. He has proven himself as a quality 4-3 stack linebacker, but his pedigree and upside as a pass rusher will make him almost universally attractive. His sack numbers are not eye-catching, but that is a function not only of the position he plays, but the discipline with which head coach Mike Zimmer‘s unit operates. Barr said, “If you watch a lot of teams — the Panthers, Miami, Oakland, Cincinnati — a lot of linebackers are going under blocks and not playing their gaps. Either they get gashed or they make a big splash play. We play sound across the board. I think it also hurts stat numbers because we’re going to hold our gap and force the ball to go elsewhere.”

The Vikings’ defense fared well when Barr was sidelined for several games last season, and with much of their veteran defensive core already under contract for the long-term, it seems unlikely they will bring Barr back unless they get him on a team-friendly deal. Though they approached Barr about an extension last summer, it does not appear they ever came close to an agreement. Per Krammer, Barr said that Minnesota’s offers were not what he expected.

He should have more luck when free agency opens on March 13.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Hire Rick Dennison

Previously rumored to be following Gary Kubiak to Minnesota, Rick Dennison made it official. After a lengthy delay, the Vikings announced Dennison will serve as their offensive line coach.

Dennison became connected to this role when Kubiak accepted an assistant head coach position with the Vikings, but the Jets and Packers expressed interest in Dennison. The former Texans, Broncos and Bills OC coached the Jets’ offensive linemen last season.

The 2019 season will mark Dennison’s 18th season on staff with Kubiak, whose return as the Broncos’ OC was scuttled due to wanting to bring former Denver assistants Dennison and Brian Pariani — now the Vikings’ tight ends coach — back to Denver as part of his offensive staff. The Broncos preferred Mike Munchak be their offensive line coach instead and ended up going in that direction, severing ties with Kubiak.

Dennison, who will also serve as Minnesota’s run game coordinator, worked with the Broncos from 1995-2009 and again from 2015-16. The Bills fired him as OC after the 2017 season. This will be a key position gig for the 60-year-old coach, with the Vikings’ struggles up front playing a key role in the team missing the playoffs after it entered last season as a Super Bowl contender.

Previous Vikings offensive line coach Andrew Janocko will stay on staff. He will now work under Dennison as assistant O-line coach, the Vikings announced. Janocko served as Minnesota’s assistant O-line coach in 2017, serving under Tony Sparano. After Sparano’s 2018 death, the Vikings promoted Janocko.

The team also announced Drew Petzing will have a new title, rising from assistant quarterbacks coach to head wideouts coach. Petzing served as Minnesota’s assistant receivers coach from 2016-17.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings May Move Riley Reiff To Guard

  • The Vikings already moved former tackle Mike Remmers to guard in 2018, and they may end up doing the same with their blindside protector. Minnesota is considering shifting left tackle Riley Reiff to guard, sources tell Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Reiff, 30, has played tackle in all 105 of his NFL appearances, and he’s played it quite well: in 2018, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 23rd-best tackle in the league. Per Goessling, the Vikings will take an “open approach” to rebuilding their offensive line, meaning they’ll search for new players in free agency and the draft before finalizing their front five configuration.
  • The structure of Everson Griffen‘s 2017 extension could end up making him a viable candidate for release as the Vikings enter the offseason, as Goessling writes in a separate piece. Per the terms of Griffen’s deal, he received nearly $19MM in new guarantees, but that money has already been paid out in his 2017-18 base salaries and roster bonuses. As Goessling notes, cutting Griffen after a year in which he dealt with mental health issues could seem cruel, but the club could save $10.7MM in cap space by doing so.

Cardinals Claim Tanner Vallejo Off Waivers

Tanner Vallejo has found a new team. After being waived by the Browns yesterday, the linebacker has been claimed by the Cardinals (via the team’s website).

While the 24-year-old has been waived twice over past five months, there were still plenty of teams lining up to make a claim. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Vikings, and Chargers also made an attempt to claim Vallejo off waivers. Thanks to Arizona’s league-worst 3-13 record, they got first dibs on the player.

The Boise State product was selected by the Bills in the sixth-round of the 2017 draft, and he proceeded to appear in 15 games as a rookie. Vallejo was waived by Buffalo prior to this past season before landing on the Browns. In fact, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo points out (via Twitter) that the Cardinals made an unsuccessful claim on the linebacker at that time, so their interest in the linebacker isn’t anything new.

Vallejo ended up being relatively productive in Cleveland, compiling 27 tackles and one forced fumble in 13 games (one start). He ultimately finished the season on IR due to a hamstring injury. The Cardinals will now pick up the two years remaining on his rookie contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Newman Unsure Of Coaching Future

  • Sean Ryan was connected to multiple North-division offensive coordinator openings last year, but both the Browns and Vikings went in different directions. A year later, though, the Lions will bring the Texans’ quarterbacks coach north. Ryan will replace George Godsey as Detroit’s QBs coach, the team announced. Godsey will join Brian Flores‘ staff in Miami. This will be Ryan’s third gig instructing QBs. He first held that post with the Giants from 2012-13. The past two years, he worked with Deshaun Watson in Houston.
  • Terence Newman transitioned from the NFL’s oldest active defensive player to a Vikings coach at this season’s outset. The Vikings want him back for another year, but Newman is not certain to keep coaching, according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP.com (via Twitter). The 40-year-old coach is no longer listed among Minnesota’s coaches on the team website.

Vikings No Longer In Running For Darren Rizzi

  • The five teams that coveted former Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi — the Bills, Jets, Lions, Packers and Vikings — are no longer in the running for Rizzi, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets. But two other teams are interested. Rizzi and incoming Dolphins HC Brian Flores met recently and decided to part ways, per Salguero (on Twitter).

Vikings Hire ST Coach Marwan Maalouf

  • Like the Packers, the Vikings expressed interest in hiring Rizzi, but they’ve since gone in another direction. Minnesota has hired Rizzi’s assistant in Miami, Marwan Maalouf, as their new special teams coach, tweets Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio. Maalouf served as the Colts’ special teams coach in 2012 before joining Miami the following season. He’s replacing Mike Priefer, who left the Vikings to take the Browns’ ST job. Last year, the Vikings ranked 20th in Football Outsiders’ special teams metrics, while the Dolphins were one spot behind at No. 21.
  • Rick Dennison preferred to stay on as the Jets‘ offensive line coach under new head coach Adam Gase, but New York instead hired Frank Pollack to guide their front five. However, both the Vikings and Packers remain “strong possibilities” for Dennison, per Marvez (Twitter link). Dennison had been expected to immediately follow Gary Kubiak — who was recently hired as a Vikings’ offensive advisor — to Minnesota, but that union hasn’t yet happened. Green Bay, meanwhile, has already hired Adam Stenavich as its offensive line coach, so Dennison would come aboard in a different position.

ESPN: Daniels Better Pick Than Hughes?

  • While the Vikings again selected a cornerback in the first round last year in Mike Hughes, perhaps their offensive line needs should have won out. In an ESPN.com redraft, Courtney Cronin wrote Bears interior lineman James Daniels would have been the better choice (ESPN+ link). Daniels became a full-time starter with the Bears as a second-round rookie, being a first-string presence in Chicago’s final 10 regular-season games. ESPN also gave the Lions a different offensive lineman with their first pick, Michael Rothstein pulling the trigger on Giants guard Will Hernandez instead of Frank Ragnow.