A 2018 UDFA out of Jacksonville State, Thomas only received 10 touches last season, spending time on both Minnesota’s practice squad and active roster. The Vikings signed him to a reserve/futures contract in January, but he may now face an uphill battle to stick with the team.
The NFL’s Supplemental Draft order does not go by the inverted win/loss records of clubs. Instead, the order is dictated by a weighted lottery that uses a team’s win percentage as just part of the equation. Here, via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) is the complete order of the supplemental draft:
The supplemental draft is conducted via email. If multiple teams submit a pick for the same player in the same round, this order dictates which club gets the player. Of course, any team picking a player in the supplemental draft will sacrifice the corresponding pick in the 2020 draft.
One of the couple dozen recent draft picks who has yet to sign his rookie deal is Austin Cutting. Cutting, the 250th overall pick of the Vikings, is the only seventh-round pick who hasn’t signed. Cutting is a recent graduate of the Air Force Academy, which is what has been holding things up. Once President Trump took office, his administration overturned an Obama-era rule that permitted recent graduates from pursuing careers as professional athletes before fulfilling their service. Now, the Trump administration has changed its mind, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic.
The administration has issued a presidential memorandum that “will essentially reinstate the protocol” Obama established in 2016, per Jhabvala. The rule under Obama was overturned so quickly that it barely had time to take effect. Coaches at the various academies have long argued that it’ll help with recruiting if their athletes can go pro. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said that Cutting will “absolutely” be allowed to play for the Vikings now. It’ll be interesting to see what effect this new policy has on the programs of Navy, Army, and the Air Force moving forward.
Former West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms worked out for half of the NFL’s teams on Monday, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com. The Jaguars, Saints, Seahawks, Colts, Jets, Redskins, Chiefs, Browns, Eagles, Lions, Packers, 49ers, Vikings, Ravens, Raiders, and Falcons.
The 49ers and Vikings both sent directors of scouting while the Ravens had their personnel director on hand. The Raiders, meanwhile, had general manager Mike Mayock on hand, which may be an indicator of strong interest.
Simms’ 40-yard-dash times of 4.49, 4.45 and 4.40 seconds were strong, while his 36 inch vertical showed decent hops for the position. While he’s not considered to be as strong of a pro prospect as Washington State safety Jalen Thompson, Simms has a chance at being selected when the NFL Supplemental Draft takes place later this month.
Unlike the AFC, where the same team has been the annual favorite for a few years now, the NFC has featured different Patriots opponents over the past three seasons. Since the Packers’ back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 1996-97, only the 2013-14 Seahawks have repeated as conference champions.
When determining who should be considered the 2019 NFC favorite, we should first look at conference’s two best 2018 teams. While the Saints have one of NFL history’s greatest arguments for being the team that should have gone to a Super Bowl, the Rams did. Both teams bring back most of their core players.
Lagging just behind the Rams in Super Bowl LIV odds, the Saints lost Mark Ingram but added Latavius Murray. Max Unger retired, but New Orleans added both free agent Nick Easton and second-round pick Erik McCoy. The 2018 trades the Saints made left them without first-, third- and fourth-round picks this year, limiting their ability to enhance their roster cheaply. Drew Brees heads into his age-40 season, and while his arm strength may not be what it once was, he broke his own completion percentage record and was Pro Football Focus’ top-graded QB last season. The cogs chiefly responsible for the Saints’ No. 6 weighted DVOA defensive ranking also return.
The next tier, per Vegas, features the double-doink game’s participants. The Eagles were again active this year, bringing back DeSean Jackson and replacing Michael Bennett with Malik Jackson. Zach Brown also headed to eastern Pennsylvania on a low-cost deal. Philadelphia brought back Brandon Graham and Ronald Darby and extended Jason Kelce. Carson Wentz‘s extension will hit future Eagles caps harder, but his 2019 number ($8.393MM) helps Howie Roseman‘s ability to fortify the roster. After a busy 2018 free agency, the Bears had a quiet offseason. They lost DC Vic Fangio, the NFL’s assistant coach of the year, and may be in line for changes under replacement Chuck Pagano. Scrutinized quarterback Mitch Trubisky (No. 3 in 2018 QBR, No. 18 in Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric) obviously has the biggest say in where the Bears go.
Two out of the past three NFC champions missed the playoffs the year prior, and Vegas places the Packers as the top such candidate for 2019. Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur have expressed a difference of opinion about Green Bay’s offensive structure, but the Packers enjoyed their most active offseason in years. Brian Gutekunst spent wildly on edge rushers, with both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith now each a top-five highest-paid 3-4 outside linebacker, and brought in Adrian Amos for $9MM annually. Did they do enough to get back in the Super Bowl mix?
While the Cowboys re-routed their season after their Amari Cooper trade, Las Vegas is not bullish on their chances. Dallas sits at 25-to-1 Super Bowl odds, the same as Seattle, Minnesota and San Francisco. Despite their NFC East title, the Cowboys ended last season as the No. 21 DVOA team.
The Seahawks lost one of the top receivers in franchise history, with Doug Baldwin retiring at age 30, and traded their best pass rusher. Ziggy Ansah and first-round pick L.J. Collier represent the team’s top edge options. Minnesota is all-in on this nucleus, with the Anthony Barr deal furthering Rick Spielman‘s massive financial commitments to the core he built. Do the Vikings (ninth in weighted DVOA last season) have enough talent to justify these expenses?
Will a team emerge unexpectedly? The 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo set to suit up again and, after acquiring Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, boast their best edge corps in years. Are the Falcons (40-1) being undervalued? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your NFC assessments in the comments section.
Fifteen years ago today, Brock Lesnar stepped out of the squared circle and on to the gridiron. The WWE superstar hadn’t played organized football since high school, but his athletic ability made the Vikings curious enough to give the muscle-bound homegrown talent an opportunity to compete in training camp as a defensive tackle.
On the surface, this seemed to be a publicity ploy for the former WWE champion, but there was reason to believe that Lesnar could defy the odds and embark on a legitimate professional sports career. Before Lesnar beat the likes of The Rock and The Undertaker, he was an amateur wrestling phenom at the University of Minnesota, where he captured the 2000 NCAA Division I heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling championship.
At 6’2″ and 285 pounds, Lesnar’s drill times and marks were downright impressive. With a reported 4.7-second 40-yard-dash time, 35-inch vertical leap, and 30 reps on the 225-pound bench press, Lesnar would have bested many DTs at the 2004 combine. For reference, No. 14 overall pick Tommie Harris ran a 4.78-second 40-yard-dash and posted 29 reps on the bench press before the Bears made him the first DT drafted in April.
Despite never playing football in college, Lesnar was still only 26 years old at the time and had real potential as a raw prospect. Still, there was one big problem – an April motorcycle accident left Lesnar with a busted jaw, a broken left hand, a bruised pelvis, and a pulled groin. Playing at less than 100% health, Lesnar’s unlikely mission became even more improbable.
After Lesnar missed the Vikings’ cut in late August, the Vikings offered him a spot on their NFL Europe affiliate team. Citing a desire to stay close to his family in the U.S., Lesnar left football, transitioned to MMA, and went on to become the heavyweight champion of the UFC.
Lesnar’s NFL career was short-lived, but his presence in camp was appreciated by Randy Moss, Nate Burleson, and other members of the Vikings’ locker room who grew up as wrasslin’ fans. Lesnar also got to put his WWE skills to good use while with the Vikes. When a Chiefs defender roughed up Daunte Culpepper during a summer scrimmage, Lesnar grabbed him by the waist, suplexed him high in the air, and slammed him on the turf. At least, that’s how Burleson remembers it.
Although Kyle Rudolph received the outcome he wanted — a four-year, $36MMVikings extension — he acknowledged the prospect of a Patriots trade. But it’s still unclear if the teams engaged in discussions. “Obviously the speculation is going to be there because of their situation at my position and then our team’s cash/cap situation and my salary,” Rudolph said, via SI.com’s Albert Breer. “So there was kind of just a natural, like, ‘Hey, Kyle’s familiar with the offense, he played for a coach (Charlie Weis, at Notre Dame) that was a coordinator there.” After signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson, then cutting ASJ and nixing the Michael Roberts trade with the Lions, the Patriots still face the prospect of not having a proven tight end during Watson’s suspension.
The Vikings have been big spenders, aggressively pursuing free agents like Kirk Cousins in recent years while also locking up their own guys. It’s created some cap issues, and Minnesota has been up against the cap all year long. According to a recent analysis from Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune, that’s going to continue in 2020. Per Goessling, the Vikings currently have $211.6MM in cap charges for 2020 on the books. The salary cap this past season was only 188.2, which means the Vikings will have to make some significant cuts next offseason. Goessling lists offensive tackle Riley Reiff, defensive end Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Xavier Rhodes as players who could be on the chopping block next year. All four will be at least 30 next season, and all of them have cap numbers of at least $12.9MM, Goessling points out. Minnesota GM Rick Spielman is going to have to get creative.
The Vikings are giving veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph a four-year, $36MM extension, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Rudolph’s contract made it seem as though the two sides were headed for certain divorce, but the new deal will smooth out the tight end’s cap hit in the interim while presumably giving him guarantees beyond the 2019 season.
Rudolph’s deal will pay him $9M this year, according to Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune (on Twitter). His 2019 salary is fully guaranteed, and his 2020 salary is guaranteed for injury. He’ll get $1.625MM added to his $7.625MM base for this year, giving him $9MM guaranteed in ’19 and $16.025MM in total guarantees (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). After 2020, Rudolph will effectively be on a year-to-year deal until its conclusion in 2023.
All along, Rudolph has said that he wanted to stay with the Vikings, though he was unwilling to take a pay cut. After achieving both goals, it’s clear that Rudolph is happy about the new deal.
“Just under a decade ago, I received a phone call that would change my life. On that day, all I knew is that I would be playing in the NFL, realizing my childhood dream. What I didn’t know was the role in the state of Minnesota would play in my life,” Rudolph wrote (on Twitter). “Marrying my wife and established our home..in Minnesota. Experiencing the birth of my three beautiful children…in Minnesota. Starting a journey to better the lives of children dealing with a disease that doesn’t discriminate…in Minnesota. Giving everything I can possibly give, professionally and personally, to the greatest sports franchise and its fans…in Minnesota. And I am honored beyond words to say that my home, our home, will always be…in Minnesota!”
Before the pact, the Vikings had just $612K in cap room. Rudolph will now return to the Vikings where he’ll serve as the team’s No. 1 tight end and mentor to rookie Irv Smith Jr.
The Vikings have a number of competitions on their hands, according to Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com. Three-year veteran Kevin McDermott and rookie seventh-rounder Austin Cutting will be going head-to-head for long snapping duties, with only one of the two presumably in line to make the final roster. Meanwhile, the team is expected to host free agent punters JustinVogel, Shane Tripucka, and “at least one other” on Wednesday. The Vikings are hoping to provide incumbent punter MattWile, who struggled as a holder last season, with competition.