March 2006 Archives
March 31, 2006
"New Helmet Design" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

I have been tracking the whole uniform change buzz very closely the last several weeks. Last week I had informed you that I had an inside track to the final helmet design and that I would be given a first glimpse in the near future. The future has arrived:

newhelmet.jpg

Yes, that is your new Minnesota Vikings helmet to be first displayed this coming preseason when our Vikings take the field against the Randy Moss-led Oakland Raiders on August 14 at the Metrodome. I may have stopped crying uncontrollably by that time. A report that the horn would remain on the helmet was actually untrue and unfounded. Well, maybe not unfounded. You see Zygi had a change of heart on Thursday. The Love Boat issue continues to dog him and the organization. The final blow was struck this week in Orlando on the final day of the NFL annual meetings. Zygi heard the beloved horn referred to as "resembling a sperm" and "[was sex] all anyone in Minnesota thought about?"

That was when the horned helmet died. The helmet design you see above was reportedly the #2 choice before Zygi changed his mind. Damn! We were that close to holding onto our horns!

I learned all this Thursday as I was visiting with some people at Winter Park. I had gone to confirm my credentials for attending one of the first mini-camp sessions that will be held April 7-9. That is the good news, as I plan to be at the Friday, April 7 session and photos will be coming as early as April 8.

It is not that I am against changing the uniform. I could have put up with purple pants and white jerseys. I could have found it acceptable to place swoosh’s and such on the side of the uniforms themselves. But the helmet was sacred, man. Hallowed. Revered. Deified.

I especially am of the opinion that we fans were snowballed. If Zygi was so hell-bent on a new helmet design, why not take a few weeks or a month and have a contest? Or give us three or four designs (including the legendary horns) to select from and have a fan poll? That way, we fans would have ultimately made the decision. We would have felt part of the decision making process. Not this sneaky "fly by night" pronouncement that leaves us fans out in the cold.

Excuse me; I have to go throw up.

Other Notes

The Vikings front office also let me know that the Vikings first ever draft pick, Tommy Mason, will be a part of a roundtable discussion at the Vikings Draft Party on April 29th.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:02 AM
March 30, 2006
"Linebacker Issues" by Vikes Geek

Entering the 2005-2006 free-agency period, the Minnesota Vikings had two glaring shortcomings—offensive line and linebacker. Many Vikings’ fans would have been content with the Vikings’ off-season had the team focused on these two areas. And with $32 million and change to spend under the NFL cap, the Vikings were in a position to do just that.

The Vikings began free agency quietly with the signing of veteran offensive lineman Jason Whittle, projected to be an emergency backup along the offensive line. The cost was minimal.

Slowly, the team appeared to be filling other holes at minimal expense, signing players like running back Chester Taylor. The Vikings’ decision to sign Taylor, a little-used backup to Jamal Lewis last season in Baltimore, suggested that the Vikings intended to build from the line back on offense in 2006, spending the big money on offensive linemen and making do with more modest players at some of the skill positions. The Vikings’ offer to Steve Hutchinson cemented the front-back suspicion.

Hutchinson’s signing not only signaled the Vikings’ renewed commitment to a strong offensive line, however, it also signaled the team’s apparent willingness to enter 2006 with a suspect linebacking corps. Because, despite the team’s acknowledgement that its linebacking corps remained an area of deep concern, the Vikings did little to ensure that the team’s linebacking corps will be better in 2006 than it was in 2005.

Yes, the Vikings did sign former San Diego Charger Ben Leber, but Leber is as much a question mark as he is an addition. Coming off of an injury season, there is legitimate concern about Leber’s ability to play at a high level in 2006. And with a limited track record in the NFL, there is additional reason to wonder whether the Vikings picked up Leber more because GM Fran Foley had a comfort level with Leber than because Leber was the answer to the Vikings’ problems at linebacker.

But even if Leber proves to be a solid addition, he’s not the player that the Vikings needed to add to the linebacking corps in free agency. The play of the Vikings’ outside linebackers was fairly solid last season with E.J. Henderson playing much better on the edge than in the middle, Keith Newman playing solid for most of the season, and Raonall Smith contributing when healthy. Add to that the fact that finding outside linebackers is much easier than finding middle linebackers and the Vikings appear to have put their money into a position of lesser importance than one for which they continue to have a pressing need.

Assuming a healthy and productive Leber, the Vikings’s signing of Leber can best be viewed at this point as a lateral move. With Newman out, the Vikings are pretty much where there were at the end of the 2005 season—some depth outside but without a credible middle linebacker. And with Cowart leaving for Texas, the Vikings are without a middle linebacker even in name. And that portends more linebacker problems in 2006, unless you subscribe to Brad Childress’ purported faith in E.J. Henderson as a middle linebacker.

Whether it be a miraculous and improbable reclamation of E.J. Henderson as middle linebacker or some other player, the Vikings need to find a middle linebacker post haste if they want to contend this season. The problem, of course, is three-fold. First, given the hit that the Hutchinson deal will have on the Vikings’ 2006 salary cap, the Vikings have little money left to pursue a free agent middle linebacker.

There is also the difficulty that, even if the Vikings had the money, the prospects would be dim. With the Vikings focusing their time and cap space on Hutchinson early in free agency, the few good linebackers in this year’s free agency crop long ago signed with other teams.

Finally, there is the issue of maturity. In the modern era, only one NFL team has won the Super Bowl with an inexperienced middle linebacker. And that team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had a pretty solid defense surrounding its young middle linebacker—the kind of defense that this Vikings’ defense probably will not come close to matching on its best day in 2006. That makes finding a middle linebacker in the draft a daunting prospect—but it might be the Vikings’ only remaining hope this season.

Draft Ayes

Fortunately for the Vikings, this year’s draft offers some good linebacker prospects. Among the likely Vikings’ targets in this year’s first round are A.J. Hawk, Chad Greenway, and Abdul Hodge. Hawk is the obvious top choice, but is projected to go in the first five picks of the draft. It certainly would make sense for the Vikings to trade up to get Hawk, but, of course, they must find a willing trade partner. And, even if they find such a partner, the price will be high—probably the Vikings’ first-round pick and two second-round picks—if not more.

That makes Greenway appealing—though Greenway, too, should be gone when the Vikings draft at number seventeen. As with Hawk, the Vikings could trade up to take Greenway. But such a trade likely would require an exchange of first-round picks, a second-round pick, and some other consideration. That makes the price for trading up to take Greenway about the same as trading up to take Hawk making the latter more palatable, if possible.

The Vikings could also wait to take Hodge, who is likely to be available at seventeen and might even be available through the first half of the second round. Of course, Hodge will be available later than Hawk and Greenway because he is a lesser talent than are either Hawk or Greenway. That lesser talent—if intended to be used as middle linebacker talent in the NFL—could mean the difference between the Vikings competing for the NFC North and competing for the NFC proper, a difference that makes Greenway more appealing than Hodge.

All of which makes trading up to take Hawk logical and sensible, if the Vikings hope to find a middle linebacker in this year’s draft with any hope of performing at a high level in the NFL in 2006.

Bigger Question

Assuming that the Vikings find a willing trading partner—likely either New Orleans or Oakland—they must still answer an even more fundamental question. With veteran middle linebackers available in free agency virtually every season, is it worth taking a projected middle linebacker—even one with the promise of Hawk—with a top-five pick in this year’s draft, if, by so doing, the Vikings must pass on taking a quarterback such as Matt Leinart?

Up Next: More Holes. Any Answers?

Posted by maasx003 at 8:16 AM
March 29, 2006
"My (Other) Kingdom for a Middle Linebacker" by Vikes Geek

Two years ago, I offered the Vikings my kingdom for a credible middle linebacker. The offer was appealing at the time given the meagerness of my offer and the limited likelihood that the Vikings would call me on the offer.

It was, of course, with some surprise, then, that I received a knock on my door in August of 2004.

“Who’s there?? I asked.

“Mike,? replied the stranger.

“Mike who??

“Tice—Mike Tice. I’m here to collect the debt.?

I opened the door and there stood former Vikings’ head coach Mike Tice. He had brought someone with him.

“This is E.J. Henderson,? he said. “He’s our starting middle linebacker this year and you owe me your kingdom.?

After wolfing down several cups of tea and a handful of scones, Tice agreed to let the wager run through the end of the year to determine if the credibility element of my offer had been met. “Not a problem,? he said as he picked a slivered almond out of his front teeth. “I’ll be back.?

Tice did not return at the end of the 2004 season.

I made a similar offer prior to the 2005 season. Again, Tice appeared at my front doorstep prior to the regular season. This time, he had two players with him. One of them wore a sheepish expression and stared at his feet—it was E.J.

“E.J. and I are here to admit that we were wrong in thinking that he was suited to play middle linebacker. We both think, in hindsight, that, you know, forcing him into the mix might have kind of messed him—and by him, I mean us—up. You were right. We were wrong.? Tice grudgingly said.

“But my parents didn’t raise a quitter,? Tice continued. “I’m going to take you up on your 2005 offer.?

And, as Tice spoke, he put his arm around the other player he had brought with him. After planting an affectionate kiss on the player’s cheek, Tice introduced the player.

“Vikesgeek,? Tice beamed, “meet our new middle linebacker, Sam Cowart. He’s the real deal. Smart, good speed—not great, but good. He’s going to get it done this year and I’m here to collect your kingdom.?

After another round of tea-drinking, scone-eating, and teeth-picking, Tice once again agreed to await the end of the season to collect on his debt. “I’ll let you stew until then,? he laughed in his now famous big guy laugh. Then he propped himself out of his rocking chair, brushing the cat hair from his new seersucker suit, and headed for the door. As he exited, with Sam neatly tucked under one arm and E.J. under the other, he turned and smiled. “This time,? he gloated, “I’ll definitely be back.?

Tice and I never again met.

This year, I make a similar, albeit smaller offer to the triangle of authority that now leads the Minnesota Vikings. In the interests of allowing myself a fighting chance should this offer ever become the center of a legal dispute, I offer only my “other? kingdom for a credible middle linebacker. That means that the Vikings can collect my “other? kingdom if they sign and employ a productive middle linebacker in 2006.

Despite offering this largesse in return for filling an obvious hole—a function for which someone in the triangle of authority certainly holds the responsibility and for which a generous playoff run might well be the return—my kindly nature nevertheless compels me to offer some suggestions.

And that’s the subject of the next column.

Up Next: Is Anybody Out There? Plus, Digging in Our Own Backyard.

Thanks to Wendy for the idea behind addressing the linebackers. She had written:

Great site for real fans - thanks.

I feel like I know what's going on at all the positions except for linebacker. Now that they've signed Ben Leber, what do you think the other spots look like. Is EJ going to start at one spot? What happens to Newman - I actually thought he was pretty good. Dontarious Thomas doesn't look like he can stop the run or cover anybody. Napoleon Harris just looked lost all year. Is this a spot we have to address via draft, trade before the season?

Thanks from Boston (where there aren't a lot of fans of the purple).


Posted by maasx003 at 1:44 AM
March 28, 2006
"Podcast with Dynamic Dolfan" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

Welcome to a special edition of the Viking Underground Podcast. In VU Podcast Forty-Eight, I phoned up fellow 1999 Visa Hall of Fans inductee Ernie Gorwood, otherwise known as the Dynamic Dolfan. The photo below is of myself and Ernie from the July 1999 NFL HOF Induction cermony.

ernie1.jpg

Ernie puts a lot of time into his game day costume as this photo attests to. And he is a lot of fun to be around! Listen in on the Viking Underground Podcast page as we talk about the recent Dolphins - Vikings connections and for Ernie's thoughts on the Culpepper trade.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:27 AM
March 27, 2006
Schedule Flash

We value our readers and their comments. Case in point:

Little news update for you guys. Vikes will play in the first MNF game on ESPN. It is the Sept 11th game against Washington. Here is the link to the story from the evil fish wrap!!!

Thanks to Playwhenwewana Guy!

So, the soon-to-be-Super-Bowl-Champion Minnesota Vikings open up the season at FedEx Field on a Monday night broadcast! Who can't wait for Hank Williams Jr.?

Bring it on!

Posted by maasx003 at 12:35 PM
"What Goes Around, Comes Around" by Vikes Geek

saints 024 small.jpg

Last week, the Vikings learned that the Seattle Seahawks would not match the terms of an offer sheet that the Vikings had made to All Pro offensive guard Steve Hutchinson. Seattle made its decision after learning that it would have to guarantee nearly $50 million in salary over seven years to Hutchinson in order to retain his services in 2006.

The initial consequences of Seattle’s decision not to match Minnesota’s offer sheet to Hutchinson were two-fold—the Vikings would have a benchmark player at left guard for the foreseeable future, at a price of $13 million in 2006 and approximately $7 million for the remaining six years of the Vikings’ offer, while the Seahawks would have an extra $7 million to throw around in free agency, if they so chose.

Many Vikings’ fans delighted in the ruling of Special Master Stephen Burban—a ruling that essentially made Hutchinson Vikings’ property. After all, went the rationale, “we won.? But, as with most things in life, what goes around comes around. And the Vikings’ use of a poison pill in their offer to Hutchinson has become, in another form, the lynch-pin of a Seattle tender to Vikings’ receiver Nate Burleson that the Vikings likely will not match.

For those not keeping close tabs, three things stand out about Burleson’s 2005 season—Burleson had some injury issues that limited his play early in the season, purportedly was the Vikings’ number one receiver, and—most notable—finished the season with fewer receiving yards than rookie dud Troy Williamson.

Coming off of a strong 2004 season in which he was the second option to Randy Moss for much of the season, Burleson’s abysmal 2004 season did not even reach the level at which one could define it as a “disappointing season.? It was far worse than that. So bad, in fact, that the Vikings tendered Burleson at the league minimum for 2006, requiring only a third-round draft pick as compensation should another team lure him away in 2006.

Despite Burleson’s awful 2005 performance, it is difficult to argue that he did not remain one of the Vikings’ top three wide receivers. That means that if the Vikings lose Burleson, they must either find a replacement from within who is able to provide the Vikings with some speed across the middle. Even with Koren Robinson in the fold, that likely means that the Vikings must receive a solid contribution from Williamson in 2006, barring a surprise salary cap casualty pick up this off-season.

All of which brings us back to where we began—tender offers that employ poison pills. Without rehashing Burbank’s ruling in the Hutchinson case, one additional qualm with permitting the use of poison pills in offers to transition players is that the practice undermines the intent of the NFL’s CBA. The purpose of the transition allowance is to allow teams some leverage in retaining key players. No matter your interpretation of the provisions of the Vikings’ offer to Hutchinson, Seattle’s use of a poison pill in its tender to Burleson dramatically illustrates how poison pills can be used to undermine the intent of the CBA—an intent that arguably should be considered in determining the validity of poison pills in offer sheets.

Last week, the Seahawks reportedly included two poison pills in their tender to Burleson. The poison pill made public to date would require the Vikings to guarantee Burleson’s contract of $49 million over seven years should Burleson play five or more NFL games in Minnesota next season—something that cannot happen if Burleson is a member of the Seahawks.

Of course, that’s the type of ridiculous circumvention of intent that we would not permit in most courts, because it makes a mockery of a related contractual agreement, in this case the CBA. But it is the type of circumvention to which Burbank’s ruling in the Hutchinson case has now opened the flood gates.

For those gnashing their teeth over the likely loss of Burleson, the trade-off is receiving Hutchinson. That means filling one large hole in exchange for creating a relatively smaller, though still noticeable hole, at wide receiver. And for that, you can thank the ruling in the Hutchinson case—or, if you prefer, the purported “hole? in the CBA.

But if you think this nonsense will end any time soon, you might be in for a surprise. Reports continue to circulate that the NFL will address the issue in the off-season and close any gaps in the CBA. But it takes two to tango. And the NFL Players’ Association has made it clear that they favor the current status quo permitting freer movement of players. All of which means that the Vikings’ maneuver to pick up Hutchinson could well cost the team—and the NFL—any meaningful use of the transition tag for the foreseeable future.

Up Next: My (other) Kingdom for a Linebacker.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:20 AM
March 24, 2006
"More Uniform Talk" by Mr. Cheer or Die

All this talk about changes to the uniform has me in lather. Especially when the rumors started popping about changes to the beloved, legendary Vikings helmet. It now takes not one, but two glasses of Irish Mist at bedtime to calm me down so I can slumber in peace. And I have since foregone on the ice.

Tonight, it may take three glasses. My close, personal friend Milwaukee Mark sent me the following which was something someone posted on the KFFL Vikings message board this week:

unis.jpg

Sickening, isn't it? Now, before you jump off the deep end, please consider that the source is unknown. Also key in on the dates which would correspond to the Red Menace administration prior to the Zygi administration. But, I'm sure the Triangle of Authority would have seen these prototypes and be working off of them.

I also have a lead into the new helmet design. My contact indicates that I may have the new design in my stone-cold hands within a week or two. So, standby and cross your fingers.

And as I alerted you to on Thursday, the Vikings did in fact sign Mike McMahon. I knew that my source at Winter Park would not have sent me the McMahon interview had the Vikings not had interest in signing him. Well, it is now official. McMahon signed a two-year contract to serve as Brad Johnson's backup. Also added was hard-hitting safety Tank Williams, 25, who had spent his four-year career with Tennessee.

And have a great weekend! Vikes Geek and I will see you next week.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:55 AM
March 23, 2006
"Mike McMahon Your New #2?" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

I received the following interview late last evening from inside Winter Park. It was sent to me because it was "an interesting read" but I wonder if it was sent to me to gauge your reaction to what I presume to be a very strong possibility that Mike McMahon would be brought in as the backup QB to BBB (Big Bad Brad) this coming season.

GIve it a read, and then leave a comment as to whether this would be a good or bad addition for the Vikes.

Q: Have the Vikings made an offer yet?
A: I haven’t really talked numbers with anyone yet. I know we will be talking later today or later tonight and maybe we can see if we can get something done.

Q: How was the visit?
A: It was very good; I met with the coaches and the entire coaching staff. Everyone seems to be very positive, especially about the future. I’m excited.

Q: Knowing Brad Childress’ offense the way you do, is this an attractive opportunity for you?
A: It is; I know the offense already, so that’s good. You can come in and already be a step ahead of the game. Also knowing the way Coach Childress is and how detailed and meticulous he is, it’s a great opportunity. Also getting a chance to learn a little bit from Brad Johnson is a great opportunity as well.

Q: How did they explain the role to you coming in?
A: I compete for the number two spot, and Brad’s the starter. I would like to come in and compete, just like I said, but at the same time, I want to learn from Brad. He has many years of experience underneath his belt. I definitely think I can learn from him. I got a little bit from Donovan (McNabb) but with Brad, he’s a lot older and I think he plays a little bit more conservatively, which could definitely help me and my career in the long run.

Q: Personality-wise too, Brad seems to like his quarterbacks kind of flat-lined? Do you like the fact he likes his quarterbacks to be calm and controlled?
A: Yeah, and that’s what I’m trying to work on as well. In the years past I have been moving around a little bit and I would like to come in and just watch how Brad Johnson does things and learn from him. And already knowing the offense and everything, it’s definitely a great opportunity and you never know what the future can hold.

Q: Is this your first visit?
A: Yes.

Q: Do you have some others coming?
A: Denver, tomorrow morning.

Q: Did they tell you how much?
A: As of right now we haven’t discussed numbers or contracts or anything, so I haven’t made a decision on anything yet.

Q: They have also talked about adding a young quarterback to develop here. Would that impact your decision at all?
A: If I can come in and just get the chance to compete for the number two and learn from Brad, to me that’s just a great opportunity in itself right there. It depends on where they would draft a guy. Being in Detroit where they drafted a first-rounder, it wasn’t the best situation you want to be in, but it depends. If I can get a deal done, will they draft a guy higher or will they draft one lower?

Q: Does it make a difference looking at Steve Hutchinson?
A: You know I played with him briefly in the Senior Bowl, so I know he’s a heck of a player and everyone knows that. He’s a great guy and I know from Jeff Backus, being good friends with him from Detroit and hearing some stories about him, he’s a great player. Also I met Koren Robinson at the player rookie party down in Orlando. We were doing a photo shoot for the football cards, so knowing some of those guys, we have a great line and some great receivers here and definitely a lot of offensive weapons. Of course the defense really stepped up last year as well.

Q: What was your assessment of how things were going for you in Philadelphia when you had an opportunity?
A: You get little opportunities and sometimes you have to make the most out of it. It’s not the best situation you want to be in; we had a lot of injuries. (Todd) Pinkston was out all year and of course Taylor was gone and of course then (Brian) Westbrook went down and basically the entire offensive line. So it wasn’t the best situation, but it was an opportunity and I did get to learn. I did get a chance to play, which I was very happy about, and get some experience to play, but now it’s time to move on and look forward to the future.

Q: Is this going to be pretty much the exact same offense that was run in Philadelphia?
A: I think it will pretty much be the same thing, maybe with a few changes here and there. You know it’s pretty much the West Coast offense from what they have told me. It’s nothing like I would really have trouble with. I think I know it pretty much inside and out; knowing it from Detroit and Philadelphia.

Q: Knowing Donovan and Brad are two totally different types of quarterbacks, what intrigues you about Brad so much to come here?
A: Over the years I have sometimes seemed to force some throws on third down situations when you can’t check it down and punt or just trust the back to go out and get the yards. Brad’s very good at hitting the check downs and playing it a little safer, and he moves the ball down the field a little slower. Donovan is more of a big play guy. I tend to take too many chances. Donovan takes some chances too, but playing behind Brad might get me to calm down a little bit and make better decisions on the field and therefore raise the completion percentage.

Q: Right now are you scheduled to fly out to Denver tonight?
A: I think its tomorrow morning. I’m scheduled to stay here tonight.

Q: Anywhere along the line have you had any experience holding on kicks?
A: I did a little bit when I was a backup in Detroit, but they had the punter there and then I did a little bit in Philly but you know Coy was there with David, so they kind of had a tight knit group. So I have done a few here and there in practices but never in game situations.

Q: What do you like most about Childress?
A: The fact that he is very detailed, and he’s straightforward. He’s not going to feed you any lines. He knows the offense inside and out. I had a chance to work with him last year; he was calling plays for me in the preseason and at the end of the year. I know how dedicated he is to his work. When you have a guy like that who has worked with Donovan and with the offensive coordinator and the quarterback coach here as well, they’ve coached a lot of talent with Brett and Donovan alone. It’s definitely an exciting opportunity and an attractive situation.

Q: Did you notice any difference in the offense in Philadelphia when Brad was making the play calls versus Andy? Was it more or less aggressive versus those two?
A: It was hard to tell sometimes. Brad was just as aggressive and it was tough, I think, because we didn’t have the guys out there that started the season and we didn’t have the talent that some guys might have. We had a lot of young guys out there not knowing the offense as well but we didn’t hold back at all. We just kept on going through the playbook and adding plays in every week as if we would with the regular starters and he just expected guys to step up and play.

Trivia Time Answer

Against the Colts in week 9 of 2004, Nate Burleson became only the second player in Vikings' history to return a punt for a TD and catch a TD pass in the same game. The first? That honor belonged to Randy Moss who did it at Kansas City in 1999.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:05 AM
March 22, 2006
"Shades of the Kansas City I-Formation?" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

I was but a wide-eyed lad at the age of eight when Hank Stram's Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. It was the Chief defense, not offense, which came through in the victory, holding Bud Grant's powerful running game in check for the 23-7 win. Though Stram's I-formation offense received much of the publicity, it was his defensive scheme of odd fronts, huge linemen, fast and powerful linebackers, and a suffocating zone defense which soon gained well-deserved attention throughout football.

I'm sure those fellow old-timers like myself will recall the Chiefs “stacked? defenses, in which each linebacker played directly behind a down lineman. So enamored was Stram of his own wiles, that when miked by NFL films for what became the upset Chiefs’ win of Super Bow IV, he chattered that the opposing Vikings looked as confused as if in a “Chinese fire drill.?

I'm starting to smell a return to that type of football. Come opening weekend 2006, you may think you have stepped into a time machine and are watching 1960's era football. Why? Here is what I think is happening.

The Vikings went out and grabbed RB Chester Taylor, the former Baltimore Ravens running backr. Taylor had spent his entire four-year career with the Ravens. Taylor served as the primary backup to starter Jamal Lewis. Despite limited production and experience, with only four career touchdowns and 737 yards gained from scrimmage, the Vikings look for Taylor to add depth and competition at the running back position. The 5-11, 213 pound Taylor graduated from Toledo and was drafted by the Ravens in 2002.

Up until the addition of Taylor and the loss (addition by subtraction?) of Michael Bennett, the Vikings had Adimchinobe Echemandu, Ciatrick Fason, and Mewelde Moore as running backs on the roster. That is, until Tuesday.

Yesterday the Vikings agreed to terms with fullback Tony Richardson on a multi-year contract. Richardson comes from the Kansas City Chiefs and gives the Vikings a starting-caliber fullback. And this bubba can block.

chiefschargers_110401.jpg

Add to the mix All-Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson who joined the team at 11:01 p.m. Monday when the Seattle Seahawks failed to match a seven-year, $49 million offer sheet he signed March 12. The Vikings could be putting three offensive linemen into the Pro Bowl this coming season. Matt Birk (center), Bryant McKinnie (left tackle) and Hutchinson (left guard).

Ready for the Kansas City, er, I mean Minnesota Power I-Formation anyone?

i_formation.jpg

In the image above, imagine this lineup:

LT: McKinnie
LG: Hutchinson
C: Birk
RG: Marcus Johnson
RT: Mike Rosenthal (for now)
TE: Jiiiiiiiiiiiiimmy Kleinsasser
QB: BBB
WRs: K-Rob and T-Will
FB: Richardson
RB: MeMo

Can't you just smell the power? Wouldn't you like to see Brian Urlacher get plowed under by Hutchinson then just as he is recovering get smacked by Kleinsasser and when his head is spinning get pulverized by Richardson as Moore screams by in high gear?

Hell yeah!!!!!

Not enough for you? What to add a hemi to that Minnesota Power-I formation?

power_right.jpg

LT: McKinnie
LG: Hutchinson
C: Birk
RG: Marcus Johnson
RT: Mike Rosenthal (for now)
TE: Jiiiiiiiiiiiiimmy Kleinsasser
QB: BBB
WR: K-Rob
FB: Richardson
HB 1: MeMo
HB 2: Introducing Mr. LenDale White

Of course, that image shows a power right I-formation and the Vikes would obviously go with a power left I-formation. But left, right, up the gut.....who cares? Just try and stop that lineup. Three deep in the backfield. Hell, they've have to add some new Intel chips to PS Madden just to keep the game controller from frying in your hand.

Granted, there is some work to do on the creation of a defensive with huge linemen (P-Will and K-Will, check), fast and powerful linebackers (um, OK then), and a suffocating zone defense (Fred Smoot, Antoine Winfield, Darren Sharper, check). But it is coming along. Put a Top Ten D in play with that offense and we're rolling people. Rolling like a knife through sweet, tender Kansas City BBQ.

Trivia Time

Test your Vikings knowledge!

Q: Who was the first player in Vikings' history to return a punt for a TD and catch a TD pass in the same game? Come back Thursday for the answer.




Comic Relief Time

Three years ago we added 1200-sq feet to our existing house and did some upgrading. We did not redo the bathrooms at that time. It is now time. So over the coming months, I will occassionally update you on the progress of gutting and remodeling our two upstairs throne rooms. Consider it a change of pace from the usual, um, crap that flies around on the VU.

First up, the throne possibilities. We are considering adding a Toto Jasmine. Just look at these features (and is is OK to laugh!!!!):

-Gentle Aerated Warm Washer
-Front and Rear Washing
-Massage feature with cycling motion
-Adjustable Water Temperature and Volume
-Automatic Air Deodorizer
-Heated Seat with Temperature Control
-SoftClose Anti-bacterial Seat
-Convenient Wireless Remote Control with large LCD Panel

Don't believe me? Take a look at the video. I bring it up here for A) comic relief as I thought the VU needed a cleansing and B) does anyone out there actually own a Toto washlet? If so, I want to hear from you. We are seriously considering this upgrade as part of our project. I'd love to hear from those of you who have gone through a bathroom remodel. What worked, what didn't, what would you do differently. Just drop a line to me.

Next, the whirlpool tub. Maax or MTI?

Posted by maasx003 at 1:04 AM
March 21, 2006
"Special Master Errs in Vikings’ Favor" by Vikes Geek

Let it never again be said that the NFL has never erred in favor of the Minnesota Vikings. With visions of Drew Pearson pushing off for a winning touchdown pounding in their heads, Vikings’ fans were convinced that Special Master Stephen Burbank—summoned by the NFL to hear the Seattle Seahawk’s challenge of the Vikings’ offer to All Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson—would find for Seattle. Instead, he found in the Vikings’ favor.

Burbank’s decision—revolving around a guarantee clause in the Vikings’ offer sheet to Hutchinson—meant that Seattle either had to guarantee Hutchinson $49 million over seven years or let him walk without compensation. Seattle chose the latter and Hutchinson became a Viking.

Undoubtedly, the Seahawks’ front office is in full self-loathing mode today, and for good reason. Had Seattle franchised Hutchinson rather than assign him their transition tag, Hutchinson would be Seahawk today for less than Seattle would have paid Hutchinson under the terms of Minnesota’s offer sheet. The Seahawks decided that it was worth the risk of transitioning Hutchinson to save $600,000 in salary. In hindsight, the risk was not worth the gamble.

But while Seattle’s personnel people should be kicking themselves for making the Vikings’ offer tenable, they should also be wondering about another decision, that of Special Master Burbank.

Under the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), teams are permitted to match offer sheets made to their transition players. The Vikings made an offer to Hutchinson. Seattle attempted to match the offer. Inexplicably, SM Burbank refused to allow Seattle to match the Vikings’ offer.

Burbank presumably is a quite able contract lawyer. But his decision in this case appears to miss the forest for the trees.

Contract Law 101

To become binding, contracts need to primary components. First, there must be a valid offer. Second, there must be valid acceptance. Of course, there are other matters of significance in a contract, such as the terms. And while the Seahawks, the NFL, and Special Master Burbank focused on the terms of the Vikings’ offer, everyone appeared to forget about the significance of the Seahawks’ right to match the Vikings’ offer.

The interesting thing about the NFL CBA with respect to transition players is that it invites two parties to make offers to one individual with the qualification being that the second offer—that made by the team labeling the transition player—match the first offer. Not only does the CBA invite such offers, however, it requires that the labeling team have the opportunity to match an offer. That means that the initial offer must be matchable. And that’s where Burbank erred.

Under the terms of the Vikings’ offer sheet, Hutchinson is required to be the highest paid offensive lineman on his team in 2006. The Vikings’ crafted their offer to Hutchinson so that he would be the second-highest paid offensive lineman on the Seahawks in 2006. Burbank held that Seattle’s re-negotiation of the contract of their highest paid offensive lineman, Walter Jones, was insufficient to meet the terms of the Vikings’ offer sheet because the re-negotiation occurred after the offer sheet was made and, thus, was an attempt to change a material term of the contract. That meant that Seattle could not match the terms of the Vikings’ offer no matter what they did.

Burbank’s decision, of course, directly contradicts the NFL’s CBA by not permitting the Seahawks to match the Vikings’ offer. Rather than viewing the Seahawks’ re-negotiation of Jones’ contract as an attempt to match the Vikings’ offer, Burbank viewed the maneuver as altering a material term of the Vikings’ offer. The material term of the offer was that Hutchinson be the highest paid offensive lineman on his team in 2006. Under the CBA, the Seahawks should have been afforded an opportunity to meet this and all material terms of the Vikings’ offer sheet. That they were not is the result of Burbank’s apparent confusion over what was material and what it means to alter a material term. By fixating on the Vikings’ offer and mischaracterizing the Seahawk’s offer rights under the CBA, Burbank’s erred. He further erred by determining that the Seahawks’ renegotiation of Jones’ contract altered a material term of the contract, since it clearly did not.

Advantage Vikings

Burbank’s error is egregious as a matter of law, but it certainly was bountiful for the Vikings. Rather than being left to explain how a team with the largest cap room and promises of big off-season moves failed to land a single front-line player in free agency, the Vikings’ personnel people can breath a sigh of relief. Sure, the Hutchinson matter could have been avoided had the Vikings simply pursued free agents earlier in free agency. And, yes, the Vikings severely limited their free agency options for the eight days that they waited for Seattle’s response to their offer to Hutchinson. But at least the Vikings have some certainty along the offensive line next season—an expensive step in the right direction. And for that, they can thank Special Master Stephen Burbank.

Up Next: Free agency, stadium issues, and the draft.

Update on the Uniform Change: by Mr. Cheer Or Die

Last week we talked about the likelihood of the Vikings making some changes to their home and away uniforms. The great preponderance of you voted for purple jersey & white pants for home and white jersey with purple pants for the road. And I'm fine with that.

The problem is I keep hearing that the Vikes want to go with purple on purple for home. Ghastly is the only adjective I can think of.

Worse still is that a rumor has somehow started in which the Vikings are looking at doing away with the legendary horns on the helmet and replacing it with either a simple "V" or the Norseman head shot. They do that and I might have to be hospitalized for several months to convalesce.

To that regard, the boys over at VikingsBoard.net took the impetus to start a petition. So, if you agree that the helmet logo is sacred.....sign the petition.

I can tell you that I have been in contact with no less than three people at Winter Park to give them the opportunity to confirm or deny the helmet rumor. I have heard nothing in reply. Could the silence be deafening at this point?

Posted by maasx003 at 9:06 AM
"The Gamble with QB's" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

Last week we discussed scenarios with which the Vikings could package together enough picks and basically sell out the farm in order to move up in the draft to secure one of the Big Three quarterbacks: Matt Leinart, Vince Young, or Jay Cutler. But there is another option available to the club and they might not have to give up quite so much. Not to mention take the safer road. And that would be 24-year-old Atlanta backup Matt Schaub.

Declaration around the NFL is the Miami Dolphins presented the Falcons with a package that included a second-round pick and additional picks or player(s) for the services of Schaub. So the ‘Fins either considered Schaub more impressive that Daunte Culpepper whom they received for a 2nd round pick…..or they simply Herscheled the Vikes.

In any event, the Cowboys, Ravens, Titans and Vikings have called the Falcons about Schaub and been snubbed. Why all the commotion over a backup quarterback?

Schaub was a third-round pick out of Virginia in 2004. He was the fifth quarterback selected behind Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and J.P. Losman. Schaub is the Falcons backup QB and has filled in on numerous occasions for the oft-injured Michael Vick.

In Week 5 of the 2005 season, Schaub put through the shredder the Patriots' defense. See video here. He amassed 298 yards and three touchdowns in a three-point loss. Why do I remember this? Just one week earlier Schaub had a magnificent second half in the win over the Vikings, running for 56 yards on four carries. Our guy at the head of the Triangle of Authority, Zygi Wilf, had a front-row seat for Schaub's vibrant relief accomplishment against his defense.

But I rather doubt the Vikes can come up with something….anything…that the Falcons want in exchange for Schaub. For the Falcons to do business involving Schaub, a team will have to offer Atlanta someone they can prevail with when and if Vick goes down for a game or two.

And that is the conundrum. Can the Vikings offer the combination of a starting-caliber backup and high pick(s) to get Schaub? Probably not. But should they look hard? As we say up in The Tundra, “Yeah, ya betcha.?

If the Triangle of Authority is going to role the dice on a quarterback this year, why not do it on a guy who's bargain basement priced. Schaub is due just $385,000 next year, the last of his contract, after which he becomes a restricted free agent. Wouldn’t you prefer the Vikings not to gamble a plethora of picks and players on an unknown in the draft?

Let me make this last point. Schaub is primed to step in and lead right now. Atlanta took care of a lot of the tutoring.
With the little bit of armchair coaching I have, I nonetheless deem the Big Three will be good players. On the other hand, Schaub just might be the preeminent gamble. He's without doubt the selection I’d prefer the Vikes pursue.




Posted by maasx003 at 1:08 AM
March 17, 2006
"Right Card, Wrong Hand" by Vikes Geek

This week, the Minnesota Vikings officially announced the trade of quarterback Daunte Culpepper to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the Dolphins’ second-round pick in the 2006 NFL draft. The deal cements a dubious distinction for a Minnesota franchise either intent on cutting off its nose to spite its face or saving money while claiming otherwise.

For the second straight season, the Vikings have opted to receive less for a veteran player than they could have received over the long haul. And, for the second straight year, the Vikings front office and ownership are playing the naïve enabler.

Vikings’ Options

The Vikings had two meaningful options for dealing with Culpepper’s boorish behavior. The first option—the one that the team elected exclusively to pursue—was to find the highest bidder for Culpepper prior to the due date of Culpepper’s 2006 bonus. This option required the Vikings to reveal their interest in trading Culpepper at a time when Culpepper’s injury status generally was uncertain. That meant most teams were unwilling even to consider trading for Culpepper.

Several teams in desperate need of a quarterback, however, offered some form of value for Culpepper in spite of the lack of certainty regarding Culpepper’s return. Among the teams expressing interest were the Baltimore Ravens, the Oakland Raiders, the New Orleans Saints, and the Miami Dolphins. Ultimately, the Dolphins proved most willing to deal.

As far as returns on injured, disgruntled, quarterbacks are concerned, the Vikings did well to obtain a second-round pick in this year’s draft. That assumes, of course, that trading Culpepper prior to the due date of his 2006 bonus was the best option. Zygi not only contends that it was the best option, he claims it was the Vikings’ only option.

Yesterday, Zygi characterized the Culpepper trade as one done out of necessity rather than desire. “I talked to him several weeks ago," Wilf said. "Since that point in time, it didn't seem like he was willing to find a way to work things out. He didn't want to come up [from his Florida home] to rehabilitate, and he did not want to work with the coaching staff. It seemed like we had two alternatives. We could have paid him the [$6 million bonus he was due March 24] like I intended to, and tried to work with him. But he was making every effort to find a way to leave. We did our best.?

Contending that there was no alternative to trading Culpepper, no matter the spin that Zygi now is offering, is, at best, a canard. If the Vikings had held onto Culpepper into the 2006 season, they would have been on the hook for a $6 million bonus this Spring plus a modest 2006 salary.

One owner would look at those numbers and ask: “Can I get a better return by paying Culpepper now and trading him if and when he is in shape?? Another asks: “Can I move Culpepper and his bonus without taking a PR hit??

Zygi, of course, chose the latter approach. We know this to be the case because of the words that Zygi chose to defend the trade. In his statement, Zygi does not even suggest that there was a comparison of possible returns between trading Culpepper prior to the due date of the bonus and retaining Culpepper into the 2006 season. Instead, Zygi all but states that Culpepper was calling the shots and was not interested in remaining a Viking and claims that Culpepper’s position bound the Vikings to trade Culpepper.

Forgive me for not believing that Wilf is as soft as he suggests with his contractually obligated employees, that he caves whenever confronted by a stubborn employee. Surely Zygi has had occasion to clarify the terms of the working relationship with an employee. And surely the result has not been that Zygi has merely acquiesced to the demands of the employee—especially not when a binding contract has given Zygi the upper hand.

Yet, today, Zygi is beseeching Vikings’ fans to believe that Culpepper’s demands so overwhelmed him that he could no longer bear the strain. And so, according to Zygi, Culpepper was traded.

The owner who dares to compare the return on trading Culpepper today versus retaining Culpepper would note, however, that Culpepper was under contract through 2013. That left Culpepper with two options for leaving the Vikings without the Vikings’ acquiescence—he could re-ingratiate himself and make himself trade worthy, or he could retire. The deck was loaded in the Vikings’ favor just as it had been with Randy Moss in 2005.

Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the Vikings’ ownership blew the call. Moving Culpepper was not the issue, timing was. And only if the ultimate concern was salvaging bonus money for the owner’s pocket was this the right move.

Up Next: Henderson a gem. Plus, still looking. And, stadium issues.

Posted by maasx003 at 5:30 AM
March 16, 2006
"Happy St. Patrick's Day (Early)!" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

Special Reminder: The VU NCAA Fantasy Tourney: by Mr. Cheer Or Die

We did this last year and had a blast. I confess to know nothing about NCAA basketball but the NCAA tourney is as much America as the Super Bowl. You have to participate!

Therefore, the first fifty entrants are hereby cordially invited to join The VU's Private Group in the Yahoo! Sports Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick'em.

In order to join the group, just go to the game front page and click on the "Sign Up" button to create your team. After completing registration, or if you already have a team, click the "Create or Join Group" button and follow the path to join the VU's existing private group. Then, when prompted, enter the following information...

Group ID#: 94801
Password: winter

Remember, the league is limited to the first fifty people who sign-up. Good luck everyone!

Kiss the Blarney Stone, Or Something Like That

This will be my last entry for the week (I expect Vikes Geek will have an entry coming for Friday). On Friday I will be in St. Paul celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. The Boy® will be performing with his Irish dance school, Rince na Chroi, at various venues all day. We aim to have a magnificent time without even trying. At any rate, this entry is going to try and cover a lot of ground.....so bear with me.

There was also a time in recent memory in which the Vikings use to have fun without even trying. Let's go back to the 2000 Minnesota Vikings

The setup: Veterans Jeff George and Randall Cunningham played well enough in 1999 that the Vikings finished 10-6 and won a playoff game.

The swap: In the off-season, Minnesota allowed both players to depart and handed the starting reins to Daunte Culpepper, who had no career pass attempts after being taken in the first round of the 1999 draft.

The upshot: Culpepper started all 16 games, threw for 33 touchdowns and led the Vikings to an 11-5 record, a division title and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game (41-0, doh!). He also made the first of his two Pro Bowl appearances.

Also during that time period from 1999 to 2004, Culpepper and wide receiver Randy Moss teamed on fifty-three touchdown passes. That’s the most in team history and more than doubles the runner-up total of twenty-six by Warren Moon and Cris Carter.

It is time to set some new records. And to establish new records, we need to look ahead a bit. And that begins with addressing the quarterback of the future. Yes, Big Bad Brad (BBB) can guide this team for the coming season, and possibly the next. But the team needs to look long term.

I had a tête-à-tête with VU regulars Milwaukee Mark and The Commish in the middle of the week. We spoke about the so called “Big Three? in the coming draft: Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and Jay Cutler.

Milwaukee Mark wants the team to do whatever necessary to move up and draft the Vanderbilt quarter back, Jay Cutler, who has all the tools the NFL looks for in a QB.

The Commish on the other hand says that all 3 have a good pedigree. Leinart is by far the most proven. But The Commish wouldn't trade up to the top five as it would cost the team too much.

I can see either. I mean, if they truly want to get a QB this year, why not do whatever necessary to grab one of the “Big Three? and HOPE they pan out? Remember '99 when like five QBs went in the top 12? Only Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper are still in the league and considered starters? The rest (Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Cade McNown) are out of the league or riding pine. In order to maneuver into position to grab one of the “Big Three? the Vikings would be giving up a lot for one guy. And then cross their collective fingers.

Or, do they keep their picks and wait until the 2nd or 3rd and hope to land a unknown type and get lucky? Look no further than the great readers of the VU to come up with some solutions in this regard:

My guess is that the Vikes go after Bowling Green's QB Omar Jacobs, who is said to be ideal for the offensive system that Childress wants to install. He might be a reach in the mid-second round (where the Vikes will have the 48th & 51st picks), but it wouldn't shock me to see the Vikes pull a Jason Campbell and take him anyway.

Posted by J. Ryan at March 14, 2006 02:02 PM

omarjacobs.jpg

So, let’s flush out Jacobs a bit. And see if ol’ J.R. is all that and a bag of chips in regards to assessing talent and earn the VU Mel Kiper award for the week. From Footballfutures.com:

In his first year as a starter, Jacobs had one of the greatest years of any quarterback in college football history. He completed 66.9% of his passes for 4,002 yards, and 41 touchdowns. The most impressive stat though, was that he only threw 4 interceptions on 462 passes. The 41 touchdowns led the nation, and was also a MAC record. The 41/4 TD/INT ratio is the best ever in Division 1A. He’s not just a pure pocket passer either. Jacobs managed to rush for 300 yards and four more scores. He racked up quite a few post season awards for his awesome sophomore season. Omar was named to various All-American lists, was voted MVP of the GMAC Bowl, and was named MAC offensive player of the year. He was a marked man this year, and defenses came up with better ways to defend his talent. He still had a very good season, finishing with 2,591 yards and 26 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, while completing 60.7% of his passes.

Jacobs is the complete package at quarterback. He’s tall, strong, and athletic. He has a very good arm, and can easily make all the throws. His mobility is very impressive too. When things break down, he can leave the pocket and throw on the run, or tuck it and make something happen with his feet. He has displayed poise in the pocket, though at times he has left the pocket a little early.

There really aren’t too many flaws in Jacobs’ game. The biggest is his throwing mechanics, specifically his release point. Jacobs releases the ball at about shoulder height. He doesn’t get the ball up high enough. He negates his height advantage by throwing the ball that low, and it will result in tipped passes in the NFL. The only other issue would possibly be his experience, as he's a red shirt junior, and this is only his second season as a starter.
Omar Jacobs is the latest in the line of MAC QB’s to develop into legitimate NFL prospects. He will need some coaching in the NFL to fix his mechanics, but other than that, he has everything needed to be a star at the next level. He has all the talent to develop. He should have stayed in school to work on his mechanics and further develop, but he is in the draft. There are some talented signal callers ahead of him, but Jacobs has the talent to really develop at the next level. He could still hear his name called on the first day of the draft.

Man, that sure sounds familiar to a dude that came out of Central Florida, doesn’t it? But what it does say is the Vikings have options should they decide to pass on the “Big Three? and dig a bit deeper. That way, they can use that first round pick on getting LenDale White, a offensive lineman, or a linebacker. They can then package a deal to move up, if necessary, to grab Jacobs. Or Jacobs just falls to them in the second round.

Push comes to shove, and I have to opt for the more sure thing.....moving up to grab one of the “Big Three?. Even though, as The Commish alludes to, that may then take away the ability to get a good RB, LB, OL or safety. Double edged sword.

Leave it to the Vikes to once again make the draft a can't miss show.

More on the Purple Pants

I got a lot of e-mail like the following this week in regards to the purple pants thread:

Hey, I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your website, and I think it is very well done. I've been a Vikings fan since 1974, though I have never lived in Minnesota. I was born in Louisville, KY and now work and reside in Houston, TX. But one thing has been constant for me - I've remained a Viking fan for over 30 years (and God knows they are often very difficult on their fans). Your website provides a lot of interesting information about the team that I simply can't get here in Houston (where they constantly mull over whether to pick Vince Young or Reggie Bush). Keep up the great work!

As for the purple pants in the Vikings uniform - I am completely FOR IT! I really like the look of dark pants with a white jersey (such as what the Bears, Chargers, Jaguars, and Eagles do for example). However, I don't wish to see purple jerseys worn with purple pants. Purple jerseys with white pants at home, and white jerseys with purple pants on the road - that would look the best in my opinion. No more boring white on white on the road. Actually, I don't care for monochromatic uniforms (including white on white). I'd prefer to see the Browns always wear the orange pants, for instance. When the University of Texas wears their road uniforms, they are dressed in head to toe white. They look more like nursing uniforms rather than football uniforms. And about 10 years ago, I remember the Colts wore blue pants with white jerseys for maybe 3 games and then canned them. Not sure why. But I thought they complimented the NFL's most bland uniform.

Anyway, I say yes to the purple pants. But don't mess with the helmet.

Regards,
Greg S.
Houston, TX

After sleeping on it, I have to agree with Greg. I do think the purple pants complimenting the white jerseys for the road uniforms would become an instant classic. And I totally agree that purple on purple for home would become the laughing stock of the league. And by the looks of the poll from Wednesday, most of you agree.

And I should let you know that the Vikings e-mailed me to let me know these two polls are being tracked by Steve LaCroix, Vikings vice president of sales and marketing, who confirmed that the team is redesigning its uniform but would neither reveal details nor comment on the Enemy Paper report that the design includes purple pants to be worn at home with purple jerseys.

So, a weekend chore for you....promote the two polls reposted below to all your friends and Vikings related message boards. These polls may very well decide the final outcome!!!!







Coming Next Week

I'll be speaking with a Miami Dolphins fans about the trade and post as a podcast.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:26 AM
March 15, 2006
"The Day After" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

Special Reminder: The VU NCAA Fantasy Tourney: by Mr. Cheer Or Die

We did this last year and had a blast. I confess to know nothing about NCAA basketball but the NCAA tourney is as much America as the Super Bowl. You have to participate!

Therefore, the first fifty entrants are hereby cordially invited to join The VU's Private Group in the Yahoo! Sports Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick'em.

In order to join the group, just go to the game front page and click on the "Sign Up" button to create your team. After completing registration, or if you already have a team, click the "Create or Join Group" button and follow the path to join the VU's existing private group. Then, when prompted, enter the following information...

Group ID#: 94801
Password: winter

Today's Topic

Many of you undeniably came here today expecting a "War & Peace" sized breakdown from me on the trade of the Poutin' Quarterback the First to the Dolphins. While that day may very well come it will not be today. There are two reasons for that.

First, it is The Wife's® birthday. One does not mess around when it is The Wife’s® birthday. I know those of you privileged enough to have a lovely missus at home know exactly what I am saying. I'm just damn glad she was not born on a Super Bowl Sunday.

Second, the information on the trade is somewhat rough and wooly. For example, in reviewing the official Miami Dolphins site, the only indication of a trade was this quite terse announcement:

In response to reports that the Minnesota Vikings have confirmed a trade of quarterback Daunte Culpepper to the Dolphins, team spokesman Harvey Greene said "anything we do is contingent upon a player passing a medical exam.

On the other hand, a quick visit to the Vikings Official site revealed that the site has removed PQ the First from the front page and inserted the new guy who decided to jettison the #1 QB instead of trying his hand at bridge building. And for all we know, Brad Childress did extend his hand to PQ the First and was rebuffed. Just as Ol’ Pencil Ear was last season when PQ the First was asked to address the team prior to a game in Detroit and refused.

My game day buddy, The Commish, worries over an identity crisis with the team now that Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper are gone. Being in the medical field as a licensed drug dealer, I do see people experience an identity crisis when they lose a sense of personal sameness and historical continuity. And while I must admit that the Vikings may be lacking in the continuity department at the moment, I see no worry over the release of PQ the First as the start of an identity crisis.

The team played most of last season without PQ the First. They had to learn to win without him. And they did, rolling off six straight victories with Big Bad Brad at the helm. Often inspired by Mr. Identity himself, Koren Robinson, the team was a legitimate playoff contender before the slide at the end of the season.

Besides, The Commish is just pissed because he now owes me a lunch at Famous Dave’s from The Bet.

To be honest, I am more concerned over Easter eggs at the moment than I am about this trade. For you see, there are now reports coming out of Winter Park that purple pants will be making an appearance next season. And now we know the real reason that PQ the First wanted out.

The last time the team tried pulling the purple pants stunt, the players refused to take the field saying, "no way are we playing looking like a bunch of Easter eggs!? That was in 2003 when the NFL was promoting the whole throwback jersey concept on us and gave witness to the ugliest uniforms of all time when the Packers took the field in these:

gbfavre.jpg

From what I recall, there are several episodes with purple pants in the history of the team. The team did, in fact, wear them with white jersey’s from 62-64 as pictured here:

Minnesota62.gif

Think about it. Do you want the mighty Purple People Eaters associated with those marshmallow Peeps chicks and dyed Easter eggs?!?!

I didn't think so. But then, the VU is a democracy so you can have a say.







Post some comments for me to read about PQ the First, Mr. Identity, and purple pants. Or just e-mail them to me. I’ll post some of the better ones later this week and discuss them. And be positive! C'mon, the future is so bright you gotta wear shades...and make them purple!

purpleshades.gif

I’m off to see a man about a cake.


Posted by maasx003 at 1:09 AM
March 14, 2006
"Black Smoke! Black Smoke!" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

blacksmoke1large.jpg

Back on January 19, I officially started the Poutin' Quarterback the First Watch which was to monitor when Daunte Culpepper would be shipped off to parts unknown. Just for PQ the First, I started a smoke signal much like when a new pope is chosen. Each day I would post a photo with smoke emanating from a small chimney white for "we are keeping him" or black for "PQ the First has been traded". The smoke is now black. The trade has happened.

PQ the First has been dealt to the Miami Dolphins for a second-round draft choice in the 2006 draft. The deal is conditional on Culpepper passing a physical.

That ought to make the Poutin' Quarterback the Second quite pleased. (Recall when Brad Johnson wanted off the team earlier this year as he wanted to be a starter? That earned him PQ the Second honors). Big Bad Brad (BBB) has just been handed the reins to lead the vaunted Brad Childress west coast offensive attack. And we know that BBB has at least been at Winter Park learning the new system and not bunkered down in south Florida wearing tin foil on his head to keep away the strange voices.

But, hold the mayo and onions for a tic. A close personal friend of the soon-to-be-highest-paid-OL in the league may say otherwise. And this is where it could get very interesting. Steve Hutchinson's agent is none other than the same agent for free agent Drew Brees. That person is Tom Condon. I wonder if Condon has even left Winter Park yet.

You see, there are reports that Brees does not want to play for the team that has sought him from the beginning of the FA period. That team is the New Orleans Saints who are playing hard for Brees' services.

I wonder who will call first, Condon or Childress. I'd look for Brees to be on a plane to the Twin Cities within 24-hours.

Update: Brees has since signed with the Saints (wonder what his Wonderlic score was!?!?) But now look for the Vikings to try and move up to the Saints first round pick. The Saints have their man and will no doubt start flaunting the #2 overall pick in the upcoming draft to the highest bidder. Wil the Vikings bite? In that case, which of the BIg Three QB's do you want: Leinart, Young or Cutler?

Poll Happy







Trivia Time

Culpepper passed for more TD's in the 1st five games of 2004 (18) than anyone else in NFL History at that stage of the season. Who held the old mark of 16? Leave a comment below.


Posted by maasx003 at 12:44 PM
Awaiting the Returns: by Vikes Geek

Note: For those of you who only ready the VU a few times a week I should bring you up to speed. I have a free agent signing of my own to announce. We've signed Vikes Geek to a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract that will only count 30% towards this year's salary cap. And we're damn glad to have him aboard. I take you now to VG.

Entering the 2006 off-season, the Minnesota Vikings had a clear list of needs—needs that they could address entirely through free agency if they so desired. Less than one week into the NFL’s 2006 free-agency period, the Vikings find themselves in a bit of an uncomfortable position and potentially with too much money left over to fill needs for which the talent pool may no longer exist.

Modus Operandi Quickly Changes

Two weeks ago, the Vikings inked free agent, veteran offensive lineman Jason Whittle to a modest deal. The move suggested that the Vikings would be frugal—though not miserly—in their approach to signing free agents this season. The model appeared to be one of signing veteran talent at good—if not bargain-basement—rates and avoiding overspending on one position or for one player.

Last weekend, the Vikings suggested there intention to employ an alternative free-agent signing model this off-season when they inked transition player Steve Hutchinson of the Seattle Seahawks to a seven-year, $49 million deal that includes $16 million in guaranteed money and counts $13 million against the 2006 salary cap. In addition to the tender made on Hutchinson, the Vikings also signed running back Chester Taylor, outside linebacker Ben Leber, wide receiver Koren Robinson, and placekicker Ryan Longwell.

Not including Hutchinson’s salary cap hit, the Vikings have already spent approximately $19 million of their approximately $33 million in cap space for 2006. Should the Seahawks fail to match the Vikings’ tender to Hutchinson, the Vikings will have spent approximately $32 million of their $33 million in cap space with several holes left to be filled and rookies left to be signed.

Included among the remaining holes—assuming Hutchinson becomes a Viking in 2006—are left offensive tackle, strong safety, middle linebacker, and backup quarterback. And that assumes that the Vikings are set with what they have at wide receiver, outside linebacker, right guard, and defensive end—a sizeable assumption.

For Vikings’ fans who have suffered the past three seasons under the miserly yolk of former owner Red McCombs, it would appear to be a welcome change to have an owner who is willing to bid for the better players. But the offer to Hutchinson is perplexing not only for the difficult position in which it places the Vikings as they attempt to fill equally pressing needs, but also because the move doesn’t quite do what it is billed to have done.

Seattle Calling

As the media outlets began gushing over the large deal that the Vikings had offered Hutchinson—“largest ever for an offensive guard?—public perception followed suit. Immediately, Vikings’ fans began calling local sports’ talk stations gushing over the supposed genius of the offer. “Seattle will have to make a tough decision on this one,? was the common refrain. “Either way, they’re screwed.?

That was the prevailing sentiment. And that appears to remain the prevailing sentiment.

The reality, however, is that it could be the Vikings who are screwed in the end. And, while fans undoubtedly would prefer to believe otherwise, the Vikings’ might be screwed by their own design.

Option Forsaken

At the beginning of the free-agency period, the Vikings were in the market for two offensive linemen. LeCharles Bentley appeared to be a logical target since he has played both guard and center and the Vikings have, in Matt Birk, a player capable of playing both guard and center. Signing Bentley would have made sense for the Vikings not only from the perspective of signing another All-Pro caliber player to fill a hole on the offensive line but also from the perspective of signing a player who would allow the Vikings to move Birk to guard—a position that the Vikings have long-considered Birk’s future home.

In addition to the benefits that signing Bentley would have conferred upon the Vikings from a personnel perspective, the Vikings unquestionably could have signed Bentley to a much more cap-friendly contract than that offered to Hutchinson—one that would have allowed the team to fill other glaring holes in the off-season. With the Vikings electing not to pursue Bentley, the former Saint signed with the Browns for $36 million over six years with $12.5 million guaranteed.

But the Vikings’ pursuit of Hutchinson is odd even without the decision not to pursue Bentley, because it does not ensure the Vikings anything. For, despite the large offer that the Vikings made to Hutchinson, they might end up without Hutchinson and without a viable backup. And that’s something that the Vikings’ personnel people could not help but understand.

Math Problem

Seattle currently has $17 million of cap space, with approximately $6.5 million of Hutchinson’s current offer from Seattle already counting against their 2006 cap. The Vikings are applauding themselves for putting the Seahawks in a box. Clearly, however, that is not the situation.

If Seattle matches Minnesota’s offer, the Seahawks will be on the hook for another $6.5 million in 2006. That would leave Seattle with $10.5 million of cap space to sign the safety and wide receiver that they apparently need and to find a lesser replacement for Hutchinson. While Seattle undoubtedly would have preferred that the Vikings not force them to pony up an additional $6.5 million for Hutchinson in 2006, most of the hit on Hutchinson under the Vikings’ offer sheet is in 2006 and Seattle has the cap room to match the offer and still meet its other needs in 2006—in addition to having an owner more than willing to spend up to the cap ceiling.

That makes the Vikings’ move for Hutchinson somewhat suspect. Combined with the team’s decision not to pursue an outright free agent in Bentley in favor of making a matchable offer for a transition player, the move is even more suspect and somewhat disingenuous. And combined with the reality that if the Vikings do not obtain Hutchinson in 2006 they might be left with no viable free agents left to pursue—and, coincidentally, close enough to the salary floor to make a few contract moves to reach that floor without additional signings—and one has to wonder about the Vikings’ intentions.

Even if the Vikings’ intentions are pure in their offer to Hutchinson, the move still is odd, at best, given the commitment that the Vikings are making to an offensive guard. For, even with the offer front-loaded, the Vikings are asking for trouble by even making such an offer.

Should Hutchinson become a Viking, he is certain to ask for more money in year two of the deal. And, whether or not Hutchinson becomes a Vikings, the mere magnitude of the offer to Hutchinson will have the wheels churning in the minds of other Vikings’ players who undoubtedly will consider themselves underpaid in the current climate—particularly players such as Bryant McKinnie, Brad Johnson, and Matt Birk. And that could have more of an unraveling effect on the Vikings than would have another three years of Mike Tice at the helm.

Up Next: More free agency discussion. Plus, stadium issues.

The VU NCAA Fantasy Tourney: by Mr. Cheer Or Die

We did this last year and had a blast. I confess to know nothing about NCAA basketball but the NCAA tourney is as much America as the Super Bowl. You have to participate!

Therefore, the first fifty entrants are hereby cordially invited to join The VU's Private Group in the Yahoo! Sports Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick'em.

In order to join the group, just go to the game front page and click on the "Sign Up" button to create your team. After completing registration, or if you already have a team, click the "Create or Join Group" button and follow the path to join the VU's existing private group. Then, when prompted, enter the following information...

Group ID#: 94801
Password: winter

Remember, the league is limited to the first fifty people who sign-up. Good luck everyone!

Posted by maasx003 at 1:18 AM
March 13, 2006
VU Podcast Forty-Seven: Minnesota Momentum with Larry Spooner

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Minnesota Momentum is a citizens’ coalition was formed to support Northern Lights - Minnesota's Sports, Retail & Entertainment Center – an important economic development project that will bring over $1 billion in private investment to Minnesota....and the Vikings new stadium. In VU podcast Forty-Seven I spoke with Larry Spooner (pictured above), the fan representative on the council.

Give a listen on the VU Podcast page.

Introducing Vikes Geek

The staff of the Viking Underground has just doubled from one lonely voice to two. I am delighted to officially announce the addition of Vikes Geek as a writer for the VU. Those of you who have been searching for VG ever since his blog crashed and burned will be glad to know he is back. Those of you who have not read VG previously and don't know his 'stuff' will soon be delighted to have another voice on the VU. Think of it as replacing the ol' V-6 engine with a V-8 and a nice fuzzy dice set and you get the idea.

So, take a moment and drop a comment for VG at the end of this blog and welcome him to the VU!

Posted by maasx003 at 1:36 AM
March 12, 2006
Starsky & Hutch?

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Wow! The Vikings could be working their way back to dominant offensive line, one not seen in these parts since the 1998 season when Jeff Christy, Todd Steussie, and Randall McDaniel were named to the Pro Bowl. It is now being reported that the Vikings have signed Seahawks guard Steve Hutchinson to an offer sheet of mammoth proportions.

But before you start to scream and holler like a little girl at her first prom, keep this in mind: the Seahawks have a little thing called a transition tag on Hutchinson, giving them the right to match the Vikings offer. The ‘Hawks and the Triple Chin (Mike Holmgren) have a week to determine if they want to retain the services of the most highly sought offensive lineman on the market today. If they choose not to match, they receive no compensation.

Holy Red McCombs! I had concentrated on LeCharles Bentley as I thought the Vikes could not make a play for Hutchinson as the money would be too great. This move alone should signal that our new owner, Zygi Wilf, is going to spend the money necessary to bring a championship to Minnesota. I mean, think of this new look offensive line next season. If the Vikings can actually get Hutch in Purple, he'll land between Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie. McKinnie came on like a ton of bricks last season and should have been voted into the Pro Bowl. Birk should be back at full strength following his 95th hernia operation.

The huge offer the Vikes laid on the table is most likely designed at discouraging the Seahawks from matching. Keep your fingers crossed!

From the numbers being reported, the Vikings have gotten his settlement on an offer sheet with a 2006 cap number in excess of $13 million. Using my trusty Texas Instruments calculator, that's more than one third of the team's existing cap space in the 2006 off-season, and more than twelve percent of the team's total cap room for the existing year.

In a related note, if the Vikes do win and Hutchinson is introduced the media as the newest Viking, look for the team to finally release the Poutin’ Quarterback the First to loosen up a little more bling-bling.

Posted by maasx003 at 4:52 PM
March 11, 2006
Rare Saturday Update Part III: Nooooooooooooo!

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According to te Enemy Paper, the Vikings have signed former Green Bay kicker Ryan Longwell. A Cheesehead on the team!!!! But then, Darren Sharper turned out pretty well last season, didn't he? And wouldn't it be sweet to see Longwell beat the Packers twice next year. (Not that we'll need FG's to beat the pathetic Packers anyway!)

Posted by maasx003 at 6:23 PM
Rare Saturday Update Part II

The pace of signings during the free agency period, in its first 24-hours, has been a little sluggish. But it is starting to build some steam. The latest:

Nothing new on the Poutin’ Quarterback the First. But one of the interested teams may now be looking elsewhere. Dolphins coach Nick Saban and G.M. Randy Mueller traveled to Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday morning to meet with free-agent quarterback Drew Brees. Brees has been in Alabama for treatment of a shoulder injury, which was surgically repaired earlier this year.

If the ‘Fins sign Brees, that would leave the Titans as the sole interested team in PQ the First. However, there are now reports that the Denny Green-led Arizona Cardinals may now be interested one again. Who knows? Maybe every team falls out of the race for PQ the First and the team just ends up cutting him? But then, it has only been one day. I think once Brees signs with someone, the pieces will fall into place.

And out of Philadelphia comes word that center LeCharles Bentley turned about face and walked out on the Eagles after a verbal commitment to sign with the team had been given. Supposedly, the next stop for Bentley is the Cleveland Browns (which will make Coworker Jim ecstatic). Why doesn’t Zygi Wilf send a private plane and pick up Bentley and bring him here? Unless, the team has their collective eye on Seahawks guard Steve Hutchinson? And let me give you a little inside information, the team is really pushing hard to get Hutchinson. Very hard.

The Enemy Paper has now reported that team is bringing in linebacker Ben Leber on Saturday for a visit. Hell, he may even be at Winter Park as we speak. Leber would be pegged to improve two of the three linebacker positions.

As reported earlier this morning. The Vikings have retained K-Rob. We now have the numbers. The contract signed by receiver Koren Robinson is worth $12.7 million over three years, with $10 million in bonus money. Of the bonus money, $5.5 million is guaranteed. Not too shabby. A good deal for both sides.

And finally, ESPN's Len Pasquarelli reports that the Rams have signed former Vikings safety Corey Chavous to a five-year deal. Let’s face it, Corey was discontented in Minnesota, and he stayed away from most if not all offseason voluntary workouts. The Vikings made no effort to re-sign him. This was expected as will be the loss of Michael Bennett.

Another loss, and I think this one hurts a bit, is that corner Brian Williams has signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The terms, according to ESPN 2, were for 6-years but no money was given.

Some comments provided to me today that I pass along as I thought them interesting:

Brian,

I had this thought yesterday and wondered your opinion on it. Will the Vikes pay the bonus due on Pepper and tell him to stay home till they can trade him as the Eagles did with Terrel Owens? thanks for your time. Have a great day.

Patrick M.

Patrick, I just don't see them keeping him. I think if they cannot find a trade partner the team will cut him. Vikes Geek had a good column earlier this week in which he argues the team should retain him so that Culpepper could "show what he has got" at some point during the season and perhaps garner a greater return once the Vikes did find a trading partner. That has some merit. But PQ the First has so upset people at Winter Park that I'm not sure they are willing to be patient and do just that.

Brian,

I realize that Zygi Wilf is a pretty shrewd guy, and I am appreciative of his organizational talents, and his apparent willingness to spend money to make the Vikings great, but I wish to point out a less-than-smart thing he said recently. I read the quote today (Saturday) in the StarTribune:

"Wilf has said that "money will not be an object to get myself a championship..."

An owner who's REALLY shrewd, as opposed to pretty shrewd, would have pulled in the reins on the Ego Rampant for a brief moment and said, "Money will not be an object to get a championship for all our wonderful fans..." He (or she) would be savvy enough to realize that championships are shared deals. Let me repeat the phrase for Zygi to hear: SHARED DEALS. Off-the-cuff remarks reveal important things about a man, and in this case, they reveal a guy who's not top-of-the-line shrewd in terms of public relations. Having said that, I will note that many or most of Wilf's fellow NFL owners are basically idiots who've allowed themselves to be corrupted by money, so, Wilf's moderate level of shrewdness is probably enough to net him (i.e., us) a couple of championships. Heck, if Little Eddie DeBartolo Jr. can do it, Zygi Wilf can do it.

Best regards,

Bob F.
Vikings Fan Since '61

Bob, While I agree that Wilf has some learning to do in regards to running a team....and a steep learning curve it is...I can tell you that Wilf is VERY shrewd. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have $1000 bills as pocket money. The steps that Wilf is taking to get a new stadium show just how great a land developer he is.

Wilf has gone on record to admit that he has "stepped into in" in regards to making remarks about the football team itself. I think part of the problem is that he is simply such a honest man. He has learned to be more concealing about who the team wants to get in free agency and the draft. You will see him continue to improve. Give him a bit of a longer leash. I think you'll be happy you did.

Note: For the latest breaking media news, be sure and look to the left frame under "Purple News" where the most recent Vikings related news will be automatically fed.

Posted by maasx003 at 4:04 PM
Rare Saturday Update

On day two of being held hostage by the Poutin’ Quarterback the First, there are supposedly just two teams still in the running. Those are the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans. The Oakland Raiders were reportedly one of the teams in the final round of bidding but the Raiders declined out when they heard the cost was going to be a second-round choice.

What was great news was that I woke up Saturday morning to discover the team had retained Koren Robinson, perhaps the teams MVP from the 2005 season. K-Rob will once again being lighting it up in purple this coming season.

And the best news of the day thus far is this: the Vikings made contact with Seahawks guard Steve Hutchinson and are trying to arrange a visit over the weekend. Hutchinson is the Seahawks' transition player and is going to decree more than $6 million a year. The Seahawks would have seven days to match any offer. The Vikes had the bling-bling to pay him. It will be up the Hutch to make the choice.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:58 AM
March 10, 2006
Vikes Geek Special: Daunte’s Diet

Though Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Daunte Culpper has been tight-lipped about his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury, one suspects that a major component of Culpepper’s rehab routine has been weight reduction. How else can one explain Culpepper’s derriere—once firmly entrenched in the Vikings’ backfield plans—now sliding so readily through the out door?

Patient Heal Not Thyself

In law, there is a long-held wisdom—an individual who represents himself has a fool for a client. As self-serving as this saying is to the guardians of the legal world, it nevertheless contains more than a kernel of truth. And if ever there was need for reinforcement of such wisdom, Daunte Culpepper offers Exhibit A.

Dissatisfied with what he deems to have been a below-market, long-term contract and failed efforts to renegotiate the terms of his current contract, Culpepper, earlier this year, fired his agent and announced that he was assuming more responsibility for his business affairs. That statement could have meant many things, of course. Most logically, it could have meant that Culpepper was going to ensure that his name was not going to be further sullied in the name of seeking a more lucrative contract coming off of a disappointing season ended early by a serious injury.

Unfortunately for Culpepper, that was not his vision of taking more responsibility for his business affairs. Instead, what Culpepper apparently had in mind was that he would assume all responsibility for his business affairs—no attorney, no agent, nobody but Daunte—and would make inane comments to the press when not prompted to do so.

Other athletes have elected to represent themselves, but most have chosen to do so when negotiating a free-agent contract. Culpepper cut ties with his agent—his mouthpiece—when he was under contract. That might have worked out well for Culpepper were he not completely lost as a negotiator.

Notwithstanding Culpepper’s ridiculous contract demands and insistence on being named a starter in 2006 despite his poor 2005 performance and the uncertainty over his rehabilitation, Culpepper appeared prepared to set aside his differences with the Vikings’ front office and to prepare for 2006, picking up a nifty $6 million bonus for his modest efforts.

Apparently unable to separate desire from reality, however, Culpepper is determined not only to jeopardize his $6 million March bonus, but his future in the NFL. On Wednesday, Culpepper sent yet another e-mail to the media stating that he had requested that the Vikings either trade or cut him. The e-mail betrayed both Culpepper’s fragile psyche and his clear inability to manage his business affairs to his own benefit and undoubtedly made potential suitors wonder about Culpepper’s cognitive abilities.

Vikings’ Turn

Where Culpepper once stood as one of the more sympathetic and inspiring athletes in pro sports—exhibiting loyalty, determination, and friendliness despite some difficult circumstances—his recent play and demeanor have erased much of the goodwill that this intangibles once generated. That makes the job of the Vikings’ front office much less complicated. Now, rather than dealing with an individual who could once use fan support as leverage in negotiations, the Vikings are dealing with an individual lacking popular support. And that means making a calculated business decision is all that is relevant in Culpepper’s case.

I’ve made the case in recent columns that the Vikings need to treat Culpepper as an asset even if they decide to part with him. That requires keeping Culpepper as a member of the team until the return for parting with him outweighs the return for keeping him. This likely means that the Vikings will need to pay Culpepper his March bonus. That’s not what Culpepper wants and it probably is not what an assuredly frustrated Vikings’ front office wants at this point. Barring a good trade offer, however, it is the most prudent move for the Vikings.

By giving Culpepper his roster bonus, the Vikings will be signaling that they are intent on keeping Culpepper. Outside of retiring, Culpepper has no option but to stay with the Vikings—at a fairly cap-friendly salary—until the Vikings elect to part with him. And if other teams want Culpepper, they will need to bid for him. As Culpepper returns to health, he will find suitors, even if he runs with a limp. That will make him more valuable to the Vikings than anything they can get in return for Culpepper today. And that makes keeping Culpepper around—even if he does not like that reality—a prudent business move for the Vikings.

Up Next: CBA, stadium issues, and free agency.

PQ the First is Done in Minnesota: by Mr. Cheer Or Die

I think even those that have opposed my sentiment over the last six months that the Poutin’ Quarterback the First was entering Looney Bin status have now changed their minds. Face it, PQ the First is going to make some psychologist very rich indeed as he is one screwed up individual right now. And I take no great pride in saying that.

The most recent thing that PQ the First did was send out an e-mail to the world on Wednesday. PQ the First expressly stated in no uncertain terms that he wanted to be traded because he wasn’t being loved. Yeah, he wants to be loved but continue to work out in Florida while the new coach is busily installing a new system. Yeah, he wants to be loved and then demands a restructuring of his contract, after firing his agent, when no one is even certain how he will respond after major knee surgery. Want love PQ? You had your chances and you blew them all just like you blew off your team during and after the season.

As Zygi and Brad Childress are saying, “Talk to the hand, Daunte.?

The Vikes responded to this latest bull shit by essentially saying if the team can't trade PQ the First before a $6 million roster bonus comes due later this month, the team plans are to ask him to defer the bonus so that efforts to strike a deal can continue. At least that was what I was hearing until jumped into the BMW to drive home after a 15-hour day at the office.

I then heard a report on the radio that quoted Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com as saying the Minnesota Vikings have had it with PQ the First and are ardently seeking trade partners. Glazer was quoted as saying:

"Culpepper has infuriated people inside the Vikings organization by making his gripes public and refusing to mesh with new coach Brad Childress."

And not only that, there were also reports that PQ the First would be traded within the next 24 to 48 hours. See that white smoke in the left frame under PQ the First Watch category? That could become black very, very soon. Truth be told, I am hearing that the Vikings have established at least one trade AND that the team has multiple options.

So here it is. What I have predicted ages ago is about to happen. PQ the First will be traded and a transaction will be occur within the next 24 hours, and the transaction will be carried out after 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, because trades can't be made until the next league year starts.

The leading suitors are said to be the Dolphins and the Raiders. The Dolphins makes sense as they’ve been in the PQ the First trade rumor boat for about a month now and Miami is looking for a QB. The Raiders make sense because Randy Moss has been talking to PQ the First as I’ve reported on before. And Al Davis is crazy enough to do it.

But remember the Dolphins rumor started when Scott Linehan was still with the team. PQ the First got along, and admired, Linehan quite a bit. Linehan is now the head coach of the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis. So don’t be one bit surprised if the trade takes place with the Rams and that current starter Marc Bulger will be part of the package that gets sent to the Vikings.

Poll of the Day

Who should have been traded last year knowing what we know now? Moss or Culpepper? Vote below.




Posted by maasx003 at 1:14 AM
March 9, 2006
Vikes Geek Special: Vikings Tipping Free-Agency Hand?

With free agency not yet underway due to the off-again, on-again labor discussions, the Minnesota Vikings nevertheless have suggested the route that they will pursue in free agency. And while that route might not receive the headlines, it could result in a more rationally attained personnel base that will allow the Vikings to compete for a far longer stretch than would a conventional free-agency plundering.

Alexander Model Eschewed

With $24-35 million available under the salary cap this season, the Vikings hold a sizeable advantage over most of their NFL brethren in their ability to finance a free-agent spending spree this off-season. If Vikings’ fans have anything for which they should be thankful to Red McCombs, it is that McCombs’ parsimony has left the Vikings with two options for success that seemed unlikely two years ago.

One option is to supplement a team on the verge of a playoff run with star power that might propel the team to a championship. That option would have the Vikings sign three or four Pro Bowl type players to fill their most pressing needs. With bona fide players manning the running back, middle linebacker, offensive guard, and wide receiver positions, the Vikings would have few glaring weaknesses and would have a legitimate shot at contending with any team in the most mediocre of NFL eras.

Signing known talents to fill holes is a long-observed model for propelling also-rans to contender status in each of the major sports in the United States. The downside to this approach in the NFL, however, is that it has the potential to cripple a team financially for many years after any benefit of the bargain has been obtained. Signing a player to a contract the likes of which Shaun Alexander commanded from the Seahawks would have solidified the backfield position for the Vikings for the near future but the move would have meant committing at least $8 million per year to one player for the next eight seasons.

Without knowing whether the Vikings had any interest in signing Alexander, it is difficult to assess the team’s position on filling the running back need with a high profile, high cost player. But the Vikings at least have signaled that they are not interested in spreading their salary cap so thin for the next several years.

With the signing of former Giants’ center/guard Jason Whittle to a modest one-year, $695,000 deal that includes a paltry $25,000 signing bonus, the Vikings have begun what many believed would be a bull-rush off-season with a move that barely made the headlines. The move signals that the Vikings might be more interested in building with capable veterans at most of their positions of need than in spending to the cap ceiling in 2006. This latter approach to supplementing the team could work well for the Vikings if they are able to sign the more modestly priced veterans that big cap teams generally eschew.

Even before the start of free agency, teams have begun making salary cap purges that could benefit the Vikings in 2006 and beyond—at a modest price. Among the early cap casualties that could play starting roles for the 2006 Vikings are former Broncos Jeb Putzier and Mike Anderson. Putzier was underwhelming in 2005, but has the size and ability to perform at a much higher level. With Jim Kleinsasser’s salary making him a cap target, the younger Putzier might fill the Vikings’ needs as a number-two tight end at a fraction of the cost of retaining the oft-injured, underproducing Kleinsasser.

Anderson also offers some appeal. Tatum Bell’s emergence as a back in 2005 made Anderson expendable to the Broncos and, with salary cap woes, the team was forced to move the well-respected veteran back. Anderson’s hard running and capable hands would play well in Minnesota’s new West Coast scheme and with an asking price likely to be around $1 million per year—including signing bonus—he offers a palatable alternative to the much higher priced Edgerrin James and the ridiculously overvalued Jamaal Lewis.

Other players whom already have received their pink slips in 2006 and should be available at a relative bargain of a price include former Seattle Seahawk linebacker Jamie Sharper, former Bronco defensive end Trevor Pryce, former Buffalo Bill safety Lawyer Milloy, and, possibly, Milloy’s former teammate, wide receiver Eric Moulds. Each of these early free agents is available at far less than last year’s market price and would fill a need of the Vikings in 2006.

The Vikings’ signing of Whittle to a modest contract by no means ensures that the Vikings will forgo making a splash in free agency this year. In fact, quite the contrary appears to be the case. But rather than making a splash in the short-term, the Vikings finally appear headed down the path of the more sophisticated pursuit of free agents. That path requires balancing star power with capable veterans. And with plenty of cash and a bevy of free agents likely to be on the market this year, the Vikings not only are in the driver’s seat, they appear on the proper course. The only issue left unresolved is whether they will veer from that course.

Up Next: Changing the System for the Better—What Ought to be done with the CBA.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:40 AM
March 8, 2006
Jerry Maguire? Ha!: A VU Podcast Special Edition

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He serves as the agent for notables such as Stephen Davis and Todd Sauerbrun. He also happens to be the agent for the Vikings Willie Offord and Troy Williamson. He has had multiple features on ESPN.com. He is David Canter, who only started work as an agent after a chance meeting on the side of the road. In 1995, Canter was at a gas station, changing a signal lamp on his car, when he ran into Miami Dolphin Lamar Thomas. After chatting for a few minutes, Canter got Thomas' cell phone number. Not too long afterward, Canter did some marketing deals for Thomas, who eventually became the first client for Canter's company.

It was my pleasure to speak with David and gain some insight into the world of being an agent for some of the highest priced athletes in the world. During the podcast you will learn insight into the agents view of the Wilf ownership, the new head coach, Offord's rehab, and even some news on PQ the First!

And I don't often do this, but share this blog and especially this podcast with all your Vikings friends. Ship them an e-mail and send 'em here. Do you frequent a Vikings message board? Do me favor and let people know about this podcast. Bring 'em here! This one deserves a listen.

Viking Underground Podcast Forty-Six

Trivia Time

Here is the answer to Tuesday's tricky question: "Who holds the Vikings team record record for most TDs by reception in the playoffs?"

The answer, Randy Moss who had 9 scoring receptions from 1998 to 2004. I was surprised because it just seems that Randy was not with the Vikes that long. I would have though Chuck Foreman. I guess it shows how much Moss always stepped up the big games (leaving 41-0 out of the equation).

Coming Thursday

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HIs site went down a few weeks ago. A fellow blog writer looking for a home in which to wrote his Purple-tinted prose. I love his stuff and so extended an invitation to write for the VU until he gets on his feet again (or maybe decides to make the VU his home!?!?!?). At any rate, come back Thursday for a off-season piece by Vikes Geek.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:05 AM
March 7, 2006
Someone Please Explain Tampering to Me

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At the end of last week I brought your attention to LeCharles Bentley who I thought would be a great addition to the Vikings offensive line. Then I read a report that states unmistakably the Eagles will sign Saints center LeCharles Bentley as soon as free agency commences, which should be sometime before Christmas at this rate.

Is that not tampering? What in the name of Hoover Dam is going on here? Why is the NFL allowing teams to chat to the agents of players who are not yet free agents? Again, is that not tampering? “Hello, Earth to Paul Tagliabue. Can you read me, over??

But before I doth protest too much, the Enemy Paper has now reported that the Vikings might have an arrangement in place with Chargers linebacker Ben Leber. Huh? Um, is that not tampering? But Leber's agent quickly came out and said this (rumor of his relation to Pinocchio have been overplayed):

Vann McElroy, the agent for Chargers free-agent outside linebacker Ben Leber, denied reports that his client and the Vikings have agreed in principle on a contract.


I mean, if teams and agents are going to become more audacious and apparent in their abuse of the tampering rule, someone in due course is going to have to get “Mike Tice’d? for violating a rule so that the whole thing doesn’t become a one-liner for sports columnists everywhere. That is, if it isn’t already.

What really astonished me is that one-third of the Triangle of Authority (Fran Foley) had this to say in the same paper, on the same page no less, of the report about Leber:

"You can't make contact with these [players]," Foley said in discussing the sense of anticipation that his cap-rich team is experiencing, "you can't plan with the agents and things like that [beforehand]."

First the silliness with the whole Collective Bargaining Agreement and now blatant tampering. What is next? Please don’t screw up my sport!!!!

Note: I'll be speaking with a sports agent on Tuesday for an upcoming VU Podcast. I hope to sneak in a question on tampering. If the interview does not come off I'll let y'all know. This agent represents multiple players on the Vikings roster.

Speaking of the CBA

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My close, personal friend Chris Mortensen roared onto ESPN Radio and reported on Monday morning that the NFL and the NFLPA have reached an agreement in principle on a new CBA, and that the deal is subject to approval of the owners on Tuesday. The article later appeared on ESPN.com

Warning! Do not attempt to hold your breath with out trained professionals at your side.

Under the pact, the NFL will lavish 59.5 percent of total football revenues to player salaries. My good buddy Mort also says that it's no assurance as to whether the owners will approve the deal. Pats owner Bob Kraft, Mort says, is compellingly opposed to the package, which addresses revenue sharing via the so-called "cash over cap" issue.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf needs to become Kraft’s best friend and ally. Let me explain.

"Cash over cap", according to "Morty", is the total of the full money compensated to players in a given year. Because high-revenue teams, like Dallas and Washington, have the capability to dump more money into players' pockets, the infinite ability to gush future cap dollars into current cap years could, in premise, disorder the NFL’s wonderful competitive balance because the low-revenue teams, like our Vikings, simply won't have the currency on hand to counterpart what Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder could pay. In a few short years we’d have an NFL where it would be the Yankees and Red Sox all over again. I saw MLB ruined this way and I’ll be damned to let it happen to football. The one hope is that the proposal apparently limits the extent to which a team can spend money in a given year over the salary cap.

Mortensen says that Tuesday's meeting could get hostile, and that it could extend into Wednesday. And I hope Wilf is lining up on the Kraft and the other low-revenue teams. Otherwise, even a new stadium won’t be able to save the Vikes.

Trivia Time

Here is a tricky question. Who holds the Vikings team record record for most TDs by reception in the playoffs?




Come back Wednesday to find out!


Posted by maasx003 at 1:59 AM
March 6, 2006
It is March: The Irish Dominate

Sorry everyone but I did not have any time to address writing football blogs this weekend. This was a family weekend. Rince na Chroi had a live performance at Concordia University in St. Paul. Rince na Chroi (pronounced rink-a na-chree) is a Irish dance school in which The Boy® is a student. This was the first of three performances for The Boy® over the next three weeks. And we're having a ball.

I did all the photography and video and I'm wading through some heavy editing as we speak. I hope to be back Tuesday with some Vikings stuff. Until then, you are welcome to listen into the show.....especially if you like Irish music (by 5 Mile Chase) and some dynamic sounds of bagpipes (Minnesota Police Pipe Band).

Part One

Part Two

2006 Concordia Perf 144.jpg

And we do it all again this coming weekend. See you Tuesday......I think.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:39 AM
March 3, 2006
FA Starts! First Up, Protect The QB!!!

Actually, check that. It would now appear that the free agency period is set to start three days later because the players and owners are now in the midst of squabbling over the revenue of the biggest sport in the world (screw soccer!). But I choose to ignore that greedy men would actually destroy the league much like has happened in MLB over the last few decades. So let's talk free agency like it actually did start today.

After a season in which the Vikings offensive line allowed over four sacks per game and lead to Poutin' Quarterback the First leaving on crutches, it would appear the team sprints out of the free agency gate looking to improve at offensive line.

And who could disagree?

LeCharles Bentley.jpg

Pro Bowl offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley could make the jump from one domed stadium to another should the Vikings put together a great offer to land the free agent. I figure it like this: who can afford to outbid the Vikes? If the Vikes really want the big guy, he is ours.

Many experts deem Bentley the top linemen to be had. In addition to getting a Pro Bowl lineman, the Vikings would also benefit with the added bonus of indispensable flexibility. Bentley played as center at Thee Ohio State. When he entered the NFL, he started at right guard for two seasons with the Saints. He was shifted back to center in 2004.

Bentley, at 26, is a young stud that has been selected to the Pro Bowl in 2003 and again in 2005. He was chosen in as an alternate in 2004. He also was a near-unanimous choice for NFL all-rookie honors in 2002 and was named the NFL offensive rookie of the year by Sports Illustrated that season. The Saints have placed no tag on him.

I’m licking my chops.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:35 AM
March 2, 2006
One Billion Dollars

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Zygi Wilf is no more Dr. Evil than is Carl Pohlad or any other sports owner looking to compete in a sport wherein success hinges on every nickel and dime the team can earn in order to then upgrade the personnel. So, if you are anti-stadium, just leave now and return to your dark hole in the ground from whence you came.

Under Wilf ownership, the Vikings are taking the message of a new stadium in Anoka County to the state of Minnesota. And it's not a wobbling duck of a Joe Kapp pass but rather a Warren Moon precisionly thrown tight spiral. I received the following e-mail (part of a mass e-mail campaign) from the greatest coach in Minnesota sports history earlier this week:

Dear Brian,

Thanks again for joining Minnesota Momentum to show your support for the plan to build Northern Lights – Minnesota’s Sports, Retail & Entertainment Center!

Remember, Northern Lights is an important economic development project, with $1 billion in private investment to boost our state’s economy and create jobs. Northern Lights will be located in Blaine, which is in Anoka County. It will include a new stadium for Vikings football and host other events throughout the year. It also includes shops, restaurants, offices, a medical center, a hotel and 260 acres of preserved wetlands and trails.

Below is our first member update, with the latest news and information about what you can do to get involved.

Sincerely,

bg.bmp

Bud Grant

Co-chair

The message then went on to give specifics. It spoke told me that Minnesota Momentum will be airing statewide television and radio messages. The ads introduce the plan for the Northern Lights center and invite viewers and listeners to join us as members of Minnesota Momentum. The objective of this communications campaign is to get the facts out and make sure Minnesotans understand the benefits to the state of this economic development project. The messages began airing Tuesday (February 28), but if you have not seen the TV ad or live out of state, you can view it on the VU here or on the VU Videocast page.

How You Can Help in this Movement

You can help build our coalition by emailing your friends and inviting them to join as members. Just click here and you’ll be taken to the “Tell a Friend? function on the website, which allows you to quickly email several friends at once. Spreading the word about our coalition will help to keep our grassroots effort growing by the day! Haven't joined yet? What are you waiting for?

Key Dates: Legislative Session Begins March 1

The Minnesota State Legislature will begin this year’s legislative session on March 1. We expect the Northern Lights stadium development plan to be an important issue during the session, so stand by for opportunities in the near future to take action and make your voice heard!

Coming Friday

Well, if I can find the time that is. But Friday is important because the real bidding begins as NFL free agency opens. The Purple are projected to have a league high $24.1 million (said with a Dr. Evil sneer) in the kitty. What will happen?

Posted by maasx003 at 1:34 AM
March 1, 2006
In This Corner

Last week there was an account I wanted to write about but my trip to New Jersey got in the way. The Vikings placed their transition player tag on cornerback Brian Williams. And I think that spoke volumes.

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The transition tag gives the team the capacity to match any offer Williams might obtain on the free agent market. But Williams does not want to return to Minnesota, according to his agent, and he would be discontented if the Vikings hold him back.

"[Williams] would like to move on," agent Jordan Feagan said. "He's expressed to them that he would rather not go back."

Williams' contract expires this week and he is entitled for unrestricted free agency. By making him their transition player, the Vikings fundamentally offered him a one-year, $4.774 million guaranteed contract that he can sign at any time.

smoothat.jpg

I think this was significant news because Williams played so well when Fred Smoot went down (injury, not Love Boat) last season. I also think that Williams is viable enough to play both corner and strong safety. I really do. (Especially if my man Willie Offord is not resignd). And since the Vikings are expected to have a new strong safety next season with Corey Chavous almost certain to depart in free agency why not make a play to keep Williams?

But besides the dual aspect of a role with the Vikings, I'm more worried about what could happen should Williams depart. We would be stuck with Smoot lining up on the other side of the defensive backfield opposite Antonio Winfield.

Certainly, Smoot had an appalling year and is most likely not as bad a player as he showed last year......with some saying that Smoot showed more off the field than he did on. And certainly Williams may not be as good as he showed when one thinks about the 2004 season when Williams was giving up more big plays than the Minnesota Lottery.

What do you think? Should the Vikings, projected to be $20 million under the slary cap, make a huge play to retain Williams? Who do you want starting at CB next season. Vote below.




Zygi Approval Poll

As many of the readers of the VU know, I ran a Tice Approval Poll all season long. Ol' Pencil Ear ended up hovering around the 46% approval mark by and large for the season. The poll seemed to be well received and a lot of merriment for everyone, so I decided to continue it, but change the targeted person to new owner Zygi Wilf.

Each month, you will have the chance to vote on Wilf's approval rating. The final number in January was an astounding 94% approval rating for the new owner. The February number dropped a hair to 88% approval. Zygi is on a roll!

The March Approval Poll is now up and you can vote just to the left.

What do you think of those numbers? Warranted? Have a comment? Leave one at the end of this entry and don't forget to vote in the March poll!

New Poll

Posted just below the March Zygi Approval Poll is a new poll on which potential new stadium deserves to approved by the Minnesota Legislature and then built. This is for pure fun. I hope both professional teams can get new stadiums approved and ground broken this year!

As always, for the latest on local stadium news and how the legisilative vote is shaping up look no further than the Greet Machine. And as of today, the Minnesota Legislature is in session!

More from Google Earth

It seemed that many of you enjoyed guessing the Google Earth stadium shots I posted Tuesday. So here are four more. These are much more challenging. One is very tricky. See if you can name the NFL teams that play in the stadiums. First one that guesses them all correctly via e-mail to me will get his or her name mentioned (hey, I can't cough up any dough right now). No clues either. You should be able to get two without much thought but some may give you trouble....unless you live there!

UPDATE: We already have a winner! Peter Deusterman correctly guessed all four stadiums at 8:20 AM CST! Congrats Peter! The rest of you will have to keep working at it.

Stadium Shot One

Stadium Shot Two

Stadium Shot Three

Stadium Shot Four

VU Housekeeping

For the regular readers, I have completed some changes to the left and right frames and just wanted to walk through those in case you can't locate links.

The Podcast and Videocast links have been moved from the left frame to the right. Added to the right frame are a Creative Copyright License and my Blog's Networth ($24,275.22....don't ask me how they arrive at that number!).

New to the left frame are Quotes about the VU from various media outlets. I hope to add additional quotes as they come in. Below that is Purple News which is a RSS News service that supposedly will pull together only Vikings storys as they come in. That way, you can just use the VU as your central clearing house for direct links to other Vikings related news.

And just to remind everyone about Flickr, the new photo service I will be experimenting with to bring you my personal photos of the Vikings. Currently, I have over eighty photos posted from last year's Mini-Camp. How is everyone liking that? I will post more if people are enjoying reviewing the photos. I hope to use this for posting new photos in 2006 from mini-camp and such. Just provide me with feedback (positive or negative) on the Flickr setup thus far.

And yes, I have been in contact with Winter Park on several fronts. I hope to have some additional news and interviews soon. But please realize they are entering the crazy period of Free Agency, preparing for the Draft Party and the NFL draft, and even training camp. Winter Park never sleeps.

Come back Thursday when I'll have the latest from former coach Bud Grant and Minnesota Momentum, the guiding forces behind the big push for a new Vikings stadium. They are going all out. I'll have the new TV ad to share along with a memo from Grant. Wow! I don't see the Twins putting in this much effort!

Posted by maasx003 at 1:14 AM