The NFL has revealed the 2015 preseason schedule. The Vikings, who have already been announced as one of the two teams playing in the annual Hall of Fame game, will play five preseason games.
They will open against the Steelers in Canton, Ohio. They then host the Buccaneers and the Raiders before finishing the preseason on the road against the Cowboys and then the Titans.
Here is their complete preseasons schedule:
Preseason Week 1 (Aug. 9, 7:00 p.m. CT): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Canton, Ohio)
Preseason Week 2 (Aug. 14-16): vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Preseason Week 3 (Aug. 21-23): vs. Oakland Raiders
Preseason Week 4 (Aug. 28-29): at Dallas Cowboys
Preseason Week 5 (Sept. 3): at Tennessee Titans
NFL teams have started to exercise their fifth-year options on 2012 first-round picks. The headliner is Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick that year and now the franchise quarterback for the Colts.
The Vikings will soon have to make decisions on a pair of players in Harrison Smith and Matt Kalil.
Picking up the option on Smith, who was a Pro Bowl-caliber safety in 2014, is a no-brainer. The Vikings will have a tougher call on Kalil, who has regressed since making the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
In case you need a refresher on these fifth-year options, they are only available for teams to use on first-round draft picks. In the case of Kalil and Smith, the Vikings have the ability to keep them around through the 2016 season. Their fifth-year salaries — $11.1 million for Kalil and $5.3 million for Smith — would only be guaranteed in the event of injury. So if a healthy Kalil struggles, they can simply cut him before the 2016 league year and won’t have to pay him a dime of that $11.1 million.
The deadline for teams to exercise the option is May 3, the day after the draft wraps up.
I recently chatted with Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who now writes for CBS Sports, for another story I’m working on. While I had him on the phone, I asked him about the fifth-year options for Kalil and Smith. He agrees that Smith is a lock, but he’s curious to see how things play out with Kalil.
“Which Matt Kalil are you exercising the option for: the rookie year Matt Kalil or the one we saw the first part of last year? I guess that’s why it’s a decision,” Corry said. “It would be kind of hard not to since it’s not guaranteed unless there is an injury.
“So maybe you exercise it and take a wait-and-see approach,” he continued. “And if he isn’t what you thought he was — a cornerstone guy who is going to anchor the offensive line — then you don’t keep him after the 2015 season or you try to work out something for a lower salary in 2016 instead. You have more flexibility by exercising it. Because what if he puts it all together and lives up to his potential? Then you’re looking at the franchise tag, which would be more than the option.”
Last year, the first year that the fifth-year options came into play, the Vikings declined to use theirs on quarterback Christian Ponder, another young player who wasn’t living up to his draft status.
My gut tells me things will be different with Kalil and that they’ll exercise his on deadline day. But it is no sure thing, especially if the Vikings draft another left tackle with their 11th overall pick.
These are quotes from a story that ran in the Star Tribune just this week about Ricky Nolasco:
“I feel really strong. I’ve got my legs under me, right from the start. I was dedicated to our program this winter, and I think it’ll pay off.” — Nolasco.“I’ve been very pleased with Ricky. He came in here very determined to get off to a good start, both in how he prepared in the winter, and the competitive level he brought to his game here. The bottom line is, he’s pitched a lot better.” — Paul Molitor.
“We’ve said all along, we need to get Ricky headed in the right direction again.” — Terry Ryan.
On Wednesday, Nolasco was rocked by the Tigers. He did look notably slimmer, but the pitches were just as fat as they were a year ago.
And on Thursday, we get word that Nolasco is complaining of elbow pain — something Twins fans, and maybe even some Twins officials, might roll their eyes at as an excuse for another lousy outing. (He complained of elbow pain last year, too, as you’ll recall).
When Nolasco wasn’t bad last year, he was hurt. It earned a pitcher who signed a four-year, $49 million contract before the 2014 season the unofficial nickname “Ricky Fiasco.”
One start into 2015, nothing has changed. He’s either hurt, bad or both.
Peter King of MMQB/Si.com offered up some more Adrian Peterson speculation this week, mostly rehashing old chatter (which is still notable when someone with as much inside knowledge as King is willing to write it). King writes:
There’s no question he wants out of Minnesota. He feels the Vikings weren’t fully supportive of him when the allegations of excessively disciplining his son with a tree branch first surfaced last year. And he also knows—or must know—that if he wants out, now is the best time to make a clean break, with two contenders (Dallas, Arizona) in major need of running back help, and Peterson loving both of those contenders.
King also notes, though, that neither team would make a silly “offer they can’t refuse” trade in exchange for Peterson. Again, the reasons are familiar: he’s 30, he makes a ton of money, and good running backs are available in the draft.
What mostly caught our eye was the last paragraph: I see Dallas or Arizona—or my upset special, Jacksonville, still awash in cap money—making this deal only if Peterson can make the financials easier on them, and if the Vikings are willing to take a lesser pick for him. For now, I don’t think the Vikings are willing to do that. And so it’s a stalemate.
King leaves things where they have been for a long time, with no ideal solution any way around. But the mention of Jacksonville does make me think of one player in particular: Toby Gerhart.
Gerhart, of course, was drafted in 2010, ostensibly as a replacement for Chester Taylor and a backup to Peterson with the Vikings. the change of pace/third-down back role was not ideal for Gerhart or the Vikings. Minnesota should have used the pick it spent on Gerhart (a second-rounder) to improve in another area. Gerhart should have gone to a team where he could have been a featured back. Instead, he got 276 career carries in four Vikings seasons (about the equivalent of one season for a featured back).
When his rookie deal was up after 2013, he escaped to Jacksonville on a three-year, $10.5 million deal. It wasn’t huge money, but the idea was that he would get a chance to be an every down back. He had a dismal year, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry on 101 attempts. And now — though it’s just speculation as King’s “upset special” to acquire Peterson — he could have that same familiar running back following him to Florida.
Even if Gerhart might be better suited as a backup, after all, I couldn’t help but think if I was him and hearing the rumors, “What do I have to do to get away from this guy?”