Now that DeMarco Murray has decided to trade in his Cowboys stars for Eagles wings, many Vikings fans — and some NFL talking heads, too — are connecting the dots between the Cowboys and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who may or may not want to go play in Dallas.
For that to happen, though, the Vikings have to be ready to part ways with Peterson. And as I wrote a couple of days ago, they are still trying to talk Peterson into suiting up for them this season.
As of now, there are no more meetings scheduled. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be.
Peterson has said he feels “uneasy” about coming back to Minnesota, partly because he thought the Vikings didn’t have his back when he got put on the commissioner’s exempt list in September.
He also was unhappy that Gov. Mark Dayton said he should be suspended. He is not pleased with this newspaper for writing this article in October. And he no doubt has glanced at his mentions on Twitter and seen all the negative comments directed at him by a sector of the fan base. I’m told by a source who knows him pretty well that all of those things have weighed on his mind.
And with Peterson set to make $12.75 million in salary in 2015, money is the elephant in the room. But the Vikings have not asked him to take a pay cut and might not at any point this offseason.
Now next offseason…? Well, let’s just get through this one first.
Right now, the team has all the leverage if Peterson is angling for a trade or a new contract with more guaranteed money. If he does end up refusing to wear Vikings horns this fall, they could dig their heels in and say, “OK, you either play for us or no one at all.” Or maybe they eventually wave a white flag and just end this saga by trading him away, scoring draft picks in the process.
If that happens, they shouldn’t expect to get much for a running back who turns 30 next weekend, has had three surgeries the past few years, and has a big contract and now off-the-field baggage.
Now maybe Jerry Jones, sans Murray, will be enamored enough with Peterson to offer a high draft pick for him. But even Jones has been responsible and, well, kind of boring the past couple of years.
But remember, the Vikings have to want to trade Peterson for all these swirling trade rumors to be relevant. And right now, based on what I’ve heard, it doesn’t seem like they want to do that.
Tommy Milone is a 28-year-old left-handed starting pitcher with a 3.98 career ERA in close to 500 innings of work. He’s making a modest, by baseball standards, $2.78 million this season.
The Twins have had rancid starting pitching, for the most part, for each of the past four seasons. Their starters have never finished better than 26th in ERA in MLB during those four years. Several spots in the rotation have been bad every year, let alone the fifth spot.
And yet we get the sense there are some Twins fans actively rooting against Milone to lock down the No. 5 spot in the rotation this year, a spot he took another step toward grabbing with three more scoreless innings Wednesday.
Look: We want to see Alex Meyer as much as everyone else. He could very well be ready to contribute coming out of camp.
But Milone, even if he is not a hard thrower nor a strikeout pitcher (6.5 per nine innings in his career), has a track record of getting hitters out. That is not something the Twins have had enough of in recent years.
If he’s good enough to win the job, it will be a boon for the Twins — giving them a lefty in a rotation filled with righties as well as a guy who has had at least adequate MLB success.
Meyer, Trevor May and others will get their chances soon enough, as there are almost always injuries or other reasons to shake up the starting rotation. For now, be glad that Milone is pitching well. It could be worse. It has been worse.
This time a year ago, the Buccaneers were praised for signing defensive end Michael Johnson, who developed into a double-digit sack man for the Bengals under Mike Zimmer’s watch. Those same analysts were criticizing the Vikings for giving a similarly-sizable contract to Everson Griffen.
It turns out the Vikings got much more bang for their buck. Griffen had a team-leading 12 sacks and was a Pro Bowl candidate. Johnson, meanwhile, had just four sacks in his first season in Tampa Bay.
And, as it turns out, it was his last season in Tampa Bay, too.
The Buccaneers released Johnson yesterday, a year after agreeing to give him $43.75 million over five years (keep that in mind if you’re upset the Vikings haven’t made a splash in free agency). Because of offsets in the deal, the Buccaneers will pay Johnson $7 million in 2015 no matter what.
Naturally, now that he is back on the market, the Vikings are being linked to Johnson.
From a football standpoint, it makes sense beyond the obvious yet still noteworthy ties to Zimmer.
Griffen, their $42.5 million man, and Brian Robison, who turns 32 in April, were the starters a season ago. They spent a third-round pick on Scott Crichton, who rarely touched the field and watched the team activate Justin Trattou, back in 2015 on a futures contract, over him down the stretch. Veteran reserve Corey Wootton was a disappointment and is not expected to be back.
The Vikings, looking to improve their depth and possibly even find an eventual replacement for Robison, have showed interest in defensive ends such as Adrian Clayborn in free agency.
I’m sure they’ll give a call to Johnson’s agent, too, if they haven’t already. The 28-year-old is an explosive athlete in a 6-foot-7 and 270-pound frame and is three years removed from an 11.5-sack season. Johnson has mostly played right end, the same position as Griffen, in his six NFL seasons, including the five he spent with Zimmer. But you have to figure Zimmer could find a role for him.
As is usually the case in this league, Johnson’s potential cost could be a major factor.
The Vikings put a price on every player and perhaps he would consider a short-term prove-it deal because of those Buccaneers checks he will continue to cash. But if he wants another sizable pay day, it wouldn’t make sense cap-wise unless the Vikings are ready to move on from Robison now.
Now I’m not saying that is the case. But it is worth noting that Robison is due a $2 million salary guarantee today and the rest of his $4.15 base salary will become guaranteed on July 1.
Anyway, whether Robison stays or goes, Johnson is probably a guy worth keeping tabs on.
What’s left to be done for the Vikings? Check out their to-do list in our free agency tracker.