Running back Adrian Peterson traveled to New York yesterday for a meeting with Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and General Manager Rick Spielman, a team source confirmed. The source said the meeting was the next step in the dialogue between Peterson and the organization.
Last week, Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer flew to Houston to meet with Peterson at his home there. That meeting, which both sides thought was productive, lasted about four hours.
The Vikings had been limited in their communications with Peterson while he was suspended, due to NFL rules. But now that he is back on the commissioner’s exempt list, which is keeping him in limbo with the league, anyone in the Vikings organization is able to talk with Peterson.
The timing of yesterday’s meeting is noteworthy because the league year starts today at 3 p.m. CDT. Soon, teams will be able to officially sign free agents from other teams and they will also be allowed to resume making trades. Peterson has not publicly requested a trade or to be released.
Peterson’s future with the Vikings has been uncertain since he was charged with child abuse in September and placed on the exempt list. Peterson said last month that he felt “uneasy” about a possible return to the Vikings, citing a perceived lack of support from the organization.
The Vikings, meanwhile, have been maintaining publicly that they would like Peterson to remain on the team this season. That included a public endorsement from Mark Wilf last month.
The Wilfs got their chance to tell Peterson how they felt yesterday. We’ll see what happens next.
USA Today first reported yesterday’s meeting between the Vikings and Peterson.
We all like to spend Zygi Wilf’s money and gobble up Rick Spielman’s salary cap room because, well, we like football, we have a Twitter account and we got a few moments to kill before lunch. Plus, we’re all smarter than billionaires, coaches and GMs, right?
But it does help to at least acknowledge that we, the obsessed masses of NFL followers, don’t always take a step back and realize there might be a 141st character or more that’s needed to see the entire puzzle. And, believe it or not, that puzzle has pieces that won’t be tweeted about for months, even years down the road, assuming Twitter doesn’t give way to something more annoying advanced.
We know the Vikings need a playmaker at strong safety to put next to the playmaker they already have at free safety. The Vikings showed interest in Devin McCourty. That interest disappeared when the price tag rose until the Patriots ultimately paid $22.5 million in guarantees and $30 million in the first three years.
Yes, the Vikings have cap space. But they’re also heading toward big paydays for a line of young first-round draft picks that is seven deep. The first one in that line is that playmaking free safety, Harrison Smith, who could surpass McCourty’s deal this time next year if he has a great season, which is expected of Smith.
Let’s shift to the quarterback position. To me, it’s the top priority in free agency. Even ahead of left guard, although I’d be working on the two of them simultaneously.
Matt Cassel was the ideal backup quarterback. I’d have kept him and paid the $4.75 million because I’m not convinced Bridgewater is sturdy enough physically to not get hurt and miss at least a game or two. And, if you take a leap of faith and assume that Adrian Peterson has one more season in purple, I’d want a smooth transition to Cassel if Bridgewater gets hurt. I also think Bridgewater is a keeper who will only get better, but that’s not guaranteed.
I also get stuck on the fact the Vikings paid $2 million to rent Josh Freeman for about three months — and one miserable start in his only outing — just two years ago. But I do understand that the team was a whole lot more desperate for a starting quarterback two years ago.
It was obvious the Vikings have half or more of Cassel’s pay this season earmarked for something else. Since teams can roll cap space from year to year, perhaps that money will end up in Smith’s pocket next year.
It doesn’t hurt that the Vikings packaged Cassel and a sixth-round pick to Buffalo for a fifth-rounder this year and a seventh next year. Not a bad return considering the Bears could only get a fifth-rounder for one of the league’s more dangerous receivers.
Now, the Vikings have targeted Shaun Hill. And the feedback I’m hearing from people is he’s not good enough. They wanted Brian Hoyer or another higher-profile name. But those are the guys who cost more and have more leverage. To chase them would defeat the decision to trade Cassel.
Hill began his career with the Vikings as an undrafted rookie in 2002. Then-coach Mike Tice, a Maryland guy, loved Maryland guys. A lot.
In five years with the Vikings, Hill appeared in one game. His last with the team. He took two kneel downs in a season-ending win over the Bears. About 15 minutes later, Wilf fired Tice in the locker room. So long, Shaun.
Now heading into a 14th NFL season, Hill is 35 with 46 starts. Weighing the Vikings’ obvious decision not to overpay a backup, Hill also is the best fit for the Vikings.
He is 23-23 as a starter, including 3-5 with the Rams a year ago. He was hurt in the season-opening loss to the Vikings, but also returned and beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos in his first game back. He posted a 102.7 passer rating while completing 20 of 29 passes in that game.
And besides being cost effective and experienced, he also spent a year in San Francisco with current Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Hill has other teams chasing him. Assuming the price tag stays more reasonable than Cassel’s, he’s the right fit for the situation.
The Vikings can officially trade Adrian Peterson today. Six months ago, that would have sounded crazy. Now, it’s a practical question to wonder if the Vikings are going to, in fact, trade the player who was the face of the franchise for so many years — and to wonder, too, what they might get in return.
It’s in that second part that we delve into a strange meditation on the relative value of draft picks, not just in the NFL but in all four of the major U.S. men’s pro sports leagues.
ESPN’s John Clayton said on the radio Monday that he thinks Peterson would fetch a fourth-round pick in a trade. That’s it — and that’s the best-case scenario, per Clayton. To a Vikings fan, particularly one who hasn’t paid much attention to the ways of the modern NFL, that might seem as absurd as the notion of trading Peterson would have been before this past year happened.
To be sure, it’s just the opinion of one man. But it’s probably pretty accurate based on the value of LeSean McCoy. Brandon Marshall, a talented wide receiver, fetched a fifth-round pick in a trade with the Jets.
What’s hard to wrap one’s head around, at times, is how much the value of a draft pick changes from league to league — and from generation to generation. Here’s our attempt at assigning value, when it comes to trades:
In the NBA, a top-five pick is gold. A lottery pick is valuable. A first-round pick is useful. A second-round pick? Depends on how you use it, but it’s largely used as a throw-in when it comes to trade value. And that’s it. There are only two rounds. If you want to crack an NBA roster, you had best be the elite of the elite.
In the NHL, a first-round pick is gold. A second- or third-round pick is valuable, but not as much so as in the NFL. These are the picks that fetch valuable rental players in deadline trades. Beyond that, depth can be found but the odds get longer.
In the NFL, it feels like every draft pick has value. First-round picks are of course the gold standard. Second-round picks are still blue-chip talents. Third-round picks routinely become NFL starters. Fourth-round picks might be projects, but they are still valuable. Same for fifth-round picks. Sixth- and seventh-round picks can be marginal, but they still have value.
In MLB, who knows? First-round picks are obviously valuable, but because MLB does not allow the trading of regular draft picks, it’s hard to assign value. Also, the draft is absurdly long, still — 40 rounds — and players might be picked far lower than expected because of the threat they will go to college.
What we do know is that draft picks in all four leagues have grown increasingly valuable because of the trend in every league toward controlled salaries for younger players until they reach a certain level of service time.
Still, what it mean in the context of Peterson, to us, is this: If all the Vikings could really get for him is a fourth-round pick, he clearly has more value in a football-only context in purple than in a trade. A generation ago, Herschel Walker fetched three No. 1 picks and three No. 2 picks, among other things. Peterson apparently can’t even garner one of either of those.
If a Peterson deal is made, it won’t be for value. It will be for a fresh start on both sides.
With the official start of free agency looming in roughly 24 hours, the Vikings have only agreed to deals with a pair of their own free agents. But they continue to have discussions with the agents of players from other teams. One of the positions they have been targeting is at left guard.
The Vikings released starting left guard Charlie Johnson two weeks ago and Joe Berger and Vlad Ducasse, a pair of veteran backups, are scheduled to hit free agency tomorrow afternoon. So the left guard position, perhaps the weakest spot on the offensive line in 2014, is an obvious need heading info free agency.
The Vikings have expressed some interest in bringing Berger back, but a deal is not imminent, according to a league source. It is unclear if the team sees Berger, who will turn 33 in May, as a potential starter in 2015 or if they want him to resume his role as a valuable backup who can play all three interior positions in a pinch. He ended up starting nine games in that role last season.
The top guards in free agency are considered to be Mike Iupati, Orlando Franklin and Clint Boling. But Iupati is reportedly signing with the Cardinals and Franklin is joining the Chargers.
Still, Boling is an intriguing option. While he does not have the accolades of Iupati, a three-time Pro Bowler, the former Bengal is a good run blocker who would likely come cheaper than Iupati.
Plus, it probably doesn’t hurt that Mike Zimmer was on Cincinnati’s staff his first three seasons.
Boling, 25, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2011. He has been a full-time starter for them since 2012 and has started 47 games in his career. Most of those starts were at left guard.
Other free-agent options include Justin Blalock, James Carpenter and Dan Connolly. Or if the Vikings don’t sign a starting guard in free agency, they could look in next month’s NFL draft for someone who can compete with second-year guard David Yankey, who did not play as a rookie.
In other news, the Vikings have also stayed in touch with the veteran quarterback Shaun Hill and maintain interest in signing him to back up second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater. But they aren’t the only team that is interested in Hill, who reportedly has a few suitors.
Additionally, the Vikings must decide by tomorrow what to do with restricted free agents in running back Matt Asiata, offensive tackle Mike Harris and linebacker Dom DeCicco. The expectation is that Asiata and Harris will be tendered — I’m not sure about DeCicco — though there is a chance that the Vikings could agree on a new contract with Asiata, a player the coaching staff is fond of, first.
What else do the Vikings need to do beyond finding a starting left guard and a backup quarterback? Check out Mark Craig’s offseason to-do list in our Access Vikings free agency tracker blog post.
The Vikings have reached a one-year deal with restricted free agent Matt Asiata, according to a league source. The deal will give the running back an opportunity to make more through incentives.
While Asiata’s role for 2015 is uncertain due to the Adrian Peterson situation, the Vikings like what the 27-year-old brings to the table. Last season, Asiata was trusted to be a pass protector, the goal-line back and the guy they gave the ball to when they couldn’t afford a fumble. If a player can do many things — and is willing to do them at a reasonable price — why not keep him around?
Last season, Asiata started in nine of his 15 games and rushed for 570 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns. He also caught 44 passes for 312 yards and a touchdown. He lost one fumble.
In his Vikings career, Asiata, who at one point was a fullback here, has rushed for 745 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has averaged 3.5 yards per carry during his three seasons on the active roster.
The Vikings now have two remaining restricted free agents that they must choose whether to tender by tomorrow afternoon. They are swing tackle Mike Harris and linebacker Dom DeCicco.