Tagged in: Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings, safety Xavier Woods reach 1-year deal

The Minnesota Vikings agreed to a contract with free-agent safety Xavier Woods, the team revealed.

Terms were not disclosed but a source confirmed to ESPN on Saturday that it’s a one-year, $2.25 million deal that contains $1.75 million guaranteed.

The 25-year-old Woods, who developed into a versatile safety with the ability to cover the slot over his first four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, is expected to fill the Vikings’ opening at free safety opposite Harrison Smith after Anthony Harris’ departure in free agency.

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After concluding the season ranked 29th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed, Minnesota has focused its efforts on the defensive side.

In addition to Woods, the Vikings have acquired only defensive players in free agency — defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, linebacker Nick Vigil and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander as head coach Mike Zimmer looks to revamp a unit that allowed 29.7 points per game in 2020 (third-worst in the NFL).

A sixth-round draft pick in 2017, Woods became a full-time starter in his second season with the Cowboys and started his last 44 matches, missing four games over three seasons because of injury.

Heading into 2020, he was viewed as a cornerstone piece to the Cowboys’ secondary, but he struggled despite finishing second on the team with 72 tackles. He had just two tackles for loss, did not record a sack and had just two passes defended while not intercepting a pass for the first time in his career.

Woods can play both safety spots and also played as a nickel cornerback as a rookie.

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Minnesota Vikings release TE Kyle Rudolph after 10 seasons

The Minnesota Vikings have released veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph after 10 seasons, the team revealed on Tuesday.

The move saves Minnesota $5.1 million against the salary cap for 2021. Rudolph, 31, will become a free agent for the first time in his NFL career.

The former second-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2011 issued a heartfelt goodbye in a story published by The Players’ Tribune reflecting on his 10 seasons in Minnesota.

“I got so lucky, because — I didn’t just get drafted by some team who ‘had a need at tight end,’ Rudolph wrote. “I didn’t just get drafted as, like, the nameless, faceless ‘#1 tight end on the board.’ I got drafted by a team that was all set in terms of need … but then drafted me anyway.

“I’ll always remember that: how the Minnesota Vikings wanted me — and wanted to bet on my potential.” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman weighed in on Rudolph’s release in a statement, calling him “one of the premier tight ends in the NFL and most influential and positive leaders I’ve ever been around.”

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“Kyle and [his wife] Jordan have made such an immeasurable impact on our team and community that may never be matched,” Spielman said. “The energy they have invested in the community, most notably through the End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, is truly remarkable. I admire Kyle and we will miss him and his family. We sincerely wish them the best.”

Rudolph had three years left on the contract he signed in June 2019 after the Vikings approached him to restructure his deal via an extension.

He was in danger of being a cap casualty this offseason with a $9.45 million cap hit and a role that has decreased significantly in the Vikings’ offense over the past two seasons.

Rudolph spoke earlier this offseason about his desire for a bigger role in Minnesota’s offense or elsewhere and said he would not be open to a restructure if the team approached him about taking a pay cut.

“I think I’m worth every dime of my contract,” Rudolph said on the podcast “Unrestricted with Ben Leber” in January.

“That doesn’t mean that I’m used to my potential and I’m used to do what I do well, so it will be interesting over the next few months. Like I said, I have three years left on my contract. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I’ve somehow become a pretty decent blocker because I’ve been forced to. It certainly wasn’t something that I ever did well at any point of my career. Maybe in high school because I was bigger than everyone else, but even then, I just wanted to run around and catch balls.”

Rudolph caught 28 passes on 35 targets in 2020, his lowest output since the 2014 season. He churned up 334 receiving yards and one touchdown, the latter of which was a career low for the former second-rounder.

At 31, Rudolph said he feels he has “a lot of good football left” and will have an opportunity to play for his second NFL team. Rudolph’s impact off the field was well documented throughout his time in Minnesota. The tight end’s work with the Masonic Children’s Hospital led to him being the Vikings’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee three consecutive times from 2017-19.

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Denver Broncos reach deal with Minnesota Vikings’ George Paton to be general manager

John Elway and the Denver Broncos wanted George Paton to be the team’s new general manager so much, Paton was given a longer deal than Elway ever had in the same job.

Paton, who has spent the past 13 years with the Minnesota Vikings, has agreed to a six-year deal to be the Broncos’ general manager, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Broncos informed Paton’s hiring on Wednesday but did not disclose terms.

Paton had spent most of Tuesday in Denver for what was a second interview for him with team officials, and had returned to Minnesota Tuesday night.

Elway had promised to find the “best candidate, the best person” for the job. The Broncos also interviewed New Orleans Saints assistant general manager Terry Fontenot, Chicago Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly, the New England Patriots’ Dave Ziegler and the Broncos’ director of college scouting Brian Stark.

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“Early in this process, it became clear why George has been such a coveted GM candidate for so many years. He is a proven evaluator who knows every detail of leading football operations,” Elway said in a statement.

“With his experience in all aspects of the job — the college and pro sides, salary cap, trades, working with the head coach and bringing the staff together — George is more than ready to succeed in this role. George has waited and worked for the right opportunity, which shows that he is smart and serious about winning. We’re thrilled to name George Paton as general manager of the Denver Broncos.”

Paton and Fontenot, who did his interview virtually because the Saints are still in the playoffs, were each interviewed a second time Tuesday.

Elway, who has been the Broncos’ top football decision-maker since 2011, announced Jan. 4 he was stepping away from the day-to-day personal operations but would stay as president of football operations at least through the final year of his current contract.

Elway also said he didn’t think the team’s current ownership battle between Pat Bowlen’s children would affect the Broncos’ ability to secure what he believed would be a top candidate. Paton’s six-year deal would likely bridge any potential change in the team’s ownership in the coming years.

Paton has control over the team’s roster, free agency and the draft. The Broncos have missed the playoffs in five consecutive campaigns since the Super Bowl 50 victory and finished this past season 5-11.

The team faces contract option decisions on linebacker Von Miller and Kareem Jackson, and Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons is scheduled to be among the team’s unrestricted free agents. A decision about the plan at quarterback also is among the front-burner issues for the Broncos.

The team has one of the youngest rosters in the league and enough salary-cap room to participate in the open market. Paton is widely considered among the top talent evaluators on the Vikings’ personnel staff, and his exit leaves Minnesota with a big void in the front office. Ryan Monnens, the current director of pro scouting, could be in line to replace Paton this offseason.

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Minnesota Vikings’ Danielle Hunter to have season ending neck surgery

The Vikings will forge through the remainder of the campaign without their top two pass-rushers, one of whom has not seen the field in 2020.

Hours after Minnesota traded Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens, recouping much of the draft capital they sent to Jacksonville when they acquired the defensive end in August, a league source confirmed to ESPN that Danielle Hunter will undergo season-ending neck surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Hunter’s injury was initially described as a “tweak” by coach Mike Zimmer and was expected to keep him out six to eight weeks, according to a source. The defensive end’s last practice was Aug. 14, the Vikings’ first day of practice during training camp.

Hunter, who had 54.5 sacks through five seasons and back-to-back Pro Bowl honors, agreed to an extension in 2018 and is set to be under contract for the next three seasons. In spite of his production, becoming the fastest player ever to reach 50.0 sacks, Hunter is the 18th-highest-paid defensive end with an average salary of $14.4 million per year.

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It was widely expected that the Vikings would have to restructure Hunter’s contract in the upcoming offseason to better reflect his value. But with the salary cap expected to drop considerably in 2021, Minnesota will soon need to resolve whether they can make Hunter the league’s highest-paid defensive end with a deal north of the $27 million per year paid to Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa, or potentially entertain offers for a trade.

The Vikings have not publicly acknowledged Hunter’s season-ending surgery. Weeks ago, the defensive end traveled to New York to get a second opinion on his neck injury.  Zimmer had said that the visit did not reveal any further clarity about his condition.

“[He’s] still kind of mulling his options, I think,” Zimmer said on Oct. 14.

Earlier Thursday, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman discussed the team’s decision to trade Ngakoue to the Ravens and whether he thought back in August that Minnesota would be able to field both pass-rushers this season, in spite of Hunter’s injury.

“I would say it was more — because we didn’t know where Danielle was at the time — what you envision sometimes unfortunately doesn’t always come true,” Spielman said.

“To have a Yannick and Danielle coming off the edges, to have an Anthony Barr and the way Zim has schematically used him to create pressure on the quarterback so he’s one-on-one with running backs, that’s how we envisioned it. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out like that. You try to readjust with some of the top playmakers you don’t have, especially on the defensive side. That’s what the coaches are doing right now.”

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Minnesota Vikings sign LB Todd Davis to fill void after Anthony Barr, Troy Dye injuries

The Minnesota Vikings signed veteran linebacker Todd Davis on Thursday after losing linebacker Anthony Barr to injury in their Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Barr, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, was placed on injured reserve earlier this week after he tore his pectoral muscle in the second quarter of the Vikings’ 28-11 loss to the Colts in Week 2.

Barr is estimated to miss the remainder of the campaign. Fourth-round rookie Troy Dye substituted Barr on Sunday before suffering an ankle injury.

The injuries to both Barr and Dye led to Ryan Connelly making his debut two weeks after being claimed by Minnesota.

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Dye was placed on injured reserve Thursday in a corresponding move.

Davis has been a tackling machine over the course of his career. In 2019, the Sacramento State product had 134 tackles for the Broncos.

It’s unlikely that Davis sees many snaps this weekend since he just signed with Minnesota. That means the pressure could be on rookie linebacker Troy Dye to fill in at strongside linebacker.

Davis was released by the Denver Broncos earlier this month after five seasons with the team. He missed most of training camp with a calf injury.

Davis, 28, started at least 14 matches for the Broncos in each of the past four seasons. He played in 82 games for Denver since the team claimed him off of waivers in November 2014.

He had become a productive player for the Broncos as he played in all 16 games on a 2015 team that went on to gain Super Bowl 50. He then had at least 97 tackles in three of the past four seasons, and he topped 100 tackles in both 2018 (114) and 2019 (134).

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Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer agrees to multi year contract extension

Mike Zimmer has agreed to a multi-year contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The 64-year-old coach was entering the final year of his current contract with the club. Including the playoffs, Zimmer has compiled a 59-41-1 record during his first six campaigns with the franchise.

The Vikings have made the playoffs three times under Zimmer that included a trip to the NFL title game in 2017. In 2019, after just falling short of the postseason in 2018, the Vikings went 10-6 during the regular season before upsetting the Saints in the wild card round of the NFC playoffs.

Minnesota would then fall to the eventual NFC champion 49ers in the divisional round.  Zimmer is already the third-winningest coach in Vikings history, behind Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant and Dennis Green. He told Pelissero last summer that he’s feeling good, and that he doesn’t see any reason he can’t coach until he’s 70.

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Before coming to Minnesota, Zimmer spent 20 seasons as an NFL assistant that included 14 seasons as a defensive coordinator. After 15 seasons in the college ranks, Zimmer landed his first NFL job in 1994, serving as an assistant on the Cowboys’ defensive staff. The next season, as the team’s defensive backs coach, Zimmer would coach a secondary that recorded five interceptions during Dallas’ triumphs over Green Bay and Pittsburgh in the NFC playoffs.

In Super Bowl XXX, one of his players — cornerback Larry Brown — took home MVP honors following the Cowboys’ 27-17 victory over the Steelers. 

Zimmer spent seven seasons as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator (2000-06) and one season as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator (2007) before joining Marvin Lewis’ staff in Cincinnati in 2008.

Over the next six seasons, Zimmer helped the Bengals’ defense turn into one of the NFL’s better units. Cincinnati’s defense would help the Bengals capture AFC North division titles in 2009 and in 2013.  In 2015, his second season as the Vikings’ coach, Zimmer directed Minnesota to its first division title since 2009.

The Vikings following that season up with three more winning seasons under Zimmer, who it appears will remain in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. 

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Kirk Cousins, Vikings agree on 2 year extension

The Vikings have decided to extend the quarterback’s contract by two years, according to his agent, Mike McCartney (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the contract extension is worth $66 million, making the total arrangement worth $96 million over three years with $61 million guaranteed.

Cousins, 31, signed a three-year, $84 million deal with Minnesota in 2018 after six campaigns in Washington. When he joined the Vikings, the team was coming off a 13-3 season in which it won the NFC North but lost in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

In 2018, the Vikings took a step back, finishing second in the division and missing the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record. The setback didn’t last long, though. Cousins guided the Vikings to a 10-6 season and a wild-card berth in 2019, beating the New Orleans Saints in the postseason before falling to the San Francisco 49ers.

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He concluded his second season in Minnesota with 3,603 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 107.4 QB rating—the highest mark in his career.

Minnesota’s roster remains competitive in the NFC North, even as the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers remain in lockstep with their rival.

Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and wideouts Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen form an electric group of offensive weapons. While the Vikings finished the year with just the 16th-best offense in the league, there is room to grow.

With the offense locked in behind Cousins, the team can focus on building around it as the Vikings search for their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

Cousins was entering the final season of the fully guaranteed, three-year, $84 million contract he signed as a free agent in 2018. He was scheduled to carry a $31 million charge to Minnesota’s salary cap in 2020, so the impetus for doing a new deal now was to give the team with some immediate relief while giving Cousins some additional security.

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Gary Kubiak to take over OC duties for Vikings

Gary Kubiak has reportedly agreed to become the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, substituting Kevin Stefanski after he departed to take over the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns. 

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Kubiak will take the role after spending last season as an assistant head coach and offensive adviser on Mike Zimmer’s staff. 

Minnesota has been in the market for a new offensive coordinator since Stefanski was named as the Browns head coach Jan. 13. 

Stefanski took over as the Vikings offensive coordinator on an interim basis midway through the 2018 campaign after John DeFilippo’s firing. He was given the full-time job this season, and his unit ranked ninth in the NFL with 25.4 points per game. 

Kubiak returned to coaching in 2019 after spending the previous two years as a senior personnel adviser with the Denver Broncos. He walked away from being head coach of the Broncos following the 2016 season, citing health concerns.

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The 58-year-old was hospitalized with a complex migrane in October 2016 that caused him to miss Denver’s Week 6 game versus the San Diego Chargers. He had a previous health scare during the 2013 season as head coach of the Houston Texans when he was taken off on a stretcher after collapsing while leaving the field during halftime of a game versus the Indianapolis Colts.

Kubiak went 82-75 in 10 combined seasons as head coach of the Texans (2006-13) and Broncos (2015-16).

He won Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos and made the playoffs twice with the Texans, exiting in the divisional round on both occasions. 

Kubiak’s passing offenses have ranked in the top 10 in net yards per attempt 12 times since his first year as a coordinator in 1995. Eleven times, his scoring offenses cracked the top 10 during that span. A lot of that had to do with how much he was able to get out of the quarterback position.

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Vikings´ Adam Thielen suffers ankle injury

The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver corps is dealing with some problems heading into their Divisional Round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Stefon Diggs has been a DNP the past two days with an illness, and now Adam Thielen is dealing with an ankle injury.

The Vikings released their second practice participation report of the week, and Thielen was listed as limited. He was not on the team’s first report Tuesday afternoon.

There is no word on the severity of the injury, but head coach Mike Zimmer is certain to get questions about it on Thursday. Downgrades are never good, but limited participation is still better than a DNP.

The Thursday report will be something to keep an eye on.

That being said, the Vikings receiver corps is not going to be 100 percent coming into this game. Diggs seems likely to play barring a turn for the worse with his illness, but he and Thielen will be coming in off a limited week of work.

One or both should be high volume targets if active, but if they’re limited, it hurts Kirk Cousins’ potential output to at least a modest degree.

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“I got a little tangled up at practice, but I’m going to do whatever it takes (to play), it’s playoffs,” Thielen told NFL Network on Thursday.

This is Thielen’s second injury this campaign. He hurt his hamstring in the first quarter of a Week 7 victory at Detroit and made a brief return in Week 9, only to reinjure himself early in a beat at Kansas City.

The Vikings shut Thielen down for the next six weeks until he returned versus the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 15.

Thielen’s breakout performance versus the Saints — seven catches for 129 yards — came after totaling 109 total receiving yards in the last five games he played in 2019, including a Week 16 loss to Green Bay in which he was held without a catch.

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Kirk Cousins delivers for Vikings in Overtime to pick up first playoff victory

It will be the Minnesota Vikings, and not the New Orleans Saints, moving on to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.

After letting the Saints to tie up the game late in the fourth, the Vikings were guided down the field by Cousins and stunned the home crowd with walk-off touchdown to Zach Rudolph.

Cousins, who has been criticized throughout his entire career–including during his tenure in the nation’s capital–for not being able to deliver when the team needs him most, booked the Vikings a trip to San Francisco for a date with Jimmy Garappolo and the San Francisco 49ers. 

The 31-year-old Cousins lost his only previous playoff start — during the 2015 campaign with the Washington Redskins — and came up short of a playoff berth in the Vikings’ final game last season.

He also struggled in a handful of other high-profile matchups in prime time in 2019, but he delivered in Minnesota’s first road playoff victory since Jan. 9, 2005, when the Vikings defeated the rival Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the wild-card round.

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“I’m just happy we won,” Cousins said. “It was a great, great game, two good football teams.”

New Orleans fans surely begged to differ after seeing the NFC South champions’ season end in overtime at home for a second straight year.

The latest disappointing end for the Saints (13-4) came the year after they lost in the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams in a matchup marred by blatant penalties not being called against the Rams late in regulation.

This time, replays on video boards showed a possible push-off by Rudolph against defensive back P.J. Williams moments before he jumped to snag the winning catch.

NFL president of officiating Al Riveron said the league reviewed numerous replay angles, and though officials saw contact by both players, “none of that contact rises to the level of a foul.”

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