Unable to rely on signing NFL free agents in the near future because the collective bargaining agreement is about to expire, the Vikings continued to work on scouting player north of the border over the past year.
The Canadian Football League helped advance linebacker Kenny Onatolu's career to the NFL level in 2009, and this year the Vikings have already signed receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux and were in the hunt for defensive end Philip Hunt.
According to Adam Caplan of FOXSports.com, the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles also expressed interest in signing Hunt, who had 19 sacks over the last two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but the Eagles are expected to sign him.
NFL teams have until next Tuesday to sign CFL players. According to Caplan, Hunt , 25, worked out for the Texans (Dec. 28), Cleveland Browns (Dec. 16), Vikings (Dec. 18), New England Patriots (Dec. 20) and Eagles (Dec. 14).
With starting left end Ray Edwards and top reserve Brian Robison scheduled to be unrestricted free agents – and Everson Griffen's pending legal troubles – the Vikings' interest in a defensive end makes sense. According to Caplan, one NFL personnel source said he believes Hunt could contribute about 10 plays per game in 2011.
Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel, continues to look at the talent in other leagues for possible talent that could contribute in the NFL.
"Every time we got a pretty good indication of guys that stood out in those leagues, then we're going to try to be as aggressive as we can to go get them," he said. "(Arceneaux is) still a young kid and still needs to develop and we'll see where it goes from there. It's like we went out and got back Lorenzo Booker. He stuck out when we were watching the tape on the UFL. Hopefully, just like everything else when you're signing college free agents, you try to sign as many of those guys as you can and then hopefully you're going to hit on most of them, or at least some of them."
While the NFL draft will go on as planned from April 28-30, if there isn't a collective bargaining agreement in place by then, NFL teams won't be able to sign college free agents. The Vikings usually add about a dozen of those players to evaluate during their offseason of organized team activities and minicamps.
Onatolu turned out to be a good find for the Vikings. In 2009, his first year with the Vikings, he produced 24 special-teams tackles, tying for the team lead, and recovered a Reggie Bush fumble in the NFC Championship Game. Last year, he had 10 special-teams tackles. Onatolu spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos following his collegiate career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Arceneaux made the most of his CFL experience, catching 130 passes for 1,972 yards and 12 TDs in two seasons with the B.C Lions. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder worked out for eight NFL teams before the Vikings came calling with a three-year contract worth more than $1.2 million.
"Fortunately, of the eight teams, (the Vikings) obviously saw a fit for a receiver of my stature or with the skills I have. That's probably why they showed interest and brought me in," Arceneaux said. "The thing is to go somewhere with someone (that) wants you or somewhere you can possibly be needed. That's what the Minnesota Vikings showed me. They provided me with an opportunity and that's an opportunity that I look forward to being able to take advantage of."
Spielman found some success with CFL players when he was in the personnel department with the Miami Dolphins.
"I know from our end, at least since I've been doing this, we've always been pretty aggressive in the Canadian Football League," Spielman said, citing Onatolu as one example. "Even when I was in Miami, Brendon Ayanbadejo ended up being in the Pro Bowl, special-teams player. We had a guard there, Mark Dixon, ended up starting there for a long time. I've always thought it was important to make sure you know what's in the UFL, to make sure you what's in the Canadian, make sure you know what's in the Arena. There are some players that may not have gotten the opportunity when they came out of college or they weren't ready and they go there and develop a couple years and then all the sudden they're ready for the NFL. But, again, if you're not out turning over the rock and trying to find guys and at least taking a swing at them with a couple of those guys, hopefully you'll hit on some of those."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings cultivate CFL scouting
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