The Vikings will have a new offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, and new scheme, but the personnel will be familiar.
Despite significant changes to the defensive personnel, the Vikings have all 11 starters from their 2013 roster under contract for 2014. The key was re-signing quarterback Matt Cassel, who ended the season as the starter for the final four games, starting six games total and playing in nine.
"I think it helps a lot," fullback Jerome Felton said of Cassel re-signing. "Obviously it was a tough situation, probably for all those quarterbacks last year, a lot like a merry-go-round. I'm sure he had a lot of conversations with Norv and Coach (Mike) Zimmer about what their role for him is. I think he'll go out there and earn whatever he can. He played well for us when he got his opportunity. He's one of those guys that you want to have around the locker room. You like how he presents himself in the huddle. He's a veteran quarterback who has been in the league and had past success."
Cassel initially signed a two-year contract with the Vikings last March, but he opted out of the 2014 portion of that contract because it guaranteed him only $500,000 of the $3.7 million total. With his new two-year, $10.5 million deal, he already received a $3 million roster bonus on Monday.
Dealing with a new coaching staff but mostly the same offensive personnel likely helped entice Cassel to re-sign with the Vikings before even testing the free agent market.
"All of those factors that came into play with the hiring of Coach Zimmer, Coach Turner, the great staff that they were able to compile to put together, along with my familiarity with the players on the team, the weapons that we have on the offensive side of the ball and from a comfort level with my family and living in Minnesota and the people that we met," Cassel said. "I think all of those things gave me all the influence that I needed to re-sign before I even went to the free agency market."
Felton said last week that he hadn't talked with Turner yet, but he was already getting an idea of what the offense would look like from talking to other players – from teammates that have talked with Turner to former players that worked under Turner.
"Everyone is saying how he likes to run the football and throw the ball deep. That's good with me," Felton said. "Obviously with Adrian (Peterson), you're going to run the football and I think I bring a lot to the table when it comes to that. I'm just working hard, trying to be in the best shape I can and be as versatile as he wants me to be. Whatever role he has for me, I'm willing to accept it and go full speed ahead."
Felton has talked to a couple of the best fullbacks to play under Turner and is intrigued by the possibilities.
"When he was with the Cowboys, Moose Johnston was his fullback, one of the best guys to ever do it. San Diego, I think he had Lorenzo Neal," Felton said. "People like that I know, and talking to my agent or guys around the league, they go to those guys he's had in his offense. If that's the role I can play, I'm excited to have that. I'm looking forward to it. I'm training hard. I feel good."
At different points his decision-making process on a contract, Cassel had talked with Turner. He said he has some experience with an offense similar to the one Turner runs, but one of the draws was a confidence that Turner was going to put him and the offensive personnel in advantageous situations.
"I just think it's a trust factor. I trust that he's going to put you in a position to be successful because his résumé definitely will show that throughout his career that he's going to put his quarterback in a great position to be successful along with everybody else on that offensive side of the field," Cassel said. "Then you go in with that trust factor and then you obviously have to build that relationship and get to know him – how he likes to call the plays, how he sees the field, watching film and doing all of that stuff. But at the same time it gives you a lot of confidence as a player knowing that, hey, if I go in and do what I'm supposed to do, then there's a great possibility that I'm going to be very successful."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings: Familiarity, trust keys for offense
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