Birk getting full-meal deal with Ravens
March 3, 2009 – 6:45PM
Matt Birk is doing more than just going through the motions with the Baltimore Ravens, who are wining and dining Birk and his wife this evening. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was a strong possibility,” Birk told the Baltimore Sun and the Carroll County Times. “Me and my wife wouldn’t have come out here and looked around [if it wasn’t a good chance].”
Analysis: The Vikings are likely hoping that Birk will return to Minnesota and at least provide them an opportunity to match any offer he receives from the Ravens.
Browns next for Farwell
March 3, 2009 – 6:45PM
The Cleveland Browns are reportedly next on the list of visits for free agent linebacker Heath Farwell, who also met with the New England Patriots on Tuesday.
Analysis: Like with Birk, Minnesota has to be hoping for the chance to match with Farwell.
Tahi visiting Bengals
Word out of Cincinnati is that Vikings fullback Naufahu Tahi is visiting with his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals.
Analysis: The Vikings originally signed Tahi off their practice squad in 2006. He has since developed into the team’s starting fullback last season. Tahi is a restricted free agent, meaning the Vikings would have the right to match any offer he receives. “Talking with the coaches, I think it looks pretty good from what they’re saying. I’m hoping to stay and be around this team (the Vikings) and organization, and my family really likes being up here,” Tahi told VU last month. The Vikings tendered Tahi with a one-year, $1.01 million offer. The Vikings will likely match any reasonable offer, they’ll likely pass on anything too far over the tender offer.
Birk in Baltimore
According to the Baltimore Sun , Vikings center Matt Birk arrived at the Ravens’ training facility today at 2:40 p.m. (EST) to meet with team officials.
Déjà vu of free agency?
Remember last year at this time when the Vikings were oh so desperate to land a defensive end? They lost out on Justin Smith (49ers). They lost out on Antwan Odom (Bengals). They lost out on Jevon Kearse (Titans).
Here’s what they lost out on: Smith started all 16 games for San Francisco last season, collecting 73 tackles and 7.0 sacks. Odom started 8 of 12 games for Cincinnati last season, recording 26 tackles and 3.0 sacks. Kearse started all 16 games for Tennessee last season, with 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
The Vikings ended up trading for Jared Allen, of course, who recorded 54 tackles, 14.5 sacks and started in the Pro Bowl.
If the Vikings were to swing similar magic by landing Jay Cutler, the T.J. Houshmand-drama will be a footnote to the team’s offseason efforts. Getting Cutler still seems like a longshot, and quite frankly an idiot move by Denver, who would then have no quarterback. But stay tuned.
Housh disses Vikes on family and QBs
In a recent blog post at DanPatrick.com , receiver T.J. Housmandzadeh says he “chose Seattle because he felt comfortable and they were personable to his wife and children. He also liked the idea of playing for Matt Hasselback. If Minnesota had a stronger quarterback, he may have chosen the Vikings.”
Analysis: The Seahawks offered more money, plain and simple. The Vikings (and Bengals, for that matter) bent over backwards to secure Houshmandzadeh.
How ‘bout at WR in the draft?
The latest first-round mock draft by Sport Central is projecting North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to the Vikings at No. 22. Author Josh Galligan points out “with the recent failed courtship of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Vikings front office is likely hungry for a wide receiver to pair with last year's acquisition, Bernard Berrian and especially in the wake of their recent signing of quarterback Sage Rosenfels.”
Analysis: Nicks is indeed a potential Houshmandzadeh-type possession receiver who would complement Bernard Berrian nicely in the Vikings offense. In fact, check out this YouTube highlight reel to see his short-to-intermediate pass-catch-and-run skills for yourself. Also, this YouTube clip isolates a pretty rare “behind-the-back” catch on a crossing pattern over the middle. Nicks (6-1, 212) is a big, physical receiver with terrific hands and rare body control for a player of his size. He does not bring top-end speed (but ran a 4.51 at the combine) down the field, but if he were able to pick up the nuances of the team’s West Coast Offense, he could become a real go-to receiver for the Vikings.
Birk visiting Ravens
Center Matt Birk is scheduled for his first visit today, reportedly with the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore lost center Jason Brown to the St. Louis Rams early in free agency. Head coach Brad Childress has expressed a desire to keep the six-time Pro Bowl center with the Vikings.
Analysis: The Vikings might be playing with fire in even allowing Birk to “test the market.” The Ravens have a clear need at the position and could easily step up with an attractive offer. Nevertheless, Birk has slipped some the past two seasons and is not quite the perennial Pro Bowl player he once was, so maintaining some degree of fiscal responsibility with the team’s salary structure makes sense. However, if Birk leaves, what’s the solution at center? While they like second-year man John Sullivan, most do not think he’s ready to step in.
The Vikings announced earlier today that they have released linebacker Vinny Ciurciu.
Analysis: Ciurciu was signed by the team in 2007 as a free agent, from the Carolina Panthers. He was due to earn a base salary of $850,000 in 2009, the final year of his three-year contract. He had seen action in 27 games (including one start) the past two seasons. Ciurciu was signed primarily for his ability on special teams, where he was good but not a genuine standout. He was an extremely hard worker and a good locker room guy, though. But the team is clearly looking to make improvements.
Farwell visiting Patriots
The New England Patriots are first on the list of unrestricted free agent Heath Farwell, the Vikings special teams ace who is searching for an opportunity to play more on defense.
Analysis: Another potential brush with a critical loss, but the Vikings simply don’t have an opening for significant playing time on defense behind E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway and Ben Leber. The team really needs to keep Farwell if they can, however. They desperately need him on special teams, and he is has proven to be an extremely productive player on defense when he’s played during preseason. They might have to overpay a bit to retain him.
Sharper drawing interest from Bears too
The Saints are not the only team interested if Vikings free agent safety Darren Sharper. The Chicago Bears are also looking for a replacement for Mike Brown, who was not retained.
"There's definitely a lot of interest," Sharper said Saturday night in this Chicago Tribune report . "First, they're in the NFC North, which I've grown accustomed to. They have a great defense. And they're on the cusp of getting back to the Super Bowl. It's a great organization. And it's great to draw some interest from them."
Analysis: Sharper seemed frustrated in Minnesota’s Cover 2 scheme, which is what he’d essentially be playing in Chicago. The Saints would seem to be the better fit for him, but it’s usually about the money. Interestingly, Sharper says in this piece that he ran a 4.48 forty last July in defending his ability to still play at a high level.
The Seahawks signed DT Colin Cole, who was originally signed by the Vikings as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Iowa. The Vikings tried to practice squad Cole, but he ended up with the Green Bay Packers. Now he’s hit the big money of unrestricted free agency with Seattle.
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