There is no question that the Vikings will have a lot of turnover between now and the start of the 2012 regular season. Along the way, much bigger names will come and go from the Vikings roster, but the team announced the signing of two players to futures contracts Wednesday.
The Vikings signed tight end Daniel Hardy and offensive lineman Jose Valdez – neither big-name heavy hitters, but a pair of players that will likely be given a better chance to land in Minnesota than they have to date.
Hardy is a 6-4, 250-pound receiving tight end from Idaho who was a seventh-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last April. He was released by the Bucs in the final cutdown and was signed in November by the Saints to their practice squad. At the end of the season, he wasn’t immediately signed to a futures contract by New Orleans, making him available to other teams to sign.
A two-year starter at Idaho, his career was noted as much for injuries as his potential to be a playmaker. He averaged more than 17 yards per reception in his final two seasons with the Vandals – no small feat for a tight end – but had both seasons derailed by injury. In 2009, he suffered a lacerated kidney and in 2010, he missed the final five games of the season after sustaining a broken forearm in practice.
He is viewed as a developmental prospect, but, with the Vikings losing veteran Jim Kleinsasser to retirement and no movement being made to lock down Visanthe Shiancoe to a new contract, Hardy may have an opportunity to make an impression on the Vikings coaching staff.
Valdez, a 6-6, 324-pound offensive tackle at Arkansas, was a one-year starter at left tackle under then-head coach Houston Nutt. He moved to right tackle when Bobby Petrino took over in 2008 – starting all 12 games his senior year at right tackle.
Valdez has never played an NFL game but has value. For the previous three years, he was on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad, where he was able to be viewed on a daily basis by Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. It can only be assumed that, prior to offering him a contract, general manager Rick Spielman got Musgrave’s assessment on him. While he played tackle in college, the conventional wisdom is that he is most likely to be a guard if he makes an NFL roster.
In the big picture of things, Wednesday’s signings may not turn out to be anything spectacular. But they are a pair of players fighting to keep their dreams of playing in the NFL alive. What they do with that opportunity remains to be seen.
Jared Allen remains a little salty about missing out on the all-time sacks record. As he was chasing down the record, I asked him if he thought there should be an asterisk on Strahan’s record because, as Mark Gastineau has chirped many times over the years, Brett Favre “gave” Strahan the record by flopping like a goldfish on a hot sidewalk on the sack in question. Gastineau went so far as to claim the two were in cahoots to intentionally create the situation and that Favre audibled out of a pass play to call a QB sweep that was done to give Strahan his record. The Zapruder film of the play looks like Gastineau might have a case. A good case.
At the time, Allen said a cryptic line: “A sack is a sack is a sack, no matter how you get it.” Apparently, giveaway sacks count as much as any other. As badly as he wanted to record, he isn’t going to get into finger-pointing, but he is a little salty with Josh McCown. In an interview Tuesday with radio station KHB-AM in Kansas City, Allen said, “There was about three times when I hit (McCown) and he just got rid of the ball. I tell you what, all he had to do was hook slide for me on one of them.”
One of the Vikings’ many problems this season was inconsistent offensive line play. With a win Sunday, 40 percent of the Vikings O-line for most of the last decade will get a ring of some sort. Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie are heading back to Boston for another postseason hookup with the Patriots – where the Ravens aren’t intimidated in January. Both gave a lot of sweat for the Vikings’ cause.
At 5 p.m. Thursday at the Minneapolis Boat Show, representatives from the Minnesota Inboard and Malibu Motors are going to unveil the “Jared Allen Homes For Wounded Warriors” custom tank boat. Allen will be at the event to promote his charity, which helps make homes accessible to injured veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Vikings reportedly spent $350,000 in lobbying efforts for a new stadium in the second half of last year. Of the $350,000 the team spent on lobbying, almost all of it was spent on a media campaign to bring out the nostalgia and historical value of having the Vikings as part of the fabric of life in Minnesota.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.