Matt Cassel is staying in Minnesota.
The veteran quarterback reached agreement on a two-year, $10 million contract to remain with the Vikings, according to multiple reports.
On Feb. 7, Cassel opted out of the second year of his two-year deal with the Vikings, exercising a clause that allowed him to void the contract within five days of the Super Bowl. But the two sides expressed mutual interest in keeping him in Minnesota and worked out an agreement before he became a free agent Tuesday.
Cassel came to Minnesota last season from the Kansas City Chiefs to be a backup to Vikings starter Christian Ponder. But he took over the job in September after Ponder was injured during a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London.
The 31-year-old Cassel started six games and played in nine last season, leading the Vikings in passing yards with 1,807 and throwing for 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions despite playing in three fewer games than Ponder. Cassel's best performance was a 382-yard passing day in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 15.
The Vikings used Cassel, Ponder and Josh Freeman, acquired during the 2013 season from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as starters last year. The team struggled to a 5-10-1 record but was 3-3 with Cassel as the starter. He also came off the bench to help the Vikings to two other victories.
Under the terms of the previous contract, Cassel was due to make $3.7 million with the Vikings in 2014.
The Vikings how have two quarterbacks under contract for next season with Cassel and Ponder and could add a third through the draft or free agency.
--The early days of the latest general manager-coach relationship were eye-opening as much as refreshing.
For the ninth time in franchise history, the Minnesota Vikings have a first-time first-year coach, but Mike Zimmer's experience is standing out at the team's Eden Prairie facility.
In his first days on the job, the well-respected but demanding Zimmer had broken down on film the player traits he wants at every position.
"What type of guys he wants for the system we're going to run? It's a lot different with traits he's looking for with what we're going to run," general manager Rick Spielman said.
The team talked to eight candidates in seven days. In his first 30 days with the franchise, Zimmer has shown himself to be intelligent, polished and anything but gruff or abrasive, as reports indicated when the longtime defensive coordinator was passed over for four previous head-coaching jobs.
"I don't know why all these other teams passed on him, but I'm sure glad they did," Spielman said. "It's the right fit at the right time."
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner got in on the act too. He already established 10 plays designed specifically for scintillating second-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, a 2013 first-round pick the previous coaching staff didn't maximize.
"He is a unique talent," Spielman said. "Not only because of his speed but his movement skills and his size. We traded Percy Harvin away last year and we wanted to get that dynamic back."
The Vikings will focus "heavily on the draft" with Turner piloting the process. His input is viewed as significant by Spielman who was with the Miami Dolphins organization when Turner was with the team and said he considers Turner an expert at the position.
"I saw what Norv did with Jay Feeley in Miami," said Spielman, who also pointed to Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer exceeding expectations with the Cleveland Browns in 2013. "(Turner) has a history of getting quarterbacks to not only play very good, but beyond what maybe you thought."
Spielman said the Vikings will not force drafting a quarterback with the eighth overall pick and said he would consider dealing. That would be nothing new. Minnesota made trades to acquire a second first-round pick each of the past two drafts.
"I would love to move down in the draft, just because of how deep this draft class is," he said. "But if we feel that strongly about a guy at No. 8, we'll take him."
--General manager Rick Spielman told USA Today that the team has some concerns about what some of this year's draft prospects have posted on Twitter.
Spielman said, "There were guys I found on Twitter this year that I can't believe they would post and retweet some of the stuff they were saying. We wrote a report just on their Twitter accounts. I won't say the names. But out of the 60 that we did, there are eight guys that we have concerns about their Twitter feeds that we will address here (at the combine)."
Spielman said some of the things tweeted referred to partying and drug use.
--Mike Zimmer spent most of his 21 years in the NFL as a defensive coach, so it is no surprise where he focused his attention in his first 35 days as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
"Any time you finish 31st in the league, you've got quite a few holes," Zimmer said of the Minnesota defense, which was worst in the NFL in points allowed. "We're going to need quite a few good football players."
Zimmer hinted that the Vikings' personnel is versatile enough to use multiple fronts. He coached the 3-4 defense with the Dallas Cowboys and a 4-3 as defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Defensive end Jared Allen, an unrestricted free agent, would not fit as an outside linebacker. He is limited laterally but explosive off the ball. If the price is right, the Vikings would still like to bring him back. Other moving parts on the depth chart in the front seven are edge rusher Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Kevin Williams -- a prime five-technique defensive end candidate in a 3-4 alignment -- and defensive tackle Fred Evans.
"It's all about getting the right players that fit the system we're looking for," Zimmer said when asked specifically about Allen, who turns 32 next month. "We'd love to sign all of our guys. We understand that we're not going to be able to sign them all. Hopefully we can get something worked out with him, and we'll see as it goes."
General manager Rick Spielman described Zimmer as a grinder who is leaving no stone unturned in assimilating to his first ever head coaching job, even making it look natural. Zimmer said there are still some rough edges to smooth out in the new routine and additional responsibilities that come with being the all-powerful coach on staff.
"The biggest thing for me right now has been the schedules," Zimmer said. "It's just a pain in the rear end that you're trying to do schedules for training camp -- when to do red zone, when to do all the situations that come about. That is a part that has been difficult for me."
He said the Vikings are not ruling out keeping quarterback Christian Ponder, but wants to see him on the field before deciding where -- and if -- he fits in Minnesota moving forward.
"He's got a great arm, he runs good, he's a bright guy," Zimmer said. "Everyone wants him to live up to expectations. ... I'm not a patient person with anybody. I just think once we get on the field we'll figure all those things out."
--General manager Rick Spielman was asked whether there would be hesitation selecting a quarterback high in the draft after the team's experience with Christian Ponder, the 12th overall selection in 2011.
Spielman said, "You know, that decision's always going to fall on me. I think we've done a lot of great things in the draft, but ultimately, everybody's trying to find that quarterback, that franchise guy. I think you have to be aggressive to go out there and try to find that guy, keep turning that wheel until you find one you hit on. Are we going to force a quarterback at No. 8? We're going to take the best player, unless we're absolutely in love with a guy. If we're in love with a guy, and they might go before us, we may move up in the draft. If not, I would love to move down in the draft, if we possibly could. There's so many good players that you're going to get good players in the third and fourth rounds, for as deep as this draft class is. It's not to say, 'Well, you're not going to take a quarterback at 8 because Christian isn't where he's supposed to be right at this time.' That's never going to stop you. If we feel strongly enough about a guy, we'll take him."
--Spielman was also asked about the potential of running back Adrian Peterson possibly wanting out.
"I know Adrian's very excited about the new coaching staff," Spielman said. "He's very excited about (offensive coordinator) Norv Turner. He's already been in the offense. I think, if you look at our offense, we have a lot of pieces in place, if we can get that quarterback solidified, however that ends up. We've got a very good tight end. We've got some depth at the tight end position. You give him (Cordarrelle) Patterson and a Greg Jennings outside at receiver, Jarius Wright, who came up for us last year, and to have a running back like Adrian. I think you've got to look at your whole team, and as you look at last year, how many games we lost in the last seconds of the game. We lost five games. If you win three of those, potentially, you're in the playoffs, the way the division went last year.
"But also, with that comes the blame on the quarterback, too. The defense isn't going to get blamed. It's going to be the quarterback. You take all that into consideration in evaluating everything. Christian didn't play as good as he possibly could. Matt (Cassel) came and won some games for us. But let's say the defense makes a stop for us in the first Chicago game, or we're able to win in overtime in Green Bay, where Christian played pretty well. All of a sudden, your record's different, and maybe you're thinking differently about it. As a general manager, you have to add in all those factors, but you also have to get that quarterback thing solidified as well."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen re-signed with the team for a five-year, $42.5 million deal, ESPN reported Sunday.
According to the report, $20 million of it is guaranteed.
Among free agents, CBSSports.com ranked Griffen as the No. 6 defensive end and No. 34 overall.
Griffen has 17.5 sacks in the past three seasons combined and played 59 games over the past four years.
Holding on to Griffen is also important because defensive end Jared Allen told the Vikings he would be signing elsewhere. Presumably, Griffen will fill Allen's pass-rushing role.
--The Vikings re-signed cornerback and punt returner Marcus Sherels, who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent. Sherels signed a one-year contract.
Sherels appeared in all 16 games in 2013, including four starts. He set the Vikings single-season record with a punt return average of 15.2 yards per return, which ranked second in the NFL.
There were also reports the Vikings would sign linebacker Jasper Brinkley, released recently by the Cardinals.
--The Vikings released defensive tackle Letroy Guion and wide receiver Greg Childs Thursday (March 6.
The 26-year-old Guion started 13 games in 2013 and had 21 tackles and one sack. The six-year veteran played in 68 games and started 31 during his six seasons with the Vikings.
Childs injured his knees and never saw action with the Vikings, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He spent the 2012 season on injured reserve and the 2013 season on the physically unable to perform list.
Releasing Guion gives the Vikings an additional $4 million in cap space but creates a need for a defensive tackle, which the team could address in free agency. Coach Mike Zimmer told reporters on Thursday that he would like to retain veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
--The Vikings released veteran tight end John Carlson on Wednesday (March 5) after attempts to reach agreement on a restructured contract failed.
Carlson, 29, has a history of concussion problems and was reported to be considering retirement.
In 2013, Carlson played in 13 games and had 32 receptions for 344 yards and one touchdown. The third concussion of his career ended his season.
Carlson signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Vikings in 2012 after three years with the Seattle Seahawks. He collected $9.55 million in guarantees during his two seasons in Minnesota, according to NFL.com.
The move frees up $2 million in salary-cap space for the Vikings.
Carlson's best seasons were his first two in the NFL when he had 55 and 51 catches with a combined 12 touchdowns in 2008 and 2009 for the Seahawks.
Scheduled to be unrestricted in March
--DE Jared Allen
--C-G Joe Berger
--LB Desmond Bishop
--CB Chris Cook
--DT Fred Evans
--QB Josh Freeman
--RB Toby Gerhart
--LG Charlie Johnson
--LB Marvin Mitchell
--WR Jerome Simpson
--DE Justin Trattou
--OT J'Marcus Webb
--WR Joe Webb
--DT Kevin Williams
QUARTERBACK: It's by far the biggest hole on a team with many of them. Christian Ponder isn't the answer, and even with the return of Matt Cassel, it's time to start over. Again.
CORNERBACK: Xavier Rhodes, a rookie in 2013, is a future league standout, but at least one more elite corner is needed to survive in NFC North.
LINEBACKER: Whether the new staff uses a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense, the Vikings are in serious need of a fast, forceful, instinctive playmaker at linebacker.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Rick Spielman
- Matt Cassel
- Mike Zimmer
- Everson Griffen
- Norv Turner