Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy Continues Minnesota Connections
Former Vikings Defensive Coordinator Tony Dungy, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February, returned to Minnesota over the weekend to host his annual "Arise with the Guys" event. On Friday night, Dungy hosted a dinner at Hazeltine National Golf Club and recognized Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis with the fourth annual "Uncommon Award." ESPN's Ben Goessling covered the event. Goessling wrote:
Dungy presented Davis with the Bart Starr Award before [Super Bowl 50] in February, and had Davis in mind for this year's Uncommon Award before the Super Bowl, thanks to the linebacker's work with underprivileged children in Charlotte, North Carolina, and his stirring return from three torn ACLs in his 11-year career.
Dungy said he made his final decision on the award after seeing Davis play in the Super Bowl despite having broken his arm two weeks prior in the NFC Championship game.
"I kind of have a person in mind, or a couple of people, but then something will jump out," Dungy said. "When he played with a broken arm, because he wanted to be out there with his teammates, that was uncommon. They've got some great players – Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman – but Thomas Davis is the heart and soul of that group, the spiritual leader, the emotional leader, the guy who gives them energy. As a matter of fact, when I called Thomas to ask him if he would come up [to the Twin Cities] and accept the award, he was driving to the hospital to see Luke Kuechly, who had just had an operation after the season. That's kind of his M.O. – he's that guy who's always looking out for his teammates, always keeping that group together. Thomas, he's a special man."
Dungy has a number of connections to Minnesota. He played quarterback at the University of Minnesota, before joining the Vikings as defensive coordinator, where he formed a longtime friendship with team chaplain Tom Lamphere. Dungy hosted Friday's dinner at Hazeltine in support of Lamphere's work with the Vikings, Gophers and Minnesota Twins.
Dungy's position with the Vikings was his final assistant coaching role before becoming the head coach for the Buccaneers (1996-2001) and then for the Colts (2002-2008).
Vikings working with depth heading into NFL Draft
The Vikings are currently slated to have eight picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
With a handful of offseason moves under their belt and almost all of last year's players returning, the Vikings have a good amount of roster depth as is. John Holler of Viking Update took a look at Minnesota's current situation and where room for adjustments may be.
Holler said that the quarterback, running back and tight end positions appear to be fairly straightforward, while there could be some question at wide receiver and offensive line.
Something is likely going to change on the offensive line. With center John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt expected back from injuries, they are expected to rejoin up with 2015 starters Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, Joe Berger, Mike Harris and T.J. Clemmings. Throw in the free agent signings of guard Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith, you're already at nine players, and that doesn't include a handful of backups from last season. Something has to give, but it looks like they have nine spots currently locked up.
With the Vikings current depth on the defensive side of the ball as well, Holler said 2016 may be the year Minnesota should consider sacrificing quantity for quality in the draft.
Sometimes, very good teams pick their shots to make big moves, giving up multiple picks to move up in the draft. The Vikings could get this accomplished one of two ways – package picks to move up in the first round and make a big splash or move up after their first-round pick to get another player they covet at that point in the draft.
Vensel: Don't rule out cornerback
In a recent post, the Star Tribune's Matt Vensel wrote about the Vikings depth in the secondary and the chances of them taking a cornerback in the fast-approaching draft. Vensel said the option cannot be ruled out.
Cornerback is far from a pressing need for the Vikings this offseason after they drafted Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes in the first round in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and bolstered their depth by bringing in veterans Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman the past couple of years.
But the Vikings could still draft a cornerback with an eye toward 2017.
Vensel wrote that the position could be more unsettled for the 2017 season, considering Newman is 38 years old and Jabari Price doesn't have much game experience on his resume. Captain Munnerlyn played well last season, and Vensel said he could see the Vikings re-signing him after the 2016 season. He thinks they also could still be watching for another slot cornerback to develop.
Since the Vikings have most recently invested in Xavier Rhodes (2013) and Trae Waynes (2015), Vensel said he doesn't expect Minnesota to target a cornerback before Round 3 or later.
Alabama's Cyrus Jones is one intriguing option as a nickel, especially since he was arguably college football's most dangerous punt returner last year. Notre Dame's KeiVarae Russell, Auburn's Jonathan Jones, North Carolina Central's Ryan Smith and Minnesota's Briean Boddy-Calhoun are among the draft-eligible corners who could project as slot options in the pros.