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With Evan Mathis being cut by the Eagles and the open competition for a guard spot on the Vikings offensive line, do you think the Vikings would take a chance on a 33-year old coming off an injury shortened season who is still one of the best guards in the league? -- Alex Wisconsin
Any time a player becomes available, and especially when that player is a two-time Pro Bowler, the Vikings take a look to see how much ability that player has, if he's a good fit and what it will cost to sign him (money and roster spot). I don't know where the Vikings are in that process or if they'll ultimately be interested in signing Mathis, but there are two things consider from the Vikings perspective on this matter. First, don't be surprised if Mathis' asking price is prohibitive for some teams, the Vikings included, because there could be interest from multiple teams and when that happens, the price tag goes up. Secondly, while the Vikings do have a vacant starting position and Mathis could fill it, the Vikings have also been working diligently this offseason to fill that spot and through this point have given rookie TJ Clemmings an opportunity to play there. Would Mathis be an upgrade at that vacant spot? Perhaps. If so, is that upgrade worth demoting Clemmings to the second team and delaying the development that has already started? Those are just some of the questions the Vikings, and any team who ends up considering signing Mathis, must address internally before making a decision.
Outside of Adrian Peterson's return, where do you think the Vikings are most improved heading into this season? -- Paul Pecukonis Austin, TX
Quarterback. Don't get me wrong, Teddy Bridgewater had a fantastic rookie season (third-highest completion percentage for a rookie all-time). But with 12 starts and a full offseason going into Year 2 of his career and in Norv Turner's offense, along with the return of Adrian Peterson, the acquisition of Mike Wallace and a seemingly-improved offensive line, the sky is the limit for Bridgewater and I expect he will grow significantly as a player and display marked improvement in his second NFL season.
Peter King recently ranked the Vikings in the top 5 in the NFC. I tend to believe him about this team this year! Being so close to the team, what do you think? -- Chris Merola Norfolk, CT
King pegged the Vikings at No. 6 in his annual June power rankings column, which given the Vikings 7-9 record last year surprised a lot of people. But keep in mind, King is projecting what 2015 will be like, not looking back and reviewing what happened in 2014. King referenced the return of Adrian Peterson, is optimistic about Bridgewater's second season and gives Zimmer a lot of credit for improving the team. I don't get into projections and power rankings, but I can see how King got to his and I hope he's correct about the Vikings.
How is the safety battle looking so far? Is Anthony Harris still in the mix? Who is leading the battle? -- Nick
The battle for the starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith is still very much wide open and I would say Harris is still in the mix. I give a leg up in the battle to incumbent starter Robert Blanton, who may be rough around the edges but does have the advantage of a 111-tackle season in Mike Zimmer's system under his belt. There is a lot to like about Blanton's potential and I won't be surprised if he wins the job when all is said and done. But he's going to have to earn it because there is plenty of good competition behind him and Zimmer will have quality alternatives. Harris, the undrafted rookie, could pull off an upset and win the job, and so too could Antone Exum, Jr., Andrew Sendejo or Taylor Mays.
With a disappointing season last year for Cordarrelle Patterson, what has he and Mike Priefer done to improve his return game? -- Justin Robertson
Every player can always improve every facet of their game. But Patterson didn't struggle as a kickoff returner last season. He averaged 25.6 yards per return, which ranked 6th in the NFL. I would actually argue that Patterson's kickoff return numbers last season were more impressive than they were disappointing because that phase of special teams had to deal with some depth issues, with Joe Berger leaving the phase to be a starter on the offensive line once the line experienced some injuries. Berger was an important part of the kickoff return blocking scheme and losing him was a big loss for that group. It's fair to be disappointed in Patterson's offensive production last season and I believe he's on the track to drastically improving that, but don't let that disappoint affect how you view his ability and production last year as a returner because it was solid.
We have not heard you mention much about either Mike Kafka or Taylor Heinicke. How have they done so far and whom might have better chance to stick around this season with the Vikings as the third quarterback behind Teddy and Shaun Hill? -- Dustin Vu
Dustin is correct in saying there hasn't been much mention of either Heinicke or Kafka, which is precisely why everyone should check out the most recent episode of the Wobcast. Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen joined the show and we broke down the Vikings QB position, from assessing Bridgewater's rookie season and projecting what's ahead in Year 2 to the battle for the third spot between Heinicke and Kafka. In that competition, Heinicke's edge is that he was hand selected by the club as an undrafted free agent and his ceiling is unknown. Kafka's edge is that he's still only 27 years old but has been with a handful of clubs over four NFL seasons, meaning he knows what it takes to make a roster and he knows the lay of the land in training camps.
With all the hype about AP and this year's rookies, we have not heard anything on our No. 1 pick from last year. How is Anthony Barr doing with his knee injury? Has he been active in OTAs and will he continue to be a difference-maker going into this next season? -- Mark A. Woodbury, MN
Barr has been active in OTAs recovering from an injury, which is why you haven't heard much about him during the offseason program. Zimmer was asked about Barr's status last week and he said Barr was "over the hump" and could even participate some in this week's mandatory minicamp. There's no question in my mind that Barr will be a difference-maker in his second season, and I'm excited to see his improvement from what was an outstanding rookie season.