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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Looking ahead: Including Greenway, Vikings have four free agents at linebacker

By Andrew Krammer

Seventh of a position-by-position look at the Vikings with a focus on free agency, the draft and the 2016 season. We’ve also primed the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line and defensive line.

Linebackers

2015 playing time

Anthony Barr: 15 games, 78.2 percent
Eric Kendricks: 15 games, 72.4 percent
Chad Greenway: 17 games, 57.7 percent
Edmond Robinson: 10 games, 4 percent
Jason Trusnik: 9 games, 3 percent
Audie Cole: 7 games, 3 percent
Brandon Watts: 7 games, 3 percent
Casey Matthews: Injured reserve

Upcoming free agents

Chad Greenway, unrestricted free agent

Audie Cole, unrestricted free agent

Jason Trusnik, unrestricted free agent

Casey Matthews, unrestricted free agent

Noteworthy number

• 632 — Relegated to a two-down role for the first time in his 10-year career, Chad Greenway ultimately played beyond what was expected of him after injuries held back full-time starters Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Still, Greenway saw a career-low 632 snaps as the Vikings established their long-term future at the position between first- (Barr) and second-round (Kendricks) draft picks. He turned 33 this month, is soon to be a free agent and wants to return for an 11th season in Minnesota. They’ve got room for his leadership, but there are two hoops all veterans face: Do coaches believe he can still play? And is the price right?

Current 2016 salary cap, position rank

Barr: $3.48 million, 12th (all 4-3 OLBs)
Kendricks: $1.17 million, 39th (all ILBs)
Watts: $600,000
Robinson: $542,078
Terrance Plummer: $525,000

Quotable

“I think with the adjustments to my playing time and a lesser role this past season, it made me so much fresher. So much cleaner of a season to not be playing 70 snaps a game at my age, it was certainly nice.

“I definitely want to play another season. Clearly I want to play another season in Minnesota, that’s what it’s all about for me,” Greenway said on 1500 ESPN this month. “I just don’t feel like my career is going to end in that manner. It’s just such a hard pill to swallow, hard way to end a career. There’s never going to be a good way to end it. Just the way I feel, I feel like I can play football one more season. I would play somewhere else, that’s obviously not my goal.”

Potential market

Includes pending free agents, from 4-3 and 3-4 schemes…

ILBs: Shea McClellin, Vincent Rey, Derrick Johnson, Sean Weatherspoon, Rolando McClain, Kelvin Sheppard, Danny Trevathan, Mason Foster, Dane Fletcher, Cole and Jasper Brinkley.

OLBs: Mark Barron, Von Miller, Tamba Hali, Bruce Irvin, Aldon Smith, Michael Neal, Greenway, Nick Perry, Emmanuel Lamur, Tahir Whitehead, Courtney Upshaw, Nigel Bradham and Nathan Stupar.

Draft

General manager Rick Spielman’s enabling of the defensive makeover has no better example than the draft, and specifically at linebacker. The Vikings have paired early- and late-round picks in each of the last two drafts for four of the current five linebackers under contract in 2016. That may very well continue in this year’s draft. This group could look a lot different next season, with a possible opening in the base defense.

Bottom line

Shortly after drafting Kendricks, coach Mike Zimmer said he may be better suited, long-term, as an outside linebacker. He immediately settled into the open competition at middle linebacker, taking over for the traded Gerald Hodges and making 12 starts. Kendricks impressed, specifically as a nickel linebacker in coverage, and could shift to a full-time role on the outside. Though the status quo could be maintained should Greenway be given another season. If it’s the former, they’ll be looking for a middle linebacker. The Vikings’ duo of Barr and Kendricks plans to lead this defense for years to come, with the question marks falling around them. This unit was deep before losing two of the three middle linebacker candidates in Hodges (trade) and Cole (injury). Now half of the position group is soon to be free agents.

The post Looking ahead: Including Greenway, Vikings have four free agents at linebacker appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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