Vikings mailbag: D-line and Sanford

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
8:00
AM ET
Thanks to all of you who submitted questions for our weekly Minnesota Vikings mailbag. You can send them to me on Twitter any time during the week at @GoesslingESPN, using the hashtag #VikingsMail.

@GoesslingESPN: Good morning, everyone. We'll get started here. I still think the biggest concern on the Vikings' roster at this point is the secondary, in light of how many players the Vikings are counting on to improve and how much depth teams need at that position to survive, but I think your point about the defensive line is valid. Right now, the Vikings are planning for Sharrif Floyd to have a significant workload in Year 2, and we've yet to see if he can be the kind of force at three-technique tackle that Mike Zimmer got used to having in Geno Atkins. Floyd lost weight this spring, and Zimmer said he's been happy with what he's seen so far, but OTAs and minicamp are a long way from meaningful games. Linval Joseph is supposed to be ready for the start of training camp, and it seemed like the Vikings were holding him back largely as a precaution this spring. He's been a durable player during his career, but as physically demanding as the defensive tackle position is, the Vikings have some depth questions there. It's probably part of the reason they were willing to look at bringing Kevin Williams back after not communicating with him since the start of free agency.

@GoesslingESPN: We'll stick with the defensive tackle theme here, and look at the depth question in a little more detail. Tom Johnson will be the backup three-technique tackle, with Joseph ready for training camp. Fred Evans will be the primary backup at nose tackle, and guys like Shamar Stephen and Chase Baker could factor into those positions, too. Johnson could be a sneaky pickup for the Vikings as a rotational player; he was somewhat miscast in three-man fronts with the Saints last season, but he's been an effective pass-rusher from a tackle spot in a 4-3 defense. We could also see Corey Wootton play inside at times. In the end, though, there's going to be plenty of responsibility on Floyd at three-technique.

@GoesslingESPN: Boy, I can't see it. Johnson turned 33 Friday, with three years left on a contract that includes cap hits of more than $15 million each season. The Vikings just don't have the cap space to make that work, without restructuring Johnson's contract for the second time in less than a year. They already have a 30-year-old receiver in Greg Jennings, and Cordarrelle Patterson will command a larger role in their offense this year. And what would Houston want in return? It just doesn't seem like a good fit.

@GoesslingESPN: His name hasn't been prevalent because he hasn't been on the field; he missed most of the Vikings' offseason program with an injury, though he's expected to be ready for training camp. Sanford took a paycut this winter, but I still like him when he's healthy; he's been solid in coverage the past two seasons, and he played through a number of nagging injuries last season. If you're going to fault him for anything from last season, it would be several dropped interceptions. But at this point, my bet would still be on Sanford to start opposite Harrison Smith at the beginning of the season.

@GoesslingESPN: I inquired about this with the NFL this week, and a spokesman said they have nothing to report at this point. The league has been in the habit of slipping in suspension news on lazy Friday summer afternoons the past couple weeks (see: Spencer Nealy's four-game ban this week), but if there is going to be a suspension for Simpson, they're apparently not ready to talk about it yet. And there's a chance Simpson wouldn't be suspended since his three-game suspension in 2012 was for a drug-related arrest, and this one would be for an alcohol offense. Previous arrests can be treated as "aggravating circumstances" in the NFL's personal conduct rulings, and Simpson does face tougher probation terms after his arrest violated his initial probation, but the league could decide merely to fine Simpson, not suspend him.

We'll wrap it up there for the week. Thanks for all the great questions, everyone. Enjoy your weekend.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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