Eagles’ Slay: ‘I am still at an elite level’

One of the subplots of the Eagles’ 24-7 win over the Vikings on Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field was the matchup between Justin Jefferson and Darius ‘Big Play’ Slay.  

Both had big years in 2021, and both made the Pro Bowl last season. The second-year wideout was coming off a big performance(nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns) against the Packers in Week 1, while the 10-year corner and the Eagles’ defense were looking to have a bounce-back performance after struggling against the Lions.

This was the first time these two went head-to-head, and it was evident by the night’s end that Round 1 went to Slay. 

According to Pro Football Focus, when Slay was on Jefferson, he held him to one catch on six targets and had a career-high tying two picks.

In addition, Slay also finished with a career-high five passes defensed.

After the win, Slay said he was looking forward to the matchup against Jefferson.

“I take no matchup lightly, but he is one of the best in the world,” Slay said of Jefferson. “I am one of the best in the world, too. I was looking forward to the matchup.”

Jefferson, who finished the game with six catches for 48 yards, gave props to Slay.

“He’s a competitor for sure,” Jefferson said. “I knew that I was going to get that from him. I mean, he’s a great cornerback. He’s a great player. A great guy, too.”

At age 31, Slay is playing at a high level, and he still believes he’s an elite corner in the NFL.

“I have a lot of respect, but you know how it always goes, the older you get, they think you are falling off, but I am not one of those guys,” Slay said. “I am still at an elite level. I deserve a lot of respect. I think the league respects me enough. It is just the media.”

76ers star James Harden was in attendance on Monday night, and after his first interception, Slay gave the ball to the 10-time All-Star.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know he was at the game until they put him on the [videoboard],” Slay said about Harden. “He is one of my favorite players. I am like, why not? I get a chance to meet James Harden, a Hall of Fame basketball player. If I make a play tonight, definitely a pick, I have to give him the ball because he is well respected in the league and my favorite. I thought it was a good opportunity.”

After allowing 35 points to the Lions last Sunday, the Eagles’ defense got the job done against the Vikings, and ‘Big Play’ Slay was one of the biggest reasons. 

Eagles trade WR Jalen Reagor to Vikings

Jalen Reagor’s time in Philadelphia is over. The third-year wide receiver was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a seventh-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Ironically, Reagor was selected by the Eagles(20th) out of TCU, one pick before the Vikings selected two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, Justin Jefferson.

Philadelphia has been looking to solve their issues at wide receiver, and last season they got DeVonta Smith in the draft. This offseason, they acquired stud wideout A.J. Brown from the Titans, so after a disappointing season for Reagor in 2021, you knew his time in Philadelphia was probably going to be over at some point.

Last season, the 23-year-old had 33 receptions for 299 yards and two touchdowns in 17 games. In two seasons with the Eagles, Reagor, who had 24 starts in 28 games, had 64 catches for 695  yards and three touchdowns.

Reagor is still young and has shown flashes, so maybe a change of scenery could be what his career needs to flourish.

Vikings acquire QB Nick Mullens

The Minnesota Vikings have traded a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft to the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for QB Nick Mullens, the team announced Monday.

Mullens, 27, will have an opportunity to compete for the backup quarterback spot in Minnesota behind Kirk Cousins. In their last outing against the 49ers on Saturday, Kellen Mond(10/20, 82 yards, two interceptions) and Sean Mannion(10/15, 65 yards) did not play very well. The Vikings scored only seven points and lost to the 49ers 17-7.

Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was with Mullens in both San Francisco and Cleveland, so he knows the five-year veteran very well. 

Mullens signed with the Raiders as a free agent on April 1, 2022.

Last season, Mullens appeared in one game with the Cleveland Browns in which he started and compiled a 147.0 passer rating on 20-of-30 passing for 147 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Mullens initially entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, where he remained through the 2020 season. In addition to the 49ers, Browns, and Raiders, Mullens had a stint with the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2021 offseason and training camp.

Vikings to induct Jared Allen into their Ring of Honor

The Minnesota Vikings will induct former DE Jared Allen into the club’s Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony of the team’s game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, October 30, the team announced Friday.

“When we traded for Jared, his impact on the team was immediate,” said Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf via a statement announcing the move. “His talent as a pass rusher was a perfect addition to the defense and helped make us one of the best units in the NFL. The type of teammate he was in the locker room and person he was within the community were as equally important as his play on the field. He belongs in the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor.”

Allen spent six seasons with the Vikings (2008-13), earning three Associated Press 1st-Team All-Pro honors and four Pro Bowl berths. Allen set the Vikings record for sacks in a season with 22.0 in 2011, a mark that ranks tied for 3rd in NFL history. He ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in sacks in each of his six Vikings seasons, and his 136.0 career sacks rank as the 12th-most in NFL history. Allen is tied for the NFL record with four career safeties, all coming with the Vikings, including an NFL season record-tying pair in 2008.

During his Vikings tenure, Allen averaged .89 sacks per game played (85.5 sacks/96 games), the highest average in Vikings history. Allen was a cornerstone for three consecutive Vikings defensive units that ranked in the NFL’s top 10 from 2008-10 (#6, #6, #8). Allen was acquired via trade with Kansas City in 2008 after spending 2004-07 with the club.

Allen is the seventh former Vikings defensive lineman to earn his place in the Ring of Honor. His addition brings the Vikings Ring of Honor to 27 members.

Current members of Vikings Ring of Honor:

Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Jim Finks, Bud Grant, Paul Krause, Fred Zamberletti, Jim Marshall, Ron Yary, Korey Stringer, Mick Tingelhoff, Carl Eller, Cris Carter, Bill Brown, Jerry Burns, Randall McDaniel, Chuck Foreman, John Randle, Scott Studwell, Chris Doleman, Matt Blair, Joey Browner, Ahmad Rashad, Randy Moss, Dennis Green, Steve Jordan and Kevin Williams.

Za’Darius Smith signs three-year deal with Vikings

OLB Za’Darius Smith has finally made up his mind as the free agent signed with the Minnesota Vikings, the team announced Tuesday.

Last week, Smith, who was released by the Packers on March 14 to clear cap space, reportedly agreed to sign with his former team, the Baltimore Ravens, but he backed out of the deal and ultimately decided to sign with the Vikings.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a three-year deal worth $42 million.

Despite missing most of the 2021 season, the 29-year-old Smith, who spent the last three seasons with the Packers, is one of five players in the NFL who have posted at least 12.5 sacks in two of the last three seasons. 

The seven-year veteran tallied 26.0 sacks, 29 tackles for loss, and 60 quarterback hits from 2019-21. Smith earned Associated Press Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2020 after posting 12.5 sacks, becoming the first Packers linebacker to be named an All-Pro since Clay Matthews in 2012.

Smith is obviously going to help Minnesota, who last season was second in sacks. In 2021, DE D.J. Wonnum led Minnesota with 8.0 sacks.

Before joining the Packers, Smith played for the Baltimore Ravens (2015-18), posting 18.5 sacks, 24 tackles for loss and 52 quarterback hits.

Vikings agree to terms with LB Jordan Hicks

The Minnesota Vikings signed LB Jordan Hicks, the team announced Wednesday.

According to Adam Caplan, it’s a two-year deal worth $10 million with $6.5 million guaranteed.

Hicks, 29, spent the past three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals after signing a four-year, $36 million contract in 2019. 

He was released by the Cardinals last week.

Last season, the eight-year veteran started all 17 games for Arizona and recorded 116 tackles and four sacks.

Hicks, who has started 51 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak among all linebackers in the NFL, was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles when they won Super Bowl LII.

He has played in 92 games (89 starts) in his career, totaling 638 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, four forced fumbles, and nine fumble recoveries.

The eight-year veteran was originally entered the NFL in 2015 with the Philadelphia Eagles after being selected in the third round of the NFL Draft.

Vikings’ Cousins: ‘I am thrilled for the opportunity to play for Kevin(O’Connell)’

The Minnesota Vikings have agreed in principle to a one-year contract extension with quarterback Kirk Cousins, the team announced Sunday.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a one-year, fully-guaranteed $35 million extension.

Cousins will make $40 million this year and $30 million next. The deal has two voidable years in it to lower his cap number this year to $31.25 million, and $50 million of the deal will be paid by this time next year, according to the report.

“Kirk was one of the first players I called when I joined the Vikings, and it was immediately clear how much he cares about this organization and about winning,” General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Menshah said in a statement from the team. “High-level quarterback play is a prerequisite to building a championship team, and we are confident Kirk will continue along that path.”

The 33-year-old Cousins, who will enter his 11th NFL season in 2022, was named to his third career Pro Bowl after finishing fourth in the NFL in passer rating (103.1) and throwing 33 touchdowns to only seven interceptions in 2021.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to play for Kevin(O’Connell) and could not be more excited about the direction of our team,” Cousins said. “As soon as we return to TCO Performance Center next month, we will begin working toward our collective goal of bringing a championship to Vikings fans.”

In his four seasons with the Vikings, Cousins has started all 63 regular-season games in which he appeared, the fourth-most starts in Vikings history among quarterbacks, and has thrown for 16,387 passing yards (4th in team history), 124 passing touchdowns (4th), and a 68.3 completion percentage (2nd), giving him a franchise-record 103.5 passer rating.

The Vikings get cap space, and maybe Cousins can flourish under new head coach Kevin O’Connell; who knows, but he will definitely have an opportunity to do it.

Vikings’ O’Connell: ‘I am committed to working tirelessly to bring them a Super Bowl championship’

Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell was named Vikings head coach, the team announced Wednesday. 

Coming off a Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, O’Connell was the offensive coordinator for Los Angeles for two seasons.

The 36-year-old O’Connell replaced Mike Zimmer, who was fired at the season’s end after he spent eight seasons with the team.

“As I spent time with Kevin during the interview process, it became immediately clear he will be a great partner in building this football team for long-term success,” said Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo Mensah via a press release from the team. “He understands what is critical to leading a team that wins at the highest level, and he has an ability to simplify the complex, which will help us in problem-solving in all football areas. He is a genuinely positive person who will help create a high-energy internal environment.”

O’Connell, who led the Rams to finish ninth in total offense (372.1 yards per game) in 2021, helped his unit rank second in plays of 50-plus yards (10), fourth in yards per play (5.98), and eighth in offensive touchdowns (51) in 2021. Under the guidance of O’Connell, Rams QB Matthew Stafford and WR Cooper Kupp both had career years in 2021. 

“I greatly appreciate the Wilf family, Kwesi, and the entire Minnesota Vikings organization for providing the opportunity to be their next head coach,” said O’Connell. “This is a franchise with a deep history and a tremendous fan base. Having been on the visitors’ sideline at U.S. Bank Stadium and experiencing that environment as an opposing coach, I am excited to now have the support of these passionate Vikings fans. I am committed to working tirelessly to bring them a Super Bowl championship.”

Minnesota has an interesting decision regarding Kirk Cousins, who is scheduled to make $35 million next season. The Vikings and O’Connell will have to figure out if they want to keep Cousins around in Minnesota, which could determine the level of success the Vikings will have next season.

Vikings’ Kirk Cousin added to Pro Bowl roster

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has been named to the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl. Cousins, who will be appearing in his third Pro Bowl of his career, will be replacing QB Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, who is unable to participate due to injury.

Cousins finished the season with 4,221 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 103.1. His passer rating (103.1) was the fourth-best in the NFL, trailing only Rodgers, Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.

Cousins was also one of two quarterbacks on the year to throw for over 30 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions (Rodgers). Cousins becomes the fifth Viking to participate in this year’s Pro Bowl alongside RB Dalvin Cook, WR Justin Jefferson, S Harrison Smith and T Brian O’Neill.

The AFC and NFC teams will face off in the 2022 Pro Bowl on Sunday, February 6, 2022 at 3 p.m. ET at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Vikings name Adofo-Mensah GM

The Minnesota Vikings have hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as the team’s new general manager, the team announced Wednesday night.

Adofo-Mensah is replacing longtime GM Rick Spielman, who fired by the team at season’s end.

He will lead the team’s football operation after spending the past two seasons as the Vice President of Football Operations for the Cleveland Browns.

In Cleveland, the 40-year-old Adofo-Mensah worked closely with Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry and provided input for all roster and strategy decisions. 

Prior to the Browns, Adofo-Mensah spent seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, where he first entered the NFL. During his tenure with the 49ers, Adofo-Mensah quickly advanced in the football research and development department. He joined the team as Football Research and Development Analyst (2013-16) before earning promotions to Manager of Football Research and Development in 2017 and Director of Football Research and Development in 2018.

“Kwesi has a clear philosophy on building a complementary football team,” said Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf. “His intelligence, progressive mindset, and passion for the game, along with his ability to make thoughtful and intentional decisions, provide a tremendous foundation as he leads our football operations.” 

Adofo-Mensah is happy for the opportunity and hopes to bring a Super Bowl to Minnesota.

“I am extremely thankful to the Wilf family and the Vikings organization for giving me the opportunity to lead our football operations and join this respected franchise,” said Adofo-Mensah via a press release. “There is so much to appreciate about this organization – an existing nucleus of talent on the roster, top-notch facilities, passionate fans, and smart people throughout the building who are committed to winning. I look forward to partnering with our next head coach and our entire football operations staff to begin our work of bringing a Super Bowl to Vikings fans.”

Adofo-Mensah will help find Minnesota’s next head coach as former coach Mike Zimmer was fired at the end of the season.

It should be interesting to see what Minnesota does at the head coaching position. However, no matter what they do, Adofo-Mensah will have a big say in who’s coaching the Vikings in 2022.