@GoesslingESPN Do you expect contract extensions for Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson and Blair Walsh before training camp starts? #VikingsMail - Judd Zulgad's Hoodie (@JZHoodie) April 1, 2015@GoesslingESPN: Good morning, everyone. We'll get started here. In recent years, the Vikings have tried to take care of some of their important unrestricted free agents well before they have a chance to test the open market. They gave contract extensions to Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco before the start of the season last year, got a deal done with defensive end Brian Robison before they returned from their bye in 2013 and even completed Adrian Peterson's contract extension the day before the start of the 2011 season. Even though the Vikings have a fifth-year option on Smith (which they'll likely exercise in a month), it makes sense for them to get a deal done before 2016, so they can massage the numbers in the early years of the deal to their liking. But they're clearly budgeting for a Smith extension -- it's part of the reason they bowed out of the running for Devin McCourty -- and while I don't think it'll be before training camp, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Smith is this year's before-the-season-opener deal. The Vikings probably should think about something with Walsh, too. Even though he struggled a bit at the end of last season, he has deep support from special teams coordinator Mike Priefer and figures to be in the Vikings' plans for years. I'd be surprised if Robinson got a deal before the season. He still has things to prove on the field, and I don't think the Vikings would have signed two veteran corners in the last two offseasons if they were sold enough on Robinson to pencil him in for the future. If he shows more consistency this season, he'll be rewarded. I just don't see it being before he proves himself.
@GoesslingESPN #VikingsMail What can we realistically expect from Newman this year? Are you convinced he's a starter? - Nick (@TheRealSandbun) April 1, 2015@GoesslingESPN: Speaking of veteran corners, there's some question about what the Vikings will get from Terence Newman at age 37, and this is probably where Mike Zimmer's view differs from the prevailing logic of some analysts. Zimmer doesn't seem as spooked by hanging onto older players as other teams might be -- or perhaps as some think he should be. He said last month at the owners meetings that Newman can still play, and pointed out how well the cornerback has performed for him, whether they were together in Dallas or Cincinnati. Remember, Newman was 34 when he joined Zimmer with the Bengals; there might have been some question about what he had left at that point, but he was a solid starter for two seasons with Zimmer. I think he'll get every chance to be the starting left cornerback, which means Captain Munnerlyn will have to fight to prove he's not just a slot corner and Robinson will be on notice to emerge as a consistent starter. I think the Vikings want to use Munnerlyn primarily in their nickel package, and if Newman can still run well enough to play, he could be the guy at left corner. Zimmer and Newman have a deep trust in one another, and as long as Newman can handle the job physically, his knowledge of Zimmer's system could be the trump card.
@GoesslingESPN no one has mentioned Scott Crichton, 72nd overall pick last year. improving? strenghts/weaknesses? #VikingsMail - Jason Smith (@HumanPerson1) April 2, 2015@GoesslingESPN: When the Vikings drafted Scott Crichton in the third round last year, almost everyone knew he could have been better-served with another year in college. But as we know well by now, Crichton left school early so he could make more money to help his parents and keep his father, Lucky, from working as much after having his leg amputated in Western Samoa years ago. So when the Vikings took Crichton, they were making a projection about his future more than they were planning on an immediate return. He probably needed to develop a better understanding of Zimmer's system -- especially its emphasis on integrity against the run -- before playing a major role on defense. But as the Vikings look for help in their defensive end rotation, Crichton will be expected to pick it up in 2015. He's got the strength and intensity to be an effective pass rusher, and the Vikings were excited about his ability to work inside, as well. I can't imagine they'll want to play both Brian Robison and Everson Griffen more than 900 snaps again this season, and they clearly were interested in defensive end help on the free agent market, as evidenced by their pursuit of Michael Johnson, as well as their interest in Adrian Clayborn and George Selvie. There's a spot available for Crichton if he can master the scheme.
@GoesslingESPN #vikingsmail how much do you love the idea of Shaq Thompson being versatile enough to play safety and linebacker? - Jason Goodyear (@JGoodyear1) April 1, 2015@GoesslingESPN: Well, that's a bit of a leading question, isn't it? In all seriousness, I do think Thompson is an intriguing option for the Vikings' defense -- especially considering how Zimmer toyed with using Taylor Mays as a safety/linebacker hybrid in Cincinnati. The Vikings brought Mays to Minnesota, of course, but Thompson's versatility could allow him to play a similar role in the Vikings' defense. I think Zimmer has more he'd like to do with his blitz packages in Year 2, and the more versatile pieces he has -- like Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and possibly Thompson -- the better. No. 11 might be too high for Thompson, but if he's still on the board at the end of the first round, I'd certainly watch him as a candidate for one of the Vikings' trades back into the first round.
That'll do it for this half of the mailbag; we'll have another round tomorrow morning. Thanks for all the questions, and enjoy your Saturday.