Rick Spielman (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
The NFL Scouting Combine is much more than just draft-prospect evaluation for the Vikings. Rick Spielman is working the agents of his own players and they have many needs, according to one analyst. Plus, Spielman also talks about waiver-wire players, Adrian Peterson’s future and more.
Even while the Vikings work on honing their draft-prospect evaluations, they are talking with the agents of their own players that are scheduled to be free agents.
Rick Spielman is taking advantage of the opportunity of having so many NFL movers and shakers in Indianapolis at one time.
While he isn’t starting the interview process for draft prospects until Friday, Thursday was a day to concentrate mainly on the Vikings’ own veterans.
They already placed the franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway, but there are three other starters on defense and Sidney Rice on offense who were starters in 2010 and scheduled to be free agents whenever free agency starts – it won’t start until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. Defensive end Ray Edwards, nose tackle Pat Williams and linebacker Ben Leber are all scheduled to be free agents on defense.
That could be why NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi said the Vikings have more needs than they may think.
“I think Minnesota has more needs than they really think they have, and I think what happens is when you are so close you kid yourself into thinking you (don’t) have all these needs and then the next year when you don’t get there you realize you’ve got a lot of needs, and I think they do,” Lombardi said.
Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel, said that Greenway was worth the investment with a franchise tag, which will pay him close to $10 million in 2011, but the team is still working on a long-term deal for him.
“Chad is a valuable part of our organization. When you look at that, you look at what he brings to our defense and you weigh in the fact that he is a three-down linebacker, he’s never off the field – he’s very important to us, not only on first and second down, but what he brings to us on third down as well,” Spielman said. “Our goal and objective will be to continue to work with his agent and get a long-term deal done with Chad.”
The Vikings didn’t use their transition tag and they are operating as if the rules of free agency will be as they were last year in an uncapped season, which meant players needed six years of NFL experience before they could become unrestricted free agents – Rice has only four years of experience.
“We will finalize all our tags on potential restricted free agents when we get back (from Indianapolis next week),” Spielman said.
“… We’re just dealing with the rules and we’re going about as normal as we can with the situation that we’re dealing with. It hasn’t really affected us one way or another on our decision-making.”
The discussions between Spielman, Rob Brzezinski – the Vikings’ vice president of football operations – and the agents for the team’s other free agents could shape how they proceed the rest of the offseason.
“Myself and Rob Brzezinski are going to meet with guys all afternoon. We have a lot of agent meetings with our players only,” Spielman said Thursday.
However, with all the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining discussions, the Vikings opted not to sign their pending free agents to long-term deals in the last year. That leaves them with Rice, Edwards, Leber, Williams, Ryan Longwell, Brian Robison, Tarvaris Jackson, Ryan Cook, Fred Evans, Frank Walker, Naufahu Tahi, Greg Lewis, Lito Sheppard, Eric Frampton, Hank Baskett, Patrick Ramsey and Brett Favre as anticipated unrestricted free agents and Husain Abdullah and Erin Henderson as potential restricted free agents.
That’s probably why Lombardi sees needs for the Vikings all over the depth chart.
“I think the Vikings’ misconception is that they weren’t as good defensively as people thought. They’re older on defense and I think they obviously have to fix their quarterback,” he said. “Their left tackle is a huge concern. Bryant McKinnie didn’t play as well for them last year. What are they going to do with Sidney Rice? They need to re-sign (him) or they need an outside receiver. (Percy) Harvin is a really good slot guy.”
Last year, the Vikings returned all of their 2009 starters to the 2010 roster. This year figures to be much different as the team moves toward a younger roster.
THE PETERSON ISSUE
Star running back Adrian Peterson isn’t a free agent yet, but he could opt out of his contract after 2011. Spielman admitted that the Vikings will have will have to address his contract as well at some point in the near future.
“Once we understand what we’re dealing with (with the CBA), then we’ll be able to address that,” he said.
“We’ll continue to look at that, and Adrian is a vital key of our football team and … the face of the organization. So, we’ll address that when the time’s right.”
While pending free agents from other teams can’t be signed yet – or even formally discussed publicly, fearing tampering accusations – players that have been released since the end of the season, so-called street free agents, can be signed at any time.
Former Colts safety Bob Sanders, whom Leslie Frazier coached in Indianapolis, is one possibility.
“Every guy that gets released … gets evaluated,” Spielman said. “We feel if they can come in and help our ball club and everything works out we would do something. If not, we move on.
“We’ve talked about everybody that’s been cut since the waiver system came in place," Spielman said.
However, Spielman has also said the Vikings would be younger in 2011.
“That’s what we’re trying to do. There’s youth on this roster, but there’s also a player or two that can help us too,” he said. “It’s a combination of everything.”
Spielman said he didn’t anticipate releasing any of his current players in the near future, but “that’s always etched in oatmeal. Don’t anticipate anything happening (right now).”
Spielman when asked about re-signing pending free-agent linebacker Ben Leber: “We’ll have those discussions and stuff. … Are we going to be able to keep everybody? I don’t know. Would you love to have Ben back? Ben’s been a very good football player for us, done a lot of good things for us. I don’t know where that’s going to go to be honest with you.”
Spielman said DE Everson Griffen, who was arrested for public intoxication and again for fleeing police during a three-day time period earlier this month, and head coach Leslie Frazier and talked about the issues surrounding Griffen.
“I know Leslie and Everson had a pretty good conversation. I’ll keep internally what’s been discussed, but we feel very confident in Everson,” Spielman said Thursday. “What he did, I’ll leave that for Leslie to discuss. He is a very talented football player and felt very fortunate we were able to get him in the draft last year and showed signs of that as a rookie. Have a lot of high expectations for him going into next season.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.