Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman was the guest of ProFootballTalk.com founder Mike Florio on “PFT Live” and was asked a wide-ranging set of questions about the state of the Vikings.
Spielman, who was taken out of a draft meeting to do the interview, said that the final preparation stages of setting the team’s draft board will be concluded early next week.
“We’ve been going pretty hard all this week and will finish up on Tuesday and try to finalize things,” Spielman said. “Our coaches are in (meetings) right now giving all their opinions and weighing (in) on what the scouts have said and getting the board set.”
When asked about the Vikings’ draft philosophy, while it didn’t get into Spielman’s penchant to stack players horizontally rather than vertically so that players with similar grades from multiple positions can be presented as options, he was asked about how need fuels the draft. As is his habit, Spielman maintains that the Vikings never draft for need and always take the best player on their board regardless of position or need.
“We’ve always taken the philosophy of trying to get the best available player,” Spielman said. “That’s what happened when we took Adrian (Peterson) even though Chester Taylor had a great year (in 2006). We did that with Percy (Harvin) when he slipped down to us at (Pick No.) 21. We’ve had a lot of success doing that.”
Spielman said that he and head coach Leslie Frazier will be making the draft decisions, which could well involve trading up and down in the draft. Every team has players that they covet and, without the benefit of free agency to fill holes on rosters, teams are going into this year’s draft not knowing if they can re-sign their own free agents – the Buffalo Bills front office said they’re going into the draft process with the mindset that they will lose all their unrestricted free agents and other teams (perhaps not as publicly) share that view.
Spielman said that, by the time draft weekend arrives, the team will have gone through several potential scenarios about which players may or may not be available and, scenarios in which they could potentially trade down to reclaim the draft pick lost in the Randy Moss deal. He said he anticipates similar discussions are taking place elsewhere, which could make for a trade-happy draft as teams move to get players they have targeted.
“The thing that’s different this year from the past is that you had an idea what teams did in trades and what they did in the UFA market where they may have filled some of those needs,” Spielman said. “Going into this draft, no one has filled any needs on their roster yet. It’s going to be a unique draft because I think there’s going to be a lot of movement on teams moving up and down and teams are really going to focus on, if there’s a player they really like, they’re going to go after that player.”
As would be expected, Spielman ducked questions like a dodgeball player when it came to the plan for drafting a quarterback. However, he did hint at the Vikings addressing the position at some point and said the new offensive coaching staff will be a huge benefit to developing a young quarterback, whether that turns out being Joe Webb or a player not yet on the roster, but one who may be two weeks from now.
“Leslie did a great job hiring Bill Musgrave and Craig Johnson,” Spielman said. “We’re very excited about what they bring. They have a lot of history of bringing along quarterbacks.”
No national interview with anyone involved with the Vikings can have the interviewee escape without being asked to ponder the football future of Brett Favre. With the growing opinion that the season may start late and will likely scuttle the preseason, Florio asked Spielman if he thought Favre would make another run given the possibility of no training camp under that scenario. Spielman ducked the question like George W. Bush dipping out of the way of a thrown shoe. He claimed he couldn’t know what other teams are going to do, but added that Favre has “unretired numerous times.” In a declarative statement, he said that it won’t be a return to Minnesota, saying the Vikings have moved on.
When talk turned to Adrian Peterson, Spielman was asked about the contract status of Adrian Peterson, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He said that the Vikings realize A.D. is the face of the franchise and want to keep him, but hope that the addition of Toby Gerhart will reduce the number of hits Peterson takes in a season and will allow him to lengthen his career.
“I think Adrian is a key to this franchise,” Spielman said. “Adrian is a big part of for our success on the football field. But I also know one of the reasons why we drafted a Toby Gerhart-type back last year was maybe the longevity of Adrian. You don’t want to get him off the field, but Toby is a big, physical back as well and can take some of those hits off Adrian that he takes during a 16-game, 20-game season.”
The interview ended with a question Florio expected a straight answer from Spielman on – he doesn’t know him as well as the local media. Asked if he preferred to play indoors or outdoors, Spielman gave a honest (albeit alternate) answer.
“I prefer playing in a new stadium – I’ll just say that,” Spielman said with a laugh.
Before sending their sides on their way for a three-day weekend before mediation, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan presented both the players and owners with questions to which he wants answers. The questions are likely involved with revenue issues that require some investigation and could go a long way to continuing to push negotiations forward. Nothing like homework when you have a three-day weekend.
The Vikings, who keep their predraft visits on a need-to-know basis (the media, apparently, does not need to know), worked out a pair of DE/OLB ‘tweeners Friday. According to the National Football Post, Arizona defenders Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore worked out for the team. Both played defensive end – they started opposite one another the last three years – for Arizona, but project out as pass-rushing linebackers for a 3-4 defense.
Minnesota may have been thrown a lucky break in dealing with the Vikings stadium issue. The biggest leverage the team has is that the Los Angeles market is open and looking for an NFL team (if not two). But, in a story in Friday’s Los Angeles Times, it was reported that final approval from the Los Angeles City Council for the proposal from developer AEG for a multipurpose stadium next to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles could take up to a year. AEG was hoping for approval by late summer.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.