Rick Spielman

Vikings GM Discusses Extensions, Hunter, Future

Earlier today, the Vikings and pass rusher Danielle Hunter agreed to a lucrative five-year, $72MM extension. With the deal, the organization has now locked up many of their core players through at least 2020, including quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook, wide receiver Adam Thielen, offensive tackle Riley Reiff, center Pat Elflein, linebacker Erik Kendricks, safety Harrison Smith, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and defensive end Everson Griffen.

Following the news, general manager Rick Spielman addressed the media, touching on a number of relevant points (including the team’s willingness to still sign Anthony Barr and Stefon Diggs to extensions, which we covered earlier). Lindsey Young of Vikings.com passed along some of the soundbites from the press conference, and we compiled some of the more notable quotes below:

On the Vikings ability to hit on players at any point of the draft (including Hunter in the third round):

“Ever since [Head Coach Mike] Zimmer has been here and we’ve come together, and the way we’ve kind of tailored our drafts, taking guys like this who might not be as polished right out of college, but you see that they have this tremendous upside, and they have these tremendous physical traits. And they’re quality people – they want to really work, and they have passion for the game.

“When they check all of our boxes, then we feel that we have a pretty good chance of having success and hitting on those types of guys.”

On the important of Hunter:

“Pass-rushers are a premium in this league, especially with the way offenses have developed. You have to be able to rush the passer, and Danielle fits like a lot of guys we’ve been able to extend. They come in, they’re high character people, they work extremely hard, they have a passion for the game, and they’re taking to the coaching they’re getting.”

On any worries about a player becoming complacent after signing a lucrative contract:

“Even when they get these contracts and the contract extensions that we’ve done in the past, it seems like those guys take it to the next step after they get these kinds of contracts. And I think that’s, one, the coaching they’re getting and two, hopefully we’re bringing in those types of guys that the game and the passion for the game means something.”

On the difficulty of retaining the Vikings core:

“We started this planning three years ago, and we’re always, we’re planning for the next three years. It’s a combination of us being able to keep this team together but also rewarding the players as they show success on the field and that they’re doing the right things off the field, as well. But it’s not easy.

“It seems like guys want to be here and want to be part of this culture, want to be a part of this organization and want to be a part of this community. They’re going to get rewarded for their success on the field financially, but also I think every one of these guys wants a chance to go in and win and wants to play for an organization that does things the right way, and to play with a group of coaches that have a history of taking guys and developing these guys and actually making them better than when they came in.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Vikings, Cardinals, Thomas

The Vikings roster is quickly getting expensive. As Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com points out, six players have salary-cap numbers that exceed $10MM for next season: quarterback Kirk Cousins, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen, offensive tackle Riley Reiff, and safety Harrison Smith. The team is also paying more than $8MM to defensive tackle defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson, and they still have to extend wideout Stefon Diggs and defensive end Danielle Hunter.

With money quickly running thin (the Vikings currently have $17MM in cap space, and Tomasson believes part of that will be used for extensions), general manager Rick Spielman acknowledged that it’s difficult managing the team’s budget.

“The hardest thing right now is the economic structure on our team where we have all these high-priced guys now because they all deserve to get paid the way they’ve been playing,’’ Spielman said. “But economically, we’re not going to go out there, you can’t play fantasy football and have $3 (million), $4 (million) or $5 million backup guys. Those are going to be the young guys that we’ve drafted or we’ve developed.’’

Of course, as he should, Spielman has an optimistic view of the cap crunch.

“It’s a good problem to have, but we have a very high-priced roster right now,’’ Spielman said. “And eventually some of those guys are going to get aged out, just like we had some of our other Pro Bowlers … and you have to replace them.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

Extra Points: Bridgewater, Gronk, Browns, Vikings

It’s been assumed that Jets quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty are trade/release candidates, especially since the team is eyeing a signal-caller with their first-round pick. However, Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com says another Jets quarterback could be at risk of losing their job.

Williams reports that Teddy Bridgewater isn’t a lock to make the Jets roster, “at least until he shows he’s healthy.” The 25-year-old has played less than 10 combined snaps over the past two seasons, but he still earned a one-year deal worth $500K in guaranteed money. During his last season as a starter in 2015, Bridgewater completed 65.3-percent of his passes for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.

If the Jets indeed select a quarterback, the depth chart will be incredibly crowded. Besides the three previously-mentioned quarterbacks, the team is also rostering projected starter Josh McCown.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Tight end Rob Gronkowski confirmed on Tuesday that he’ll suit up for the Patriots in 2018, and Peter King of The MMQB is curious about the timing of his announcement. It’s purely speculative from King, but he wonders if Gronk was told that he would have to make his intentions clear about playing before this weekend’s draft. The Patriots have been willing to deal star players in the past, so Gronkowski could have feared that he would have wound up in the same boat as Richard Seymour and Chandler Jones.
  • If the Browns move down from No. 4, they could target Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward further down the board, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Browns have already made some additions at cornerback, but they’re looking for another starter. If they land Ward, you can expect Cleveland to trade Jamar Taylor.
  • Earlier today, reports indicated that Browns head coach Hue Jackson wasn’t sure what the organization would do with the first-overall pick. However, Steve Wyche of NFL Network tweets that Jackson is “fully in the loop” regarding Cleveland’s draft plans. Jackson, along with several coordinators, have seen the front office’s draft board.
  • Vikings GM Rick Spielman seems to have an affinity for taking players out of the ACC, as Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune writes. The Vikings drafted Dalvin Cook, Danny Isidora, Stacy Coley, Bucky Hodges and Jack Tocho, all from the ACC, last year. Conversely, Spielman rarely takes players from the Big 12, with only two selections from that conference — Tyrus Thompson (Oklahoma) and Elijah Lee (Kansas State) — in his six drafts at the wheel.

Vikings GM Rick Spielman Discusses Offseason, Draft, Peterson

This will be a critical offseason for the Vikings and general manager Rick Spielman. After starting the season with five straight victories, the Vikings went 3-8 the rest of the way. This was the team’s third playoff absence since Spielman took over in 2012, with the Vikings haven’t advanced past the wild card round during their two postseason appearances.

Rick SpielmanBesides the motivation to transform the team into a playoff contender, the Vikings will also have to make tough decisions on their handful of impending free agents. Sid Hartman of the Minnesota Star Tribune notes that the team has 14 players who will hit free agency, including cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman, running back Matt Asiata, linebacker Audie Cole, tight end Rhett Ellison, offensive tackle Matt Kalil, and wideout Cordarrelle Patterson.

Spielman talked to Hartman about his preparation for the offseason, his evaluation of this year’s draft class, and Adrian Peterson‘s NFL future. The whole article is worth reading, but we collected some of the notable quotes below.

On the front office’s preparation for the offseason:

“We started our process last week, met with all the coaches and the scouts. We kind of went through our personnel, where we’re at, we identified our needs, and we’ll start over the next month here putting together our game plan on where we can attack to fill those needs, whether it be free agency or we have to wait through until the draft. There are going to be some things that can happen.”

On how the front office will evaluate ways to improve the roster:

“The most important process is to be honest with yourself on where your roster is and be honest on the type of personnel. Then once you identify those needs, and we do it where the coaches are involved, the scouts are involved, and then I’ll sit with Coach [Mike] Zimmer, [Executive Vice President] Rob Brzezinski, [assistant GM] George Paton, and we’ll finalize our game plan and get ready to improve the roster.”

On running back Adrian Peterson’s future in the NFL:

“I think Adrian will always defy the odds. He got hurt this year, but I still think he has a lot of football left in him. Those will be some of the tough decisions we have to make, and what you do is when you go through this process you’re trying to weigh in where are you going to put your resources and financially where are you going to spend your money.

“We have a lot of young guys coming up this year. I think Xavier Rhodes is an extremely talented young player that we’re going to have to be mentally prepared to address his contract. Those decisions will be made once we get through the free agency and draft meetings. But I think Adrian Peterson has football left in him.”

On the team’s draft strategy:

“We have eight draft picks going into this draft, my goal was to have 10 or more by the time we get out of this draft. I do think we have to replenish our roster with some youth. Last year we signed a lot of our players back, a lot of free agents back on the roster, and this year I know we’re going to have to get some of the younger players going. This new class coming in, from a draft standpoint, will be a part of it as well.”

On his early evaluations of the draft class:

“We had our first meeting in December, and then our scouts will be coming in in a couple weeks and head down to the Senior Bowl. I saw most of those kids that are going to be in the Senior Bowl, but I think offensively the two strongest positions — and I don’t know all the juniors that are coming out or who’s staying or going and that won’t be decided for a couple weeks — but it looks like an extremely strong running back class. I think the tight end class is going to be extremely strong.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings GM On Bradford, Mindset, Draft

Ordinarily, if a team lost their starting quarterback and star running back, they’d probably throw in the towel. Not general manager Rick Spielman. The executive was aggressive following the season-ending injury to Teddy Bridgewater, sacrificing multiple draft assets to acquire Sam Bradford.

While the deal wasn’t universally embraced, it’s looked good through the first month of the season. The Vikings are currently 4-0, and Bradford has tossed four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Spielman recently spoke about the Bradford trade with Brian Murphy of TwinCities.com. The whole article is worth checking out, but we compiled some of the notable quotes below:

Rick SpielmanOn whether he’s willing to declare the Bradford trade “a win” for the Vikings:

“We’ve been happy with the progress Sam’s made and how he’s helped the football team, for sure. Hopefully we’ll continue to do what we’re doing and winning games. But there’s no gratification yet until the end of the season.”

On whether the Vikings would have made a similar trade in 2015 or 2014:

“I don’t know if you’re in the first year with a new coach, you’d go through with it. Where we’re at, the players we have right now, by doing that, it gave us the best opportunity to hopefully have a successful season.”

Would the team sacrifice more future assets to fill a glaring hole?

“That’s a unique position and a unique opportunity.

“You have to keep your eye on what your roster’s going to potentially look like next year, and contracts that you have coming up and guys you may have to potentially replace. We’re still going to always build through the draft. You can’t do that without having the draft picks.

“As we deal with injuries — and we’ve dealt with a lot of injuries — it goes to the testament of this coaching staff, the depth that we have behind these guys. Guys that maybe aren’t well known are stepping in and playing well for us at this point.”

Latest On Vikings’ QB Situation

Rick Spielman on Thursday night expressed confidence Shaun Hill can take the Vikings back to the playoffs. As a result, the team will not make a trade that includes a promising young talent or a high draft pick, Ben Goessling of ESPN.com reports.

The fifth-year GM revealed the Vikings are “considering all their options” as they attempt to move forward without Teddy Bridgewater this season. But other teams are demanding a high return from the Vikings in exchange for quarterback help.

People are asking for some crazy things,” Spielman said. “People think you’re desperate. I’m not doing anything that jeopardizes the franchise.”

Nevertheless, Spielman hopes to land a quarterback in the next two days. Teams must cut their rosters down to 53 by Saturday afternoon. There will be outside help available, although none that would qualify as a surefire starter over Hill since the pickup would be joining a new team on the heels of being waived or released less than a week before the season.

We heard last night the price for some teams whose backups have been the subject of trade rumors — Josh McCown, A.J. McCarron and Mike Glennon are among three who fit this category — is thought to be a Day 2 draft choice at the least, with the possibility of a first-round pick being sought.

Bridgewater, who suffered a torn ACL and dislocated knee in a gruesome injury on Tuesday, will decide on a surgeon within the next few days, per Goessling.

Once a UDFA who began his career with the 2005 Vikings behind Daunte Culpepper and Brad Johnson, the 36-year-old Hill has played for four teams. He’s started at least eight games in three different seasons but only sported an over-.500 record in one of those campaigns — with the 2008 49ers. With the Rams in 2014, he went 3-5 but completed more than 63% of his passes, throwing eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

The Vikings, though, look to sport better talent than the previous teams that gave Hill the starting reins. Hill, who threw a career-high 16 TD passes in 10 starts for the Lions in 2010, resided as Bridgewater’s backup in 2015 as well. He threw seven passes last season.


Extra Points: Falcons, Bennett, Spikes, Stacy

Some assorted, non-prospect related notes from around the NFL…

  • Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff denied a report that the team was working a trade to land Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. “He’s under contract,” Dimitroff said on 92.9 The Game this morning. “I didn’t give it a second thought.” Irvin, an Atlanta native, played for Falcons head coach Dan Quinn for the past two seasons in Seattle.
  • Bears tight end Martellus Bennett told NFL Network (video link) that he’s extremely high on first round choice Kevin White. While it’s not proof positive that Bennett is staying in Chicago, it could be a sign that he anticipates staying put this season. Bennett was rumored to be a trade candidate earlier this week.
  • Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was contacted on Thursday night about his interest in free agent linebacker Brandon Spikes, according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP TV in Minneapolis (via Twitter). Spielman passed on the offer, as Wolfson notes that the GM is confident he’ll get a linebacker in the draft.
  • Following reports that Rams running back Zac Stacy requested a trade, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that representatives for the former fifth-rounder met with the organization. While it was a productive meeting, Thomas notes that a a decision hasn’t been made regarding Stacy’s future with the team. The Rams selected Georgia running back Todd Gurley with the tenth pick of the first round.

Ben Levine contributed to this post.

Vikings Will Not Release Adrian Peterson

Many of the rumors surrounding Adrian Peterson have focused on teams seeking to acquire the running back via trade. There hasn’t been much suggesting the Vikings would cut their star player, and USA Today’s Tom Pelissero confirmed that news this evening (via Twitter). According to the writer, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman informed Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, that the team would not be releasing the embattled running back. Pelissero notes that if the team had actually wanted to part ways with Peterson, they would have done so in September following the player’s indictment on child abuse charges.

According to Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo (on Twitter), Dogra texted the following:

“It was important for me to relay the position the Vikings are taking to Adrian. I want to make sure there is absolutely no confusion whatsoever.”

As Garafolo tweets, the wording of the agent’s text was very deliberate, and there have so far been zero public demands for Peterson to be moved. We heard in February that the running back was “uneasy” about returning to Minnesota, and recent reports have suggested that Peterson’s feelings towards the organization haven’t improved.

The Vikings releasing Peterson never appeared to be the logical route, as the organization would presumably rather acquire an asset for their best player as opposed to receiving nothing. While releasing the 29-year-old this offseason would save the organization $13MM, the extra cash wouldn’t do much good this far into free agency. Previous reports have suggested that prospective teams, including the Cardinals, have been scared away by the three years and $45MM remaining on Peterson’s contract.

Peterson’s 2014 campaign was limited to one game, when he ran for 75 yards on 21 carries. In 2013, he finished the season with 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him the 11th-best rating among 55 running back candidates on Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Extra Points: Luck, Vikings, Pro Bowl

Let’s take a look at some assorted notes from around the league as we wrap up this Saturday evening…

  • We heard earlier this week that the Colts were preparing a “blockbuster mega deal” for franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. That was apparently news to the former first-overall pick, as Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star tweets that Luck was surprised about the inquiries regarding an extension. As a result, Holder believes a new contract is not “imminent.”
  • Colts linebacker Andrew Jackson was arrested in Kentucky early Friday morning, reports Sabrina Adams of Fox 59 in Indy. The rookie was reportedly taken in for “careless driving and suspicion of DUI.”
  • The Vikings have struggled since their Super Bowl run in 2009, making the playoffs just once. However, general manager Rick Spielman is happy with the progress his players have made. “Our team got older when we went through our Super Bowl run when we had Brett Favre and I knew we had to get younger,” Spielman said told Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune. “That takes some time, and we’ve been able to accomplish that over the last couple of years and with the number of draft picks that we had. Now you’re hoping that those guys would develop and some of those guy are developing into pretty good football players for us. That cycle will be hopefully the guys that we extend and keep around for a while.”
  • The Pro Bowl is coming back to Hawaii. According to Gll Brandt of SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Dan Leberfeld JetsConfidential.com on Twitter), the league’s All-Star game will return to the Aloha State for the next three seasons. The 2014 Pro Bowl will take place at the same site as the Super Bowl, the University of Phoenix Stadium.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Lions, Starks

“The chemistry developing among the defensive linemen — especially starters Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea — might be the most exciting thing brewing for the Bears, especially after the unit was last in sacks in 2013,” writes Chicago Sun-Times staff reporter Adam Jahns, who lists 10 things gleaned during the Bears’ offseason.

Here’s some more news and notes from the NFC North:

  • Jahns also says rookie Brock Vereen, a fourth-round rookie from Minnesota, “has the lead” in the free safety competition.
  • “There should be no excuses going forward for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford,” according to USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, who explains the team has done everything in its power to accommodate its inconsistent franchise quarterback.
  • The Lions’ cornerback situation has been a continual topic of conversation this offseason, and the chatter (concern?) isn’t slowing down yet: ESPN’s Michael Rothstein says it’s a “probability” the Lions will pursue a veteran cornerback.
  • Fox Sports Detroit’s Dave Dye has a question: “It sounds funny to say, but…where would the Lions be without [Rashean] Mathis?” Dye says Mathis established himself as the Lions most reliable cornerback, but admits that’s as much of an indictment of the secondary as it is a compliment to Mathis.
  • Meanwhile, Dye thinks Cassius Vaughn could be a sleeper.
  • And finally, Rothstein and Mlive.com’s Kyle Meinke don’t think free agent Brandon Flowers is a fit in Detroit.
  • Packers new running backs coach Sam Gash thinks improved balance and body control could help James Stark avoid nagging injuries, writes Tyler Dunne in the Journal Sentinel.
  • Vikings GM Rick Spielman says the development of receiver Adam Thielen has jumped out at him during the offseason (radio interview with 100.3 FM here). A 6-2, 195-pound undrafted free agent out of Mankato State, Thielen was on the Vikings’ practice squad last season, but Star Tribune blogger Master Tesfatsion speculates Thielen might have a shot at a roster spot if he continues to impress and show chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater.