Rick Spielman

Vikings Likely To Cut Xavier Rhodes; Latest On Everson Griffen

Earlier today, we discussed a possible extension for Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, an extension that would give Minnesota some much-needed cap space. In addition to a potential new deal for Cousins, Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune notes that other priorities for the Vikings this offseason include extensions for head coach Mike Zimmer, GM Rick Spielman, and running back Dalvin Cook, all of whom are only under contract through 2020. The team will also need to find a new OC, as the Browns just hired Kevin Stefanski to be their next head coach.

The Vikings may also be looking at some significant turnover on the defensive side of the ball. As Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press observes, four of the team’s six defensive starters with Pro Bowls on their resumes — DE Everson Griffen, DT Linval Joseph, S Harrison Smith, and CB Xavier Rhodes — are on the wrong side of 30, or will be next season (Twitter link).

Per Tomasson, Minnesota is likely to release Rhodes. That does not come as much of a surprise, as Rhodes’ play has declined dramatically since he signed a lucrative extension in July 2017, and the team could net a $8.1MM cap savings by cutting him.

Tomasson also suggests that Griffen may not be back with the team in 2020. Pursuant to the terms of a reworked deal that Griffen and the Vikings agreed to last March, Griffen is technically under contract through 2022. But because he played at least 56% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2019 and recorded at least six sacks — he actually played over 77% of defensive snaps while posting eight sacks — he has the ability to void the 2020-22 seasons and hit free agency. Or, even if he does not choose to do so, the Vikings could release him and save about $13MM of cap space.

In any event, it figures to be a busy offseason for Minnesota, a talented team that has just not been able to get over the hump.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings To Stick With Mike Zimmer, Rick Spielman

The Vikings won’t be on the hunt for a new head coach or a GM. On Friday, Vikings owner Mark Wilf backed Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman in a press release and ensured their status for 2020: 

We value Mike and Rick’s leadership and we have every intent of Mike continuing as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Rick leading our football operations, next year and beyond.”

The Vikings finished the year 10-6, good enough for a Wild Card spot in the NFC. They enter this weekend’s game against the Saints as underdogs – particularly with a thinned-out secondary to guard Michael Thomas & Co. – but Zimmer and Spielman will return, regardless of the outcome.

It’s worth noting that the contracts for Zimmer and Spielman will expire after the 2020 season. An extension would truly solidify their standing in Minnesota. Otherwise, they’ll be lame ducks heading into next year.

Zimmer, 63, has led the Vikings to three playoff appearances and two divisional crowns over five seasons. In 2017, the Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game where they were stopped by the Eagles. Last year, the Vikings fell short of expectations with a 8-7-1 finish, and they waffled at times in 2019, but they still believe Zimmer is the best man for the job.

Spielman, 57, spent six years as the team’s vice president of player personnel before being promoted to GM in 2012.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Extend GM Rick Spielman

The Vikings have extended the contract of GM Rick Spielman, owner Mark Wilf says (Twitter link via Chad Graff of The Athletic). Spielman, like head coach Mike Zimmer, is now under contract through the 2020 season.

The Vikings have acquired and locked up much of their core under Spielman. Key players such as Danielle Hunter, quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook, wide receiver Adam Thielen, offensive tackle Riley Reiff, center Pat Elflein, linebacker Eric Kendricks, safety Harrison Smith, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and defensive end Everson Griffen are all under contract through 2020 and beyond.

Spielman, 56, spent six years as the team’s vice president of player personnel before being promoted to GM in 2012. Since then, the team has seen its fair share of ups and downs, including last year’s disappointing 8-7-1 finish. Still, the talent is there, and the Vikings have the potential to contend in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.