The Vikings have a core philosophy that doesn't mesh with the frenzy of free agency and the modern NFL fan's insatiable appetite for new signings with every click of the refresh button.
So Week 1 of free agency was passing quietly, like a 72-hour whisper at a Chuck E. Cheese's birthday party. The No. 1 priority — backup quarterback — was filled gently by Shaun Hill on Tuesday. Then defensive end Michael Johnson, a salary cap casualty from Tampa, arrived at Winter Park on Friday for a two-day visit before moving on to Cincinnati, where he'll huddle with his former team Sunday and make a contract decision as early as Monday.
However, in the middle of Johnson's visit Friday, the Vikings found a way to blast a cannon ball off the high board while sidestepping the risky financial pitfalls of free agency. They traded a fifth-round draft pick to Miami for receiver Mike Wallace and a seventh-round pick.
The Vikings came out of the deal with the same number of draft picks and still own a fifth-rounder that they got from Buffalo for Matt Cassel. Meanwhile, the only guaranteed money for Wallace arrived Saturday when $3 million of this year's $9.85 million salary came due. Later that day, the Vikings were able to release receiver Greg Jennings, whose production never matched his overinflated pay, saving $5 million in cap space.
But there is a big "but" to consider. Wallace comes with a lot of baggage as a reputed moody malcontent who hasn't been the same player since he left Ben Roethlisberger's coattails in Pittsburgh. There also were reports Wallace is upset about being sent to Minnesota.
So let's keep the celebratory backflips to a minimum for now. Or at least until we see if this guy is a cure or a cancer for Teddy Bridgewater.
But we can applaud the trade's low risk. The Vikings get a 28-year-old potential No.1 receiver with the speed to separate from defenders. And if he doesn't work out, he can be dumped after the season without any cap hits. Not bad for a guy who commanded a five-year, $60 million deal as the prized free agent of 2013.
Earlier in the week, the Vikings stood pat while fans howled as if the season opener had been moved to mid-March. Left guard became the biggest need, but the Vikings didn't flinch when the top three guards — including three-time Pro Bowler Mike Iupati — were signed. When Philadelphia's Evan Mathis was shopped to them, they dismissed it without discussion.
Iupati, 27, certainly would have cost the Vikings more than the $8 million average salary he got from Arizona. Mathis would have cost draft picks, something the Vikings never would agree to for a 33-year-old.
General Manager Rick Spielman focuses instead on developing as many draft picks as possible, identifying cornerstones and extending them a year before free agency. He also prefers to re-sign veterans, which goes overlooked when free agency needs are filled by familiar faces.
The Vikings are $12.6 million under the salary cap. But any financial decisions they make now come with a mindful eye on the next two years as well.
That's prudent for the only team in the 21-year history of the salary cap era to select seven first-round draft picks in a three-year period. Big bills are on the horizon for most of the first-rounders in the Classes of 2012 (Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith), 2013 (Xavier Rhodes, Sharrif Floyd and Cordarrelle Patterson) and 2014 (Anthony Barr and Bridgewater).
The fifth-year options for the 2012 first-rounders will be made May 3. The Vikings will pick up both options, even Kalil's, because the fifth year is guaranteed only for injury and can be rescinded before free agency the following season.
As for Smith, the Vikings will consider extending him before this season rather than waiting a year.
"If I'm the Vikings, I do Smith's deal sooner than later because it's only going up," said Joel Corry, a former agent and current analyst for CBSSports.com. "You're talking in the $9 million a year range right now, if he doesn't improve. If he takes a step forward, he's going to want to be the highest-paid safety in the league."
Seattle's Earl Thomas makes $10 million a year, the league-high for a safety.
"And then the next sure guy in the class after Smith is Rhodes," Corry said. "If you have a potential shutdown corner, which he could be, that's a guy you have to really take care of too."
We also can expect the team to extend at least three members of the draft class of 2012 — receiver Jarius Wright, kicker Blair Walsh and tight end Rhett Ellison — this summer, a year before they're due to hit free agency.
Impatient fans should study what the Buccaneers did a year ago. They won free agency in part because they landed left tackle Anthony Collins, quarterback Josh McCown and Johnson, the pass rusher who visited the Vikings.
But one year later, the Bucs released all three, paying them a combined $34.8 million. The Bucs were forced to pay Johnson $7 million to leave because it would have cost $14 million for him to stay.
Remember that the next time someone crowns an NFL team in free agency.