Sid Hartman: Wilfs won't hesitate to spend on Vikings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2008 - 10:59 PM

Team president and part-owner Mark Wilf wants a winner and said he'll approve of signing free agents if that's what personnel people recommend.

Mark Wilf, the part-owner and president of the Vikings, met with the team vice presidents, coach Brad Childress and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman on Monday, and all of them received a vote of confidence.

Wilf made it clear this wasn't one of those phony endorsements of all of the personnel at Winter Park.

"Absolutely we feel 100 percent behind our coaching staff and our front office," Wilf said. "We're anxious to get a winner and a championship, and they're the right people to do it."

Speaking about the 2007 season, Wilf said: "I think things went better, obviously, on the field, and as I've said before, we're progressing in the right direction. We feel we're making good strides."

Wilf said he believes the Vikings have the players to improve on their record in 2008 and make the playoffs.

"I think we have players that can win a lot of games this coming year. So, I'm hopeful '08 is going to be a winning, successful year and a big improvement over '07. We're pleased that we're making some progress, but obviously we have some progress yet to make."

After making a big spending splurge in the free agent market in 2006 -- which included signing guard Steve Hutchinson to a seven-year, $49 million contract -- the Vikings' new owners laid low this past season.

But Wilf promised to make the money available to sign some top free agents if that is what is recommended by the personnel department.

"We will be active in any way, any shape, to improve the football team," he said. "We, as ownership, will give any support we need to make sure we get a winner on the field -- whether it's free agency, draft or any way.

"We've left it to the coach and Rick Spielman and his staff to make sure to evaluate what's out there. But from an ownership perspective, we're going to give them the resources they need to make sure we get a winner on the field. If there is that type of talent out there, we'll go after it."

So, it appears that the Wilfs, unlike some other owners of sports franchises in the Twin Cities, will spend the money needed to put a good team on the field.

Roy stands out

In the 2006 draft, the Timberwolves drafted Washington guard Brandon Roy with the sixth pick and then traded Roy to the Portland Trail Blazers for Villanova guard Randy Foye, the seventh pick in the first round, and $1 million.

Well, the second guess is always better than the first one, but a year ago a healthy Foye averaged 10.1 points per game, while Roy was named Rookie of the Year and averaged 16.8 points in 57 games.

This season Roy is averaging 19.2 points, and is one of the reasons for Portland's recent 13-game winning streak.

On the other hand, Foye has been laid up since training camp because of a bum knee and might not be available until February. The hope is that this problem won't be chronic.

"Well, right now, there's no question that Brandon Roy has had a better year and a half, but I wouldn't gauge anybody's career on a year and a half," Wolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale said. "The funny thing is that the reason that we were really a little bit hesitant on Brandon was the health issue. He had a couple surgeries on his knees and we were a little bit concerned about his health. The doctors' reports weren't all that great on him. All of a sudden, now, look at him: He's playing healthy right now and Randy Foye, who's never had any health problems, is hurt.

"But you never know. I really like Randy, I think Randy's going to be a tremendous player, as of right now though, when you take a year and a half of their careers, Brandon Roy has played better up to this point. But it's unfair to judge Randy on that right now, I think you've got to get him back in the mix and let him play."

Well, McHale has his theory, but as of now, Roy would look great in a Timberwolves uniform.

Jottings

The Vikings have paid all of the $13 million in guaranteed money owed to wide receiver Troy Williamson. So if they decide to release him, as has been speculated, the Vikings would save a lot of money. He would not be paid for the remaining three years on his contract that is not guaranteed. That would amount to $910,000 next year, $1.44 million for 2009, and $1.9 million for both 2010 and 2011.

There is no doubt the Vikings missed defensive end Ray Edwards, who was suspended for the final four games of the season for violating the NFL's steroid policy. He definitely will be brought back. ... The Vikings will be $30 million under the salary cap next season.

All of Glen Mason's staff went off the payroll of the Gophers athletic department as of Jan. 1. ... The Gophers athletic department showed a deficit of $6 million for the 2007-2008 year, according to athletic director Joel Maturi, because of charges of $5 million for the two football staffs -- new and old -- and other such expenses.

Even some college teams had success stopping Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who ran wild for Oklahoma against Texas the first time he faced them (he ran for 225 yards). But Vikings defensive end and Texas alumnus Brian Robison said the Longhorns defensive coaches then devised an eight-man defensive front like the 49ers and Bears utilized, limiting him to 81 yards in the next two games. "We just put eight men in the box and gave him some different looks and did a lot of moving and stuff like that to get rid of their blocking schemes and confuse them, and it worked," Robison said.

Former Gopher Kyle Okposo, who has signed with the Islanders, is still playing in the Czech Republic in the IIHF World Championships and hasn't reported to the Islanders. He has one goal and four assists in the championships.

Gophers recruit Jordan Schroeder (no goals, eight assists) is the second leading scorer behind James Van Riemsdyk (four goals, six assists) in the IIHF Championships. Gophers forward Mike Carman has two goals and Gophers defenseman Cade Fairchild has one assist. Gophers forward Ryan Flynn has not scored.

Former Watertown-Mayer basketball player Matt Janning was named the Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball player of the week Tuesday. Janning, a sophomore at Northeastern, scored 26 points in Northeastern's 95-74 loss to Syracuse. Janning is third in the conference in scoring (17.3 points per game).

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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