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Spielman: Vikings not likely to spend big in free agency

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  • February 21, 2013 - 1:17 PM

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman just finished his session at the podium here at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The hottest topic: Percy Harvin’s future with the team. To which Spielman hasn’t changed his response, declaring once again Thursday that he has “no intent on trading Percy Harvin” – without, of course, a full declaration that he won’t do so.

But Spielman also said the only folks asking him about a potential Harvin trade are reporters. As of noon, the Vikings GM said he hadn’t received any Harvin inquiries from anyone else, with not a single NFL team approaching him on the matter.

“None,” Spielman said. “The cab driver coming in didn’t say anything to me about it. The pilot when I got on the plane [didn’t ask].”

So, yeah. Nothing new to see here right now. And now that we’ve got that initial obligatory Harvin update out of the way, let’s move on to another pressing topic that fans should wrap their brains around as the Vikings continue through the offseason. Those expecting a possible free agency spending spree? Not going to happen. In fact, it’s unlikely the Vikings will spend a lot of time and energy courting any of the possible “big splash” free agents that might be available come March 12.

To reiterate once again, the Spielman’s philosophy on building his roster can be summarized as follows: build through the draft and add a few minor pieces through free agency.

I asked the Vikings GM to elaborate on that mindset Thursday and here’s a big chunk of what he had to say:

“I’m not a real big believer in spending in free agency. We’re always going to try to build through the draft and continue to do that. Because I think that way you maintain a roster that can be competitive year in and year out. Not only on the field but also from a financial standpoint of staying within the cap and looking at the overall cash. I think you have a lot more success when you sign your own players as unrestricted free agents. Because you know them the best. And if you screw up signing one of of your own guys and he doesn’t pan out, then that’s a fault on you. I think it’s a little riskier when you go out and try to sign other team’s UFAs.”

Spielman said his detailed statistical analysis shows that players signed through free agency often struggle to adapt and may not have the level of success outsiders expect.

“I don’t want to call them rookies because they’re veterans,” Spielman said. “But they take time to adjust to their new teammates, take time to adjust to their new surroundings, take time to adjust to the new offense that they’re running. So it’s not always as smooth a transition as people would think it would be.”

A year ago, tight end John Carlson became the only major free agency investment the Vikings made. And, well, his struggles in 2012 may only further Spielman’s previous point. If you recall, many of the free agents the Vikings signed last spring – Jerome Felton, Marvin Mitchell, Jerome Simpson, Geoff Schwartz, even in-house guy Erin Henderson – were signed to one-year deals. Spielman referred to that as approach as “Rent-a-player.”

And with a hope annually to ideally have 10 draft picks at his disposal, Spielman likes to keep the door open for drafted players to emerge without feeling an obligation to elevate a major free agent signee.

“It’s an open competition that way,” the Vikings GM said. “So a veteran might be slightly ahead of [a draft pick] as you’re going through training camp and as you’re going through the preseason. But is that rookie going to pass him in Week 3, 4, or 5? Does he have the chance to be developed into a better player than where that current vet is? So it doesn’t lock you into the situation where you’re saying we have to keep this vet because we’ve paid him X amount. We can keep who we think is the best player for us.”

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