Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman cautions those who assume Joe Webb doesn't have a chance to be the team's quarterback of the future, and also made it clear the franchise won't depart from its philosophy of taking the best player available with the 12th-overall pick in the April draft.
"No," Spielman said when asked if the Vikings might be tempted to grab a quarterback in the opening round, even if there is another player available who they feel might have better talent.
"I understand the quarterback is something that you definitely have to look at," Spielman told reporters during an interview today at Winter Park. "But if there’s a guy up there who’s a potential MVP in the league at some other position, knowing that you have some depth behind you, we’re still going to stick with the best player available at that slot."
Unlike a year ago when the majority of a roster that had made it to the NFC title game was set to return, the Vikings have plenty of needs coming off a 6-10 season that saw coach Brad Childress lose his job in November. The Vikings could have 19 unrestricted and restricted free agents hit the market, if and when a new collective bargaining agreement gets done.
But no position is as hot of topic as quarterback. Brett Favre has retired again -- even if he decides he wants to play in 2011 it won't be in Minnesota -- and right now the only quarterbacks set to be under contract for next season are Webb and Rhett Bomar. Tavaris Jackson is expected to become a free agent.
Coach Leslie Frazier has made it clear in a number of interviews just how important it will be to find a long-term solution at quarterback and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has been busy working on tweaking the Vikings' system.
“I think the quarterback thing is the biggest question," Spielman said. "We’re looking at all avenues. Is there anyone in free agency -- if there is a free agency -- that you can fill a hole? Is there anyone from a trade aspect -- if there are trades -- that you can go down that route?
"... Do you feel very strongly about any of these kids in the draft where you want to take [them] at 12, if you’re still there at 12? Or is the draft that deep where you maybe you go into the second and third rounds and just go with the best available player at 12? I think this is a lot deeper draft class than it has been the past couple years. There’s so many different avenues you can go in.
“The other thing is, I know we’re excited about Joe Webb. ... I know we’re very excited about some of the things that we’ve seen in Joe Webb and the potential he has, too. From the arm strength, from the athletic ability and some of the positives that he’s really shown through the last part of the season last year.”
Webb, who was drafted in the sixth round last spring with the intention that he would be moved to wide receiver, started the final two games of the season at quarterback. Asked if Webb would remain at QB, Spielman said: "Right now, yeah, we are going into it as Webb as a quarterback."
The uncertainty over when a new collective bargaining agreement will be reached, or if there will be a lengthy lockout, means the Vikings might not be able to use free agency to sign a veteran quarterback anytime soon. One question has been whether the team might consider trying to get a veteran QB and also try to draft one, with the hopes the former could start for a season while the latter learns.
Spielman said that would be looked at on a "case-by-case basis."
"If you bring in a veteran, is he the right fit?" Spielman said. "If you bring him in, you already have one young quarterback [in Webb]. Say you bring in another young quarterback, is he the right fit or the mixture to fit in with the chemistry in the room and understanding the situation? If you do draft a quarterback early, more than likely you're saying that guy's going to eventually be your guy. Does a veteran fit that role or fit that characteristic? Is he willing to accept that?"
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