Before heading off to Indianapolis for next week’s NFL scouting combine, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman sat down with reporters for about 40 minutes earlier today.
He spoke about the draft, where the team is in its offseason player evaluation process and fielded questions about his current roster as well.
In a brief overview, he said quarterback Teddy Bridgewater needs to be “letting it loose a little more”; kicker Blair Walsh won’t have to compete for his job; Matt Kalil has the physical skills needed to be a consistently successful left tackle; Cordarrelle Patterson isn’t cast in stone as only a returner and now heads into a “telltale year” as a receiver; 37-year-old cornerback Terence Newman is giving indications that he’d like to play another season; and that the team will continue having talks with 33-year-old linebacker Chad Greenway and his agents about a possible 11th season as a Viking.
As for where the team is in its offseason process, Spielman said the coaches and personnel people have evaluated the team’s roster and the crop of unrestricted free agents.
As for the draft, they’ve made it through the evaluation process on all the offensive players and need to complete the defensive players. After the combine, Spielman said the team will shift its attention to piecing all of the information together and weighing it against salary cap concerns for this year and upcoming seasons.
The Vikings have the 23rd pick in the draft. Spielman called it a deep draft from he’s evaluated so far.
Other highlights from Spielman …
—On what the next step he’d like to see quarterback Teddy Bridgewater take in his developement: “I think just the biggest thing that you want to see is maybe him letting it loose a little more. I don’t want to call him cautious, but he took very good care of the ball because we don’t want to turn the ball over. I don’t want to speak out of turn for the coaches, just letting it loose a little more, giving some guys a chance to make plays even though it may not look like it’s open. I think that comes with time, the more and more the quarterbacks are in the league.”
—His view of left tackle Matt Kalil: “Matt’s probably been up and down. I thought he bounced back and played better this year. Still, there’s nothing from the physical standpoint that I think he can’t do. I think he’s still could be a solid left tackle in this league, and he’s just got to continue to work on his consistency, which he was much more consistent this year than he was last year.”
—On whether the coaching staff could have done more with Cordarrelle Patterson as a receiver in 2015: “I leave that up to the coaches, that’s their decision. I don’t think there’s any question about Cordarrelle as an athlete and what he does with the ball in his hands, but those are decisions that the coaching staff has to make. They get paid to put the best guys out there on the field that gives us the best opportunity to win, and I trust them 100 percent when they make those decisions on what we need to win on game days.”
—On whether he has seen enough of Patterson to make a final evaluation of what he’ll be as an NFL player: “Don’t know that yet. I think this will be a telltale year, I would say.”
—Jokingly downplaying what Harrison Smith brings to the defense after saying the safety is due to be one of the next players to receive a lucrative extension from the team: “I just think Harrison, the way he runs our back end, I think he’s one of the better playmakers. Better. Please put better [laughs]. Not best. Better playmakers at safety. He can play free and strong. He can be effective on the deep end, and he’s just as effective when he gets walked up to the line of scrimmage. So he’s a good safety. Good. I’m just saying he’s a good safety.”
—On whether the team will bring in competition for Blair Walsh, the kicker who, if you recall, missed a pretty significant 27-yarder at the end of the season: “No. Blair Walsh is our kicker. I mean, I understand him missing that last kick, but I also know we wouldn’t have been in that situation if he didn’t kick the three before in the conditions. So I think our organization, our coaches and everybody, has confidence in Blair.”
—On whether he thinks 37-year-old cornerback Terence Newman will try to play as 38-year-old cornerback Terence Newman: “I think Terence still wants to play. It’s funny, you talk to all these guys right after the season and especially with the emotion with everything that was going on Monday after the game. You listen and talk to the players, but then as things calm down and we get to the combine, we’ll discuss and have a lot of talks with the agents on our team and then the process will continue as we get up through that negotiation period and before the market kicks off. We have plenty of time between now and then. Got kind of a gameplan in my head at this point, but that’ll change I think as we talk to these agents and get a feel for where their clients are and what they want to do.”
—When asked if Newman could move to safety, Spielman said he considers Newman a cornerback.
—He said he spoke at length with 33-year-old linebacker Chad Greenway and expects to have more conversations with Greenway and his agent about a possible 11th season.
—He said he’ll stick with his core philosophy of building through the draft but may “dabble” in free agency if there are players the team really covets.
—There is no specific timetable for return for right tackle Phil Loadholt and center John Sullivan, who both missed the 2015 season because of significant injuries. Both are working out and making progress toward playing in 2016.