Spielman is vague about Vikings' future plans

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 11, 2013 - 8:35 AM

He's proud of how the Vikings ended the regular season.

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Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman

Photo: Mckenna Ewen, Star Tribune

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Rick Spielman finds it far easier to be specific with his feelings about the recent past than he can be in sharing his detailed plans for the near future.

Such is life in the early stages of the NFL offseason. And while Spielman might have a vivid vision of the direction he'd like to take things in his second full year as Vikings general manager, he's not tipping his hand.

In regards to the 10-win, wild-card clinching campaign the Vikings just finished? Spielman expressed pride in the run and an eagerness to continue building on it. He also lauded the guidance of coach Leslie Frazier, likely to get a contract extension soon after leading the Vikings from an iffy 6-6 precipice to a 10-6 final record.

"To finish the season like we did, I mean that's true qualities of a head football coach and a leader," Spielman said during a lunch with Twin Cities media on Thursday.

Still, in terms of the roster moves that may occur in the coming months to propel another leap forward in 2013, Spielman was predictably vague, eager to spend this next month in detailed meetings evaluating all of the current players and identifying the team's biggest needs.

The overall plan, Spielman emphasized, remains the same: Build through the draft, supplement with a few key free agents and always prioritize players who are not only talented but fit the Vikings' schemes and personality make-up.

Emphasizing that fit as much as if not more than talent, it turns out, proved to be a major catalyst in 2012.

"I think that's a huge, huge part of the process," Spielman said. "Now if I worked in a different organization with a different head coach in a different scheme, maybe our personnel decisions would be a lot different.

"But I have a true understanding of what type of player is needed to fit in this scheme offensively and defensively. It's our job to make sure we make sure we try to get those players."

In all, 10 Vikings could hit the open market as unrestricted free agents in March. That group includes starters Jerome Felton, Phil Loadholt, Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson, Jamarca Sanford and Jerome Simpson.

Spielman said he remains interested in each of those players but wouldn't begin to make definitive decisions on their futures until full personnel meetings were complete.

Then, he said, he's anticipating a hectic week at the NFL combine next month in Indianapolis as he engages those players' agents.

But it's not only this year's free agents Spielman will evaluate thoroughly. He also said conversations would begin to discuss delivering early extensions to a few players who could become free agents after next season.

"I truly believe the most success you have is if you're able to keep to your own," Spielman said. "Because you know them the best."

Receiver Percy Harvin is the most obvious candidate for an early extension. But it's also worth noting that defensive lineman Everson Griffen and cornerback Chris Cook also will enter the final year of their rookie deals this fall.

As for Harvin, Spielman issued his first public comments on the decision to place the talented receiver on injured reserve in Week 14, even with four regular season games left.

Said Spielman: "We didn't want to ruin any long-term [potential] or longevity issues and put him out there if he wasn't going to be able to play and risk further injury. ... Sometimes, when you make those decisions, you've got to make it in what you think is in the best interest of the football player for the long term. Because, for one, he's right in the prime of his career. He's 24 years old."

• The Vikings announced their team MVPs Thursday as voted on by players and coaches. Adrian Peterson was the Offensive MVP. Chad Greenway won the honor on defense. And Blair Walsh was the special teams recipient.

• Greenway was also extended an invitation to the Pro Bowl on Thursday, added to the roster after Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware pulled out due to injury. This marks the second consecutive season Greenway will play in the game. He was initially an alternate last year as well.

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