Sid Hartman: Spending big isn't Rick Spielman's style

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 25, 2012 - 7:57 AM

The Vikings general manager appears to be putting more emphasis on the draft instead of the free-agent market.

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Rick Spielman

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While Rick Spielman has had his critics because the Vikings general manager hasn't made a big splurge in signing free agents this offseason, the past record of teams spending big money hasn't worked out in many cases.

"We're again taking it slow," Spielman said. "We're not going to go out -- I just don't believe in going out and spending a lot of big money on one or two free agents.

"I think the best way you continually build your roster is to have solid drafts. We had a very good draft last year, and a lot of those young kids will come into their second year and have to contribute.

"Hopefully this year, we'll be able to have that same type of draft, because I know we have potentially another 10 picks coming in. You want to create competition, so we're going to look at some of these lower-end free agents to come in and possible compete with the other young players we have on our roster."

Spielman said the Vikings, some $15 million under the salary cap, still might sign some free agents.

"There are some guys that will come in and compete at different positions if we're able to get them," he said. "We're looking to upgrade in a lot of different areas, but a lot of times you can get those upgrades accomplished without the high-name guys or high-priced guys. You can find value in some guys at different positions, potentially offensive line or getting some competition in at fullback or looking at some potential returners out there. I also know the depth of this draft, and we're going to be able to fill a lot of needs with young players in this draft."

Spielman, Vikings coaches and Vikings scouts continue to attend campus pro days of players who will be eligible for the April draft.

This past week, Spielman and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier were in Baton Rouge, La., to watch Louisiana State star cornerback Morris Claiborne. Spielman said the All-America put on a performance like he had never seen before.

So on that basis, the Vikings -- who I think are very unlikely to trade during the draft -- will have the tough choice of selecting either tackle Matt Kalil of Southern California or Claiborne. I think they will take Kalil to protect their investment in quarterback Christian Ponder from the left tackle position.

However, Spielman said that if somebody comes up with an offer like the one Washington made to St. Louis to get quarterback Robert Griffin III -- a deal that gave the Rams three first-round picks and a second-round pick -- he has to listen.

Excited for Cook to return

Regarding cornerback Chris Cook, who was found not guilty of domestic assault and is now back on the Vikings roster, Spielman said: "We had Chris in the office the other day, and I talked to him and Coach Frazier talked to him, he met with our staff.

"We are very excited about getting Chris Cook back, not only to help us on the football field, but we think Chris Cook is a very good person, and we really believe that he's moving on and going to be a better person."

The 2010 second-round pick was inactive for the final 10 games of last season after his arrest, but the Vikings left him on the roster.

"We're pleased that this has all come to a resolution, and now we're looking forward to what Chris has learned, and he's looking forward to moving on," Spielman said. "I know he's grown from this experience. He was very proactive in doing some things and making sure that he's going to be not only a better football player but a better person as well.

"Sometimes you have to go through some hard lessons to give you a wake-up call, if there was a wake-up call. But you go through some tough times sometimes, and sometimes coming out of those situations really makes you a stronger and better person."

Asked proper questions

A poll asking citizens of Minnesota how they feel about the proposal to build a new Vikings stadium asked the proper questions, and the result was that more than 60 percent of those polled are in favor of the Vikings getting a new downtown Minneapolis home.

The poll was conducted by a very respected firm, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C. It was commissioned by Home Field Advantage, a consortium of Minneapolis business and community leaders.

It's pretty obvious that the Minneapolis City Council holds the key to whether the stadium bill is passed by the present Legislature.

Like I keep on contending, the Vikings would use the stadium only 10 game days plus the playoffs, leaving the rest of the year for major events outside of the NFL. If the stadium naysayers would check what happened in Indianapolis and Dallas after those cities got their new stadiums, they would have a good idea of what would happen here.

Jottings

University of Minnesota Regent Richard Beeson gave President Eric Kaler credit for his great job of lobbying a legislative committee, which voted in favor in favor of allowing the university to sell alcohol in TCF Bank Stadium suites and also allowing for a beer garden to operate inside the stadium.

Now that Erin Henderson is back with the Vikings, they have only one more of their own free agents they want to sign: his brother and fellow linebacker, E.J. Henderson, who would be spending his 10th year with the team.

Former Gophers running back Marion Barber III announced his retirement from the NFL on Friday. Barber, who made $2.25 million last season with the Bears, became a Gopher on the last scholarship for his class on a great decision by coach Glen Mason, and what a career he had.

Royce White will almost certainly be a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA draft after the former Hopkins star's strong season with Iowa State, which ended with his excellent game in the NCAA tournament against Kentucky and one of the best frontcourts in the country. White said last week he would sign with an agent and turn pro, and many websites project him to be a mid-to-late first-round selection.

Former Gophers infielder Jack Hannahan has been competing for the Indians starting third base job this spring with Lonnie Chisenhall but has been sidelined for the past week by lower back tightness. Hannahan, who returned to full baseball activities Friday, is hitting only .222 this spring, but he has been praised repeatedly by manager Manny Acta for his fielding.

John Gaub made his major league debut with the Cubs last year as a September call-up, but the former Gophers lefthander was sent to minor league camp by Chicago on March 15.

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