WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. - Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman feels good about the recent moves he's made to stabilize the defense. It started with the re-signings of defensive tackles Letroy Guion and Fred Evans. Spielman also has made moves to solidify the middle and back of his defense, first through the Friday re-signing of linebacker Erin Henderson and then with Monday's acquisition of cornerback Zack Bowman.
In regard to Henderson's deal, the Vikings always intended to reel the 25-year-old linebacker back in but took their time negotiating, using calculated business savvy to let a stagnant free-agent linebacker market dictate the asking price.
Henderson's upside, however, was never in question. Spielman remains excited by his versatility.
As for Bowman, Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier see a physical cornerback who brings added value on special teams. The Vikings assessed Bowman's full body of work, not only reviewing a disappointing 2011 where he sputtered in a reserve role in Chicago but also considering an impressive 2009 when Bowman had six interceptions.
"Sometimes, for whatever reasons, when players make a change in teams or get a change of scenery, sometimes you can get the best year out of that player as well," Spielman said Tuesday from the NFL owners meetings.
Given the reputation defensive coordinator Alan Williams has for developing young players, the Vikings believe Bowman can make a big leap forward in 2012.
One and done
Henderson and Bowman will both play under one-year deals in 2012. So, too, will recently signed fullbacks Lex Hilliard and Jerome Felton as well as receiver Devin Aromashodu and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. Why all the one-year agreements?
"I think if the players aren't getting what they expected, a lot of times they'll look to do a one-year deal," Spielman explained, "to see if they can cash in the following year if they have a productive year."
From the team's standpoint, one-year agreements also offer a limited-risk chance to see if a player fits the scheme.
Said Spielman: "We feel like we've brought in a lot of quality guys. But they're also a lot of guys, I think, who have a chip on their shoulder. They want to prove themselves worthy of getting another big contract."
Still on the to-do list
Spielman would not quantify just how intense the Vikings' pursuit of receiver Pierre Garcon was when the free-agent market opened. Garcon agreed to a five-year, $42.5 million deal with Washington only a few hours into free agency.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have accomplished little to upgrade their receiving corps. Spielman, conceding that free-agent receivers "seemed to cash in this year," again expressed the need for patience as he revamps the position.
"As you fill needs, they don't have to be filled [in a specific] order," Spielman said. "Maybe [receiver help] comes during the draft. Maybe that need gets filled after the draft."
Spielman also believes the signing of tight end John Carlson will inject life into the passing game, hopefully lessening the demands on the receiving corps.
The slots for all 10 of the Vikings picks in next month's draft are final. The Vikings will start with the No. 3 overall pick followed by selections at 35, 66, 98, 128, 134, 138, 175, 210 and 223.