Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman just finished his session at the podium here at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The hottest topic: Percy Harvin’s future with the team. To which Spielman hasn’t changed his response, declaring once again Thursday that he has “no intent on trading Percy Harvin” – without, of course, a full declaration that he won’t do so.
But Spielman also said the only folks asking him about a potential Harvin trade are reporters. As of noon, the Vikings GM said he hadn’t received any Harvin inquiries from anyone else, with not a single NFL team approaching him on the matter.
“None,” Spielman said. “The cab driver coming in didn’t say anything to me about it. The pilot when I got on the plane [didn’t ask].”
So, yeah. Nothing new to see here right now. And now that we’ve got that initial obligatory Harvin update out of the way, let’s move on to another pressing topic that fans should wrap their brains around as the Vikings continue through the offseason. Those expecting a possible free agency spending spree? Not going to happen. In fact, it’s unlikely the Vikings will spend a lot of time and energy courting any of the possible “big splash” free agents that might be available come March 12.
To reiterate once again, the Spielman’s philosophy on building his roster can be summarized as follows: build through the draft and add a few minor pieces through free agency.
I asked the Vikings GM to elaborate on that mindset Thursday and here’s a big chunk of what he had to say:
“I’m not a real big believer in spending in free agency. We’re always going to try to build through the draft and continue to do that. Because I think that way you maintain a roster that can be competitive year in and year out. Not only on the field but also from a financial standpoint of staying within the cap and looking at the overall cash. I think you have a lot more success when you sign your own players as unrestricted free agents. Because you know them the best. And if you screw up signing one of of your own guys and he doesn’t pan out, then that’s a fault on you. I think it’s a little riskier when you go out and try to sign other team’s UFAs.”
Spielman said his detailed statistical analysis shows that players signed through free agency often struggle to adapt and may not have the level of success outsiders expect.
“I don’t want to call them rookies because they’re veterans,” Spielman said. “But they take time to adjust to their new teammates, take time to adjust to their new surroundings, take time to adjust to the new offense that they’re running. So it’s not always as smooth a transition as people would think it would be.”
A year ago, tight end John Carlson became the only major free agency investment the Vikings made. And, well, his struggles in 2012 may only further Spielman’s previous point. If you recall, many of the free agents the Vikings signed last spring – Jerome Felton, Marvin Mitchell, Jerome Simpson, Geoff Schwartz, even in-house guy Erin Henderson – were signed to one-year deals. Spielman referred to that as approach as “Rent-a-player.”
And with a hope annually to ideally have 10 draft picks at his disposal, Spielman likes to keep the door open for drafted players to emerge without feeling an obligation to elevate a major free agent signee.
“It’s an open competition that way,” the Vikings GM said. “So a veteran might be slightly ahead of [a draft pick] as you’re going through training camp and as you’re going through the preseason. But is that rookie going to pass him in Week 3, 4, or 5? Does he have the chance to be developed into a better player than where that current vet is? So it doesn’t lock you into the situation where you’re saying we have to keep this vet because we’ve paid him X amount. We can keep who we think is the best player for us.”
And you thought Blair Walsh and Randy Moss didn't have anything in common ...
Multiple winners of an NFC player of the week award:
This is the time of year when a lot of people in NFL circles talk about the "rookie wall" and how those first-year guys stop producing because their bodies are so used to the football season being over or in pre-bowl mode by now.
"Hitting the wall is something I think most rookies to go through," Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "I think that is a real phenomena in terms of guys getting tired or disinterested."
The Vikings, however, are coming off a critical victory in which a pair of rookies helped lead the way. Safety Harrison Smith returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown, while cornerback Josh Robinson returned another one 44 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown drive in a 21-14 win over the Bears.
"Both of those guys are coming along very well," Williams said. "Harrison has been consistent from Day 1 and has never played like a rookie. And Josh is starting to play consistent football with the number of reps that he's getting. We're pleased that both guys are making plays and not hurting you. Most rookies hurt you when they play and ours are not. They're actually helping us and contributing to us winning football games."
Williams said he preaches keeping a set routine before and after practice to help break through the rookie wall. One thing he's not willing to do is give them time off in practice, similar to what he does for the veterans over 30.
"You have to pay your dues to get that time off," Williams said.
Same old Chris
Cornerback Chris Cook, who is on injured reserve but can return for next week's game at Houston, is in his second week of practice since breaking his right arm against Tampa Bay on Oct. 25.
"He looked good [on Wednesday]," Williams said. "He put his hands on some balls. He looked like the same old Chris that we saw when he got hurt. I think he's come along well."
As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s Week 15 game with St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome, here’s a look at a handful of eye-opening figures and facts.
Draft picks, in total, acquired by St. Louis this spring in return for the No. 2 selection in April’s draft. It started with a blockbuster trade with Washington, which moved up four slots to No. 2. The Redskins, of course, used that second pick on star quarterback Robert Griffin III. In return, the Rams received first round picks in 2012, ’13 and ’14 and a second-round pick (No. 39) this year as well. With the 2012 picks acquired from Washington, St. Louis traded the No. 6 selection to Dallas for the 14th and 45th picks. The Rams drafted defensive tackle Michael Brockers at 14, then traded the 45th pick for Chicago’s No. 50 and No. 150 selections. With the 39th pick, the Rams took cornerback Janoris Jenkins. At 50, they selected running back Isaiah Pead. And with the 150th pick, they grabbed guard Rokevious Watkins.
Combined wins by the Vikings and Rams this season, through Week 14. The two teams will face each other Sunday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome, both coming off impressive wins. The Vikings used Peterson’s big day plus two pivotal interceptions by rookies Josh Robinson and Harrison Smith to upset Chicago 21-14. St. Louis rallied to beat Buffalo 15-12 on a last-minute Sam Bradford to Brandon Gibson touchdown pass
Combined wins by the Vikings and Rams in 2011. The Rams finished 2-14 while the Vikings skidded to a 3-13 season.
Games this season in which Adrian Peterson has rushed for more than 150 yards. Peterson had 154 yards in Sunday’s 21-14 win over the Bears. Add that to a 2012 resume that also includes a 210-yard outing at Green Bay, 182 at Seattle, 171 versus Detroit and 153 against Tampa Bay.
Games this season in which Christian Ponder has thrown for fewer than 150 yards. On Sunday, he was 11-for-17 for 91 yards and an interception. Add that to a 2012 resume that also includes a 58-yard effort against Arizona, 63 yards at Seattle, 111 yards at Detroit and 119 yards at Green Bay.
Games this season in which the Vikings haven’t trailed. They took the lead for good Sunday just 3:07 into the game when Adrian Peterson scored on a 1-yard run to cap an 80-yard touchdown march. The Vikings also have victories this season over San Francisco, Detroit (twice), Tennessee and Arizona in which they never trailed. On the season, the Vikings are 6-1 when leading after the first quarter.
Yards per game allowed by the Rams this season, fourth best in the NFL. Only the 49ers (275.5), Bears (301.7) and Seahawks (314.2). St. Louis is getting significant contributions throughout their defense. Ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long have combined for 17 sacks. Linebacker James Laurinaitis has a team-best 119 tackles. And cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins have six interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns.
Year the Vikings last visited St. Louis. During a magical season, the Vikings delivered their second most decisive victory of the year. The 38-10 win saw Adrian Peterson score on runs of 5 and 7 yards while defensive end Jared Allen contributed a 52-yard fumble recovery touchdown.
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