With the second week of the free agency period coming to a close the next few days, it’s about to be time for the Vikings to begin shifting their attention from the rest of the players on the open market to the next task at hand.
When we last talked to Rick Spielman, he told us that each off season there are three priorities that the team takes care of. First, they look at their roster and assess the players that they have on roster or have first access to. Second, they scan the free agent market and see what sort of opportunities might be out there. And thirdly, they hone in on the incoming class of professionals and prepare for the draft.
For the most part, we’re all the way through the first and second phases of the Vikings offseason plans. As we found out with the Mike Wallace trade, there is always room for a little multitasking if the price is right, but for the most part, the Vikings are done spending in free agency.
To date, the team has signed Matt Asiata, Tom Johnson, Cullen Loeffler, Shaun Hill, Joe Berger, Mike Harris and DuJuan Harris, while trading for Mike Wallace and releasing Charlie Johnson and Greg Jennings. Factoring in another $6MM for incoming draft picks, the Vikings are currently sitting with just about $8MM left over in cap space right now. That number gives them some flexibility to sign or to sit.
Leaving just $8MM clears the Vikings of the salary cap floor minimum spending level of 89% pretty easily, but it also gives them some wiggle room to either work with the money after cuts are made from training camp or begin the process to extend the contract of safety Harrison Smith. Either way, unless a player gets cut who fits the Vikings scheme so perfectly, don’t expect the Vikings to sign many more players off the free agent heap.
That leaves the third phase in Rick Spielman’s offseason plan to be the focal point for the team’s attention going forward; hone in on the NFL Draft.
Now, in reality, they’ve been multitasking the entire time and have been paying close attention to the combine and pro days around the country quite a bit. Just this last week, both Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer were in East Lansing to check out top flight cornerback Trae Waynes. But we’re on the cusp of the time where they can clear their schedules, cancel their trips and sift through all the info that they have collected with their scout teams over the past few months.
They’ve addressed some needs through free agency, mainly adding a number one wide receiver (Mike Wallace) and then filling in some emergency roles of left guard (Joe Berger) and backup quarterback (Shaun Hill). There team looks different than it did just one month ago. The needs have shifted and priorities for those needs have certainly changed.
Oh sure, they’ll be a free agent visit here or there, but they’ll be the kind that might as well have slipped under the radar. Don’t expect to hear any news of Crabtree or Raji coming to town. The next six weeks will be meeting one on one with prospects and sorting through data to formulate their draft board.
We’ve been in the “war room” before for meetings with Rick Spielman and the Vikings draft board spans the extent of the 14’x20’ meeting room. While it’s covered up with a curtain any time we’re invited in there, you can see the tail ends of notes written and stickers placed spilling over outside the shadow the curtain is casting. Stacks of papers and shelves of binders fill the rest of the space, all data that is compiled, sorted and put to use during this period of the offseason plan.
Most of the attention is obviously placed on the high value picks that come in the 1st and 2nd rounds, but the team prepares, thoroughly prepares, for all seven rounds and then some in preparation for undrafted free agents. That takes time, collaboration and devotion.
So while it may seem that the Vikings are sitting on their hands over at Winter Park, know that in reality, it’s the tireless hours they put in now that pay dividends into the future of this squad.
The draft is 40 days away from today, I cannot wait!