As the Vikings eye a playoff berth and prepare for a meaningful stretch run over the final six weeks of 2012, the front office has already begun aligning the pieces and paperwork to continue building for the future.
The first overview meetings for the 2013 draft are set to begin in December. At the same time, General Manager Rick Spielman is also taking inventory of the current roster and prioritizing players who will either become unrestricted free agents in March or who are candidates for early contract extensions.
Most notable on that possible extension list: receiver Percy Harvin and coach Leslie Frazier.
Yes, both Harvin and Frazier are under contract through 2013. But it's highly unlikely either would start next season without a new deal.
Spielman has acknowledged the likelihood that Harvin will want and merit a new contract before he enters the final year of his rookie deal next summer (Harvin is due to make $1.55 million in 2013).
But Spielman also frequently notes his track record of taking care of core players well before their contracts expire, having rewarded such standouts as Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway with lucrative extensions.
As for Frazier, it's unusual for NFL coaches to enter the final year of their contracts without long-term security. So it will be interesting to see just how the Vikings choose to handle his situation as this season approaches its denouement.
On Wednesday morning, during a bye-week interview session with local reporters, Spielman made clear he wouldn't publicly address contract negotiations in any way.
"I'm not going to discuss anything that's going on internally. We will keep all that in-house," he said.
But the Vikings GM also delivered sincere endorsements of both Frazier and Harvin.
The head coach, Spielman said, has done "an outstanding job" and deserves credit for getting a young roster to jell as the Vikings have surged to a 6-4 start.
"Again, we can bring in guys that are talented," Spielman said. "But it's our coaches who should get the credit for developing these guys. And our coaches should get the credit for playing these guys and letting them grow into their positions."
Since being promoted last January, Spielman has gushed about the united and cooperative relationship he enjoys with Frazier. Both parties assert that the team's pre-draft meetings and preparation last spring were as thorough and direct as they'd ever been a part of.
Those open lines of communication, the GM noted, is not something he takes for granted.
Said Spielman: "I'm by no means an ego guy. ... But Leslie is the same way where it's not about him or me, it's about us. It's about the Vikings, what's best for this team. And [therefore] you can have very open and candid discussion."
The value of that, Spielman believes, has been evidenced with the Vikings' surprising turnaround this season.
"Everybody is on the same page," he said. "Everybody understands what our scheme is, what we're looking for in players. And it's our job to go out there and identify those players. And it works hand-in-hand with the coaches. To me, once the personnel side and coaching side get divided, then you have no chance."
Frazier's long-term future, of course, will be impacted by the Vikings' results over the final six games. But at present, he seems to have solid support at Winter Park.
As for Harvin, one of the Vikings' two most explosive playmakers, Spielman understands that locking up the dynamic receiver for the long term will come with a hefty price tag and has said in the recent past he won't be blind to that reality.
And as the front office compiles its full evaluation on Harvin, it'll be weighing everything from his production and versatility to his long-term durability and maturity.
At present, Harvin is in the middle of a career season in which he has 62 catches for 677 yards and three touchdowns, plus 96 rushing yards and a score. There are also those additional 574 kick return yards and his 105-yard TD in Detroit.
Spielman said Wednesday that Harvin is "a core player" and "a leader" for these Vikings.
"Percy Harvin is a unique, unique football player," he said. "And he brings so much value to this football team."
Now the GM and rest of the front office are faced with determining soon what the ultimate dollar amount of that value is.