The undefeated Vikings (5-0) needed a “magic wand,” General Manager Rick Spielman said, just to add offensive tackle Jake Long to the roster on Tuesday.
With $33 million’s worth of the team’s salary cap inactive via injured reserve or non/football-injury lists, according to Spielman, the Vikings had less than $50,000 to work with for the 2016 salary cap and needed some creative money managing from Rob Brzezinski, Vice President of Football Operations, to bring in Long after Monday’s workout.
Spielman was vague, saying he did not need to restructure anycontract to create the cap room with the team’s two highest-paid players on injured reserve inrunning back Adrian Peterson ($12 million) and left tackle Matt Kalil ($11.096 million).
But the Vikings needed to do something to add a body after starting right tackle Andre Smith underwent triceps surgery on Tuesday and is also done for the season.
“I read a lot of things and, ya know, it’s funny, it’s ‘we’ll trade for this guy or trade for that guy,’ I think last week we’re under $50,000 in cap room,” Spielman said Tuesday. “I think Rob, with his little magic wand, was able to create some cap room so we can get Jake Long done. Again, we’re pretty much strapped against the cap right now with the amount of money we have on IR and with what we’re able to do going forward.”
The Vikings’ roster is now at capacity and will likely remain as is heading into next week’s game at Philadelphia.
“I think that’s where we’ll be at this week,” Spielman said.
The Vikings’ offensive line depth created this offseason quickly evaporated with the retirement of tackle Phil Loadholt, release of center John Sullivan and mysterious illness of guard/tackle Mike Harris, whom Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer have said they don’t expect toreturn this season. And both starting tackles in Kalil and Smith landed on injured reserve within the season’s first five weeks.
“It seems like every time you get hit with injuries it’s always at one position,” Spielman said. “Last year was the offensive line, this year it’s the offensive line again because that was the point of emphasis that we tried to upgrade this year and felt like we did that. But a lot of those guys aren’t playing right now.”
Asked if Long, who signed a one-year deal Tuesday, was brought in to compete for a starting role, Spielman said “right now, I’m just trying to get the 53[-man roster] filled.
“I don’t know how it’ll turn out. I just know that he was the best option we felt strongly about to bring in and get him in the fold after we lost Andre.”
Spielman was also asked about the future of Peterson, who has a team option in 2017 that counts $18 million against the cap. Peterson gained just 50 yards on 31 carries before tearing the meniscus in his knee on Sept. 18:
“Adrian was kind of getting back into it. I think, because we adjusted some of the things offensively, I think our offensive line was still trying to jell early. When he played in those first couple games and usually Adrian becomes stronger as the season goes along and becomes stronger as the games progress. So, I look at it as he's going to do everything he can to get back. I look at it also as it's at least eight, nine weeks of not taking hits on that body, which is going to make him pretty fresh.
“At the end of the season, we'll assess everything and where we're at. I have looked at a lot of what our 2017 roster is going to look like and some of the significant contracts we may have coming up and some of the guys we may not be able to afford to keep. So you're always playing in the look ahead from that front.”
Spielman did not gloat about quarterback Sam Bradford, who has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 990 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in four starts since being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia:
“Coming into our building, and with an unbelievable job that Norv and Scott Turner have done with him, and the background and information and knowledge that Pat Shurmur had on him, that he’s come in and performed well to date,” Spielman said. “Now, we still have a long season left. But right now, I would say we’re pretty happy with the returns we’ve got at this point. You’re not going to know honestly until the end of the year.”
Regarding kicker Blair Walsh, who ranks 26th in field goal percentage [75%] through five games:
“I’ve been pretty patient, especially with these young guys and last week he kicked the ball well,” Spielman said. “We’ll monitor that as well, but we don’t have any plans of bringing in a kicker at this point. There is no question that it’s not physical ability orleg strength or anything like that, it’s just him getting his confidence back up to where it was and I think he’ll be able to do that.”