With a little more than a month to go before the NFL draft April 28-30, the Vikings seem to have signed most of their key free-agent targets. General Manager Rick Spielman said the team always has one goal when it comes to the offseason.
“We’re trying to get as many guys as we can to sign that we feel are good football players that will come in and create competition to help make our football team better,” Spielman said.
The Vikings’ biggest free-agent signing was easily Alex Boone, the guard who signed a four-year, $26.8 million deal after playing for the 49ers, who signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State in 2009.
“Alex has played left guard, played right guard, I know [new Vikings offensive line coach] Tony Sparano was out there a year with him in San Francisco,” Spielman said. “We’ve monitored him throughout the years, and he brings not only a good football player but the type of mentality that Coach [Mike] Zimmer is trying to establish with our offensive line.”
Another free-agent offensive lineman signed was tackle Andre Smith. On defense, the Vikings signed two-time Pro Bowl safety Michael Griffin. They also made two less-noted signings in linebackers Travis Lewis and Emmanuel Lamur — but Spielman, as he said above, believes those two will add great depth to the team and contribute in several ways.
“Travis Lewis from Detroit can play all three [linebacker] positions, he has been a very good special teams player in Detroit,” he said. “He’s another guy that’s very passionate about football.
“Emmanuel Lamur is very familiar with the system, Zim had coached him in Cincinnati and he should come in and compete at one of the linebacker spots.”
Still working on Greenway
One player the Vikings have talked about signing but who still remains a free agent is Chad Greenway, their longtime linebacker. The only thing holding up the signing must be finances, because the Vikings like Greenway and Greenway likes the Vikings. Spielman said as much.
“We’re still in progress,” Spielman said. “We’ve been talking with his agent, so we’ll see where it ends up. But we’d like to have Chad back.”
Most of the Vikings’ free agents from the 2015 season have re-signed. Spielman said another unheralded signee might be defensive end Justin Trattou, who he thinks can have a bigger impact if he stays healthy.
“Justin Trattou, who has been with us, a very good special teamer and plays a good role on this team,” Spielman said. “I know he was hurt last year, but he was productive when he got in there — I think he had two interceptions on screens last year. He’s another one that we signed who gives us depth at the defensive end position and will come in and compete, as well.”
While the Vikings seem settled on the bulk of their free-agent moves, Spielman said they will continue to watch what happens with a number of free agents who remain available.
“We’ll see how the rest of the market fills out. If there’s guys out there who we feel can come in and compete, we’ll definitely do that,” he said. “But I know we’re excited and looking forward to the draft here in about five to six weeks. I know we’ll be able to add some more very good football players through the draft, as well.”
And what did Spielman think of seeing this year’s prospects at the NFL combine in Indianapolis?
“We got to interview a lot of the guys, especially the juniors that came out,” he said. “We’re in the process of going out and covering these pro days. … We’ll have some of these guys come in on a top-30 visit and we’re going through our normal procedures in getting ready for the draft.”
It has been a tremendous month for point guard Ricky Rubio, who has played great. The Timberwolves are 7-10 since Feb. 22 and looking like a much more competent team.
Rubio averaged 13.2 points, 8.9 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals over that stretch of 17 games. He shot 45.7 percent from the floor, 39.2 percent from three-point range and 92.5 percent from the free-throw line. In the season’s first 50 games, he shot 35.6 percent from the field, 29.1 percent from three and 82.5 percent from the line.
Rubio always has been an elite passing and defensive point guard, but if he can improve his shooting he could become one of the best in the game.
Before the Wolves beat the Kings on Wednesday, Sacramento coach George Karl talked about Rubio’s improved play. “He’s played at that high level that he’s played at before, but maybe on a [more] consistent basis,” Karl said. “Their whole team offensively seems to be more connected right now, it just seems like. Rubio, both scoring and passing, he’s been efficient with the offense.”
Also impressive is that Rubio is posting his lowest turnovers per game in his career at 2.5. That ranks 19th in the league among qualified point guards.
And as for his backup, rookie Tyus Jones is playing much better of late, too, now that the Apple Valley product is able to get more consistent minutes. He had eight points and six assists in 14 minutes in Friday’s 132-129 double-overtime victory at Washington.
• Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman said center John Sullivan doesn’t miss a day of rehabilitation, so he can be ready to play when the 2016 season starts. Sullivan missed all of 2015 after having two operations on his back.
• Karl-Anthony Towns continues to amaze as the Timberwolves rookie recorded his 44th double-double Saturday, and his eighth in a row, with 14 points and 11 rebounds vs. Utah. Friday, he had 27 points and 10 rebounds at Washington, his 28th game with 20 or more points and his 21st with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Since 1983, the only 20-year-olds with that many 20-point, 10-rebound games in an NBA season are Anthony Davis, who had 22 in the 2013-14 season for New Orleans, and Shaquille O’Neal, who had 36 in 1992-93 for Orlando. For comparison, in Kevin Garnett’s age-20 season, which was in 1996-97, he posted eight double-doubles.
• The Twins beat Miami 8-4 Thursday, rallying with four runs on two hits and a walk off Chaska High School product Brad Hand. Hand has had six spring training appearances; in four of them he has given up no runs on three hits, but in the other two he has given up 10 runs on eight hits. It’s still a good bet the 26-year-old lefthander, with 90 games with the Marlins over the past five seasons, will make the team.
• Since departing the Wolves, veteran guards Kevin Martin and Andre Miller hadn’t played much for the Spurs. They entered Saturday with Martin having averaged 5.3 points in 10.4 minutes per game and Miller 2.1 points in 7.8 minutes per game. Both played 18 minutes Saturday at Oklahoma City, when the Spurs rested five of their best players.
• Former Gophers guard Andre Hollins is playing basketball in Belgium, where there was a major terrorist attack Tuesday. Hollins wrote on Twitter that he is OK and “praying for the world we live in.” He has averaged 16.4 points, 3.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds for the Leuven Bears.