To whatever degree Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman makes a habit of ignoring the unsolicited advice offered from draft pundits around the country, there’s a certain piece of feedback he’s a little more hard-pressed to tune out.
“Everybody has angst. My wife — I’ll leave that at home,” Spielman said in his predraft news conference Tuesday. “She said: ‘If you draft another corner, don’t come home. You can just stay at the office.’ ”
There’s plenty of focus on what Spielman will do Thursday night, when the Vikings are on the clock with the 18th pick in the draft and a decided interest in making the most of a roster primed to win now. The team has 10 players set to carry at least an $8 million cap charge next season, with a starting guard spot still up for grabs and the Vikings sitting with only $1.683 million in cap space as of Tuesday.
Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer had their contracts recently extended by a year to run through the 2020 season, but one or both could be on the hot seat if the Vikings aren’t able to return to the playoffs in 2019. The general manager said the Vikings have a “plan in place” to deal with their tenuous salary cap situation — and joked it would be implemented once Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski “gets out of cap jail.” But in all likelihood, the Vikings are going to need several members of their Class of 2019 to quickly play big roles.
“We’ve always put a point of emphasis on that, and I know, with how top-heavy our roster is right now, with the contracts we have out there, these players that we’re bringing in have to come in and contribute,” Spielman said. “All these players that do have these big contracts were basically brought in, developed and then received [the contract]. … Because of the importance of the draft classes that are coming in, being able to contribute, this coaching staff does a phenomenal job developing these guys.”
Spielman could be aided by a draft that appears to be especially deep along both lines of scrimmage, where the Vikings could use help. Spielman said the Vikings’ draft board has more draftable players on it than at any point he can remember — “I don’t think every team has a board with 234 picks and [can] say 234 players are draftable,” he said — and if the Vikings look for an offensive guard or defensive tackle near the top of the draft, they might come away with a player that can immediately step in as a contributor.
“The depth of talent, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, is one of the strongest that I’ve seen in a while,” he said. “I know on Thursday, Friday, those two picks Friday, as of today, you should be able to land some players who can come in and make an impact on your roster.”
If the Vikings are going to clear the necessary cap space to sign their draft class via a trade, it hasn’t come together yet, judging at least by what Spielman said Tuesday. He said he hasn’t received any calls about dealing one of his current players for a draft pick.
An offer for a player such as fifth-year cornerback Trae Waynes could always cross the Vikings’ desk before the start of the draft Thursday evening, but Spielman said it would take a strong offer to pry away one of the Vikings’ current assets.
“If they do, it’d have to be of value to get rid of a player, because I do think we have a pretty good roster,” he said. “I know this is the last chance of this whole process to make a significant improvement to your roster during the draft. I can’t predict anything. I have no idea. I could say no right now and I can go up and get a phone call an hour later. As of right now, I don’t anticipate anything.”
Barring a significant development in the final hours before the draft, then, the Vikings’ best chances to jolt their roster for the upcoming season figure to come with the eight picks they own this weekend.
“I feel very confident where we’re at right now with our draft board,” Spielman said. “We’re doing some more things this afternoon and doing some tweaks here and there through tomorrow, and then Thursday we’re excited to get ready to roll.”