INDIANAPOLIS – The Vikings sound as if they aren’t going to be big spenders in free agency.
Coach Mike Zimmer’s preference is to build a team through the draft.
“When I was in Cincinnati and a lot of places, we would kind of go for the lower-end free agents and coach them up and hope they fit in our scheme,” he said.
In Zimmer’s first offseason, the Vikings signed a pair of starters in nose tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to reasonable contracts in free agency, opting instead to spend big money to keep emerging defensive end Everson Griffen. They also found starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and reserve defensive tackle Tom Johnson in the bargain bin.
The Vikings are projected to have $18 million in salary cap space, though they can create more by restructuring contracts or releasing veterans. Zimmer said the Vikings will look for value when free agency begins March 10.
“If you don’t know the guy and you haven’t coached him or somebody else hasn’t coached him … I think you make a lot of mistakes there,” Zimmer said. “You use free agency to plug in a couple of holes, but I don’t believe that we’re going to go out and pay some guy a whole bunch of money.”
Liking the limelight
After wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson scored nine touchdowns as a rookie, he was hyped as a breakout candidate heading into 2014. Patterson struggled, though, and lost his starting job. Zimmer felt that all the attention Patterson got before the season “maybe affected him a little bit” and made him think success would come easily.
Zimmer reiterated that Patterson’s future will hinge on whether he puts in the work to become a refined receiver, starting this offseason. Asked if Patterson has the mentality to do that, Zimmer hesitated.
“He’s going to have to have that mentality,” Zimmer said. “I know he likes the limelight and all that stuff, but if you’re not playing, that stuff’s going to fade away fast.”