Bears General Manager Ryan Pace told Chicago reporters Tuesday that all seven screens for his personal NFL draft room went blank recently when his wife tripped the cord with the vacuum cleaner. But another “hiccup” during Monday’s league-wide test run of this virtual NFL draft — when a Cincinnati Bengals technical difficulty delayed the No. 1 pick — does not concern Vikings GM Rick Spielman before he’s on the clock Thursday night.
“I’m very confident in some of the backup plans,” Spielman said Tuesday. “One thing I know, everybody’s cellphones do work.”
Extensive back channels are set up to ensure a fluid operation, according to Spielman, while Vikings brass has spent the past month between player research and virtual test runs of systems in their homes. Inside his home draft room, Spielman has a six-screen draft board — identical in appearance and function to the Vikings’ 40-screen smart board at the closed Eagan headquarters — set up by the team’s IT department.
The NFL has handled cybersecurity, according to Spielman. If he experiences a technical glitch while submitting a pick, the Vikings have hardlines to connect with the league office and a chain of command with second and third people also ready to send the player’s name before time expires. There’s concern over tech issues preventing completion of a trade, but the NFL told teams it will hit the pause button until a deal is complete.
After running team-wide draft meetings online this month, Spielman said an expanded Vikings internal network could lead to other changes down the road.
“With how smoothly this operation has went,” he said, “I can really see us in our December meetings with scouts and even February meetings before we go to the combine doing it virtually now.”
Harris in limbo
Safety Anthony Harris remains in limbo entering the draft. While Harris received the franchise tag in March after a league-leading six interceptions during the regular season, the Vikings have been open to trading him at the right price. Trade talks of all kind heated up this week, according to Spielman, with teams trying to lay groundwork and later maximize time on the clock. Harris may command as much as $14 million per year — the top of the safety market — which the Vikings or an inquiring team would eventually have to pay.
“Right now, he is franchised,” Spielman said when asked if Harris will be on the 2020 roster.
Part of the process?
Losing Everson Griffen, the 11th-year veteran who announced his departure last month, pushed the Vikings’ defensive transformation further than envisioned, which Spielman alluded to Tuesday when likening Griffen’s exit to Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes — who also declined pay cuts to stay. Griffen’s agent, Brian Murphy, said last month the Vikings didn’t have enough money to retain Griffen, who remains unsigned.
“I wouldn’t say things broke down, I’ve had some great conversations with Everson,” Spielman said. “It’s just right now we’re in an evolution period.”
Quality over quantity
The Vikings need 30 players to fill their roster and have 12 picks in the draft. Most new additions will come in undrafted free agency, which also undertakes a new look after the virtual draft. Without all coaches and scouts in one room to cast a wide and coordinated net, Spielman will pair with salary cap guru Rob Brzezinski to focus on key undrafted players Saturday night. The Vikings’ plan is to fill out the roster with more undrafted signings later next week.
“My whole objective [Saturday night] is to sign the best quality college free agents,” Spielman said. “And working with Rob on spending the money we need to get those players.”