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Vikings Unlikely to be Flashy in Free Agency

Posted Mar 3, 2016

The Vikings came up short in the playoffs and want to go further, but Rick Spielman’s ideology on free agency isn’t likely to change.

Minnesota’s general manager said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine that he isn’t about to go out and break the bank on players looking for a new team.

“I will stick to my philosophy,” Spielman said. “If there’s something unique out there, we’ll look at it.

“If not, then we’ll continue like we always have.”

Free agency is scheduled to open March 9.

In previous years, Spielman has preferred to build his teams through the draft. Although Spielman was presented with the idea that the Vikings could be on the cusp of a championship with a few additions, he didn’t bite.

The Vikings went 11-5 and won the NFC North title in 2015.

“You’re never one guy away,” Spielman said. “I don’t believe in that philosophy that we’re this close and we’re going to go all-in this year.”

Spielman said he’s likely to continue building the Vikings through draft picks. Furthermore, Spielman is also a believer in rewarding players who perform well in their rookie contracts.

The Vikings hold the 23rd pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, which begins April 28 in Chicago.

“I’ll never get off the philosophy of building through the draft and continuing to layer on top,” Spielman said. “When these guys get ready to come out of contracts, we’re very aggressive at getting deals done before they get into their last year. We’ll continue to do that.” 

Safety Harrison Smith, for example, is a player who might fit into this mold. The Vikings picked up a fifth-year option on the 2012 first-round pick for this season and have said they are interested in a long-term deal with Smith.

“He is one of the better safeties in the league,” Spielman said. “He would fit into that category from how we’ve handled our business.”

Speaking at the combine, a few media experts offered their take on whether or not Spielman could remain steadfast in his thinking.

Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY said while Spielman has hit on free agents such as defensive tackle Linval Joseph, he isn’t going to swing for the fences each offseason.

“I think we’ve seen Rick Spielman, through his time as general manager, dabble in free agency,” Pelissero said. “I think there have been times where he spends on a Linval Joseph, he was able to get something out of that.

“He has made moves before in free agency but generally it’s going to be a patient approach,” Pelissero added. “I think the thing to always remember with the Vikings and free agency is that it’s focused primarily on the second-contract guys.

“If you’re going to give someone a bunch of money, you’re not going to do that to the guy who’s already gotten his second deal.”

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports said if the Vikings do pursue a free agent, it could be along the offensive line.

“There’s some decent offensive linemen on the free agency market,” Prisco said.

“I think you have to draft linemen on a consistent basis, whether it’s a first-round guy or a fourth-round guy or a fifth-round guy.”

Minnesota offensive linemen John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt each missed the entire 2015 season with injuries.

The Vikings had the same starting five linemen — LT Matt Kalil, LG Brandon Fusco, C Joe Berger, RG Mike Harris and RT T.J. Clemmings — for the entire season, the only NFL team to do so.

Of those players, Kalil was selected in the first round (2012), Clemmings in the fourth (2015) and Fusco (2011) in the sixth. Berger entered the league with Carolina as a sixth-round pick in 2005, and Harris joined San Diego as an undrafted free agent.