View the top 20 images of Teddy Bridgewater from the 2014 season.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The "gotta have it now" sentiment that's swept into society is critical to manage for NFL teams at the onset of free agency.
No matter how much publicity is generated with a signing in March, results won't effectively start rolling in for six months, and ultimate gratification isn't realized until the following February.
The clock is ticking until the new league year begins at 3:01 p.m. (CT) March 10, but General Manager Rick Spielman said at Gophers Pro Day last week that the Vikings more than likely will "just sit back, unless something unique pops up."
Spielman and the staff have been able to talk openly with Vikings who are set to become free agents throughout the process. All teams also entered a three-day negotiation window on Saturday in which clubs can speak with players' representatives to discuss ballpark figures but make no formal or written offers until the new NFL year begins.
One element that has changed since Spielman met with media is an agreement to trade veteran quarterback Matt Cassel to Buffalo for a pick (undisclosed by the Vikings) in the upcoming draft. Cassel's departure may prompt Minnesota to sign a veteran to backup Teddy Bridgewater.
Generally, however, the Vikings will "probably lay in the weeds a little bit and see what happens," Spielman said.
Here are three reasons the Vikings believe in exercising patience when the league's calendar flips:
Previous retention: The Vikings are able to be more passive than some teams because they've been aggressive in re-signing their own players before they reached free agency. Two recent examples to this are the extensions that tight end Kyle Rudolph (July) and Brandon Fusco (September) signed in 2014, long before lists of top free agents were created. The Vikings also were aggressive in re-signing Everson Griffen a year ago (happy anniversary, "Sack Daddy") in the days before the market opened.
"You've coached them, you've developed them, and I think the best way to maintain continuity and success is to draft well, to keep those young guys, and those are the guys you really want to hone in and be set," Spielman said.
The practice avoids the biggest pitfall of free agency where past production or hopeful projections drive up prices but don't always transfer to a different environment.
Assessing the market: Free agency creates a scenario in which staggering numbers can result from competition among teams. Over-aggressive spending is rarely viewed as stumbling out of the gate, but usually reveals itself during a critical stretch.
By observing the terms of the deals — years and money announced — more information becomes available to gauge the market. It's a practice that Spielman has employed in the past that benefitted the Vikings several ways in 2014.
"Tom Johnson, last year, we were patient and he came in and did a nice job for us as an inside nickel rusher so a lot of times, if you can sit back and hopefully let the market settle a little bit (you benefit)," Spielman said.
Another element to this part of the equation is whether a player is released by his previous team in order to free up money for the free agents that club is targeting. Signing a player who has been cut does not count against the signing team in the formula used to calculate compensatory draft selections that are intended to absorb losses of players to free agency.
Saving for the future: The Vikings have a substantially young roster. Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer have both spoken about their strong belief in drafting and developing as the way to build a perennial contender.
Minnesota drafted Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith in the first round in 2012, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson in 2013 and Anthony Barr and Bridgewater in 2014. The Vikings will know more about these players than any others in the league.
"If you look over the next two or three years, we're going to have some high-priced guys coming up," Spielman said. "So not only are you planning for this year, but you also have to look into the future and make sure you have enough from a business standpoint to be able to extend some of those younger guys that I know we're going to have to face coming up here in the new future."