EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman's Tuesday session with media members means the 2017 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching.
Spielman continued the annual tradition of the pre-draft press conference just two days before the first round kicks off in Philadelphia.
The Vikings are not scheduled to make a pick in the first round this year because they dealt it to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire quarterback Kyle Rudolph last September just days after Stefon Diggs suffered a season-ending knee dislocation in practice.
Bradford stepped in on short notice, making his first start in Minnesota in Week 2. He set an NFL single-season record for completion percentage (71.6) and passed for a career-best 3,877 yards.
Bradford and Bridgewater, both first-round picks in their respective drafts, returned to Winter Park last week to begin the team's voluntary offseason workout program. Bradford is aiming to benefit from a full offseason with the team, and Bridgewater is working his way back from the injury.
While much of Spielman's discussion with reporters on Tuesday centered on how this year's draft might unfold, he also was asked about the contract statuses for Bradford and Bridgewater. Bradford is under contract for 2017, and the Vikings soon must declare if they are exercising the team's option for a fifth year for Bridgewater in 2018.
Spielman understandably didn't speak in specifics at this point, but he did make it clear that the Vikings benefit from having Bradford and Bridgewater.
"I'm never going to talk about contracts and who we are extending and not extending into the future. We always keep that in-house," Spielman said. "I know I sat with [Vikings Executive Vice President of Football Operations] Rob Brzezinski looking at those scenarios, and we already have some plans in place because I know we have some significant young guys coming up here in the future."
Spielman later was asked if the franchise tag might be an option for Bradford to extend the evaluation time and said, "Yeah, nothing is concrete or no decisions have been made."
"Teddy, I can tell you, our first week of offseason has been incredible," Spielman said. "He's been in here working as hard as anyone, fighting his way back. I wouldn't put it past that kid how quickly he can comeback. But it's still unknown. You know, Bradford was here the very first day and leading the group, and we are very fortunate to have both of those players at that position on our roster right now."
Spielman and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer have repeatedly said the team has not placed a timeline on Bridgewater's recovery.
Vikings.com will have more draft-related content from Spielman's talk this week, but here are a couple other takeaways from Tuesday.
The Vikings defensive staff carried over for 2017, but Zimmer made several changes to Minnesota's offensive coaches. He lifted the interim tag from Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur, who started 2016 as the tight ends coach.
Kevin Stefanski has moved from running backs to quarterbacks, Kennedy Polamalu was hired to coach running backs and Clancy Barone was hired to coach tight ends.
Spielman said he will leave discussions about schematics to the coaching staff, but he did use an example of evaluating offensive line prospects through the lens of if a team wants to be a power team or more of a zone-blocking team.
"The coaches did the group study film with us, just so we can see as the coaches explain, 'OK, this is what we are going to require this player to do,' and, 'This is why this guy can't do it,' or, 'This is why this guy can do it.' "
Spielman has talked in past years about the way that Zimmer communicated traits of players that will help his defense function the strongest. The Vikings have patterned that approach with offensive prospects.
"I think we're at that point with our offense right now where we can really identify and look at these players to know if they are going to be able to function and what Pat wants to do or not," Spielman said.
Effects of free agency?
The Vikings quickly signed tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers when free agency opened last month. They also signed running back Latavius Murray and defensive lineman Datone Jones.
Spielman was asked if moves in free agency affect the approach to the draft.
"I think you look, you know, especially when you spend some money on free agency, but I don't think it precludes you from what you're going to do in the draft," Spielman said. "Because some of those, you know, free agents, and how we structure their contracts, you know, are they one-year or are they going to be here for five, or some of the guys that we signed on the offensive line, do they have some position flexibility.
"So when you know the guys that you signed and maybe some of them having some position flexibility, then that enables you to take the best player available," Spielman continued. "If you're asking examples, just because we signed two offensive tackles in free agency doesn't mean if an offensive tackle was there that we wouldn't take him, either."
Depth of draft
The Vikings are scheduled to make five picks within the first 128 selections, including one in the second round and two apiece in the third and fourth rounds.
"I think the depth of this draft class, especially in some of the areas we'll be looking at are very significant, I think through the mid rounds, and for us to have an extra third, an extra fourth this year, is going to pay dividends for us," Spielman said.