MANKATO, Minn. — With the full Vikings roster reuniting on Wednesday for Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman explained a front-office move designed to keep several core players together for the foreseeable future.
The Vikings signed two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen to a multi-year contract extension when he still had two years remaining on his second NFL contract.
Spielman often has implemented a draft, develop and avoid departure of key players approach. He said the extension will help give Minnesota some flexibility under future salary caps as the Vikings aim to retain other young players.
"I think what we're doing is, you're looking at players who are your core players, as we always have, we've cap-planned not only for this year but for future years," Spielman said. "I know we have some significant contracts and significant young players coming up, so to, I don't want to say get ahead of the curve, but to get some of this out of the way now is going to give us a lot more flexibility going forward into next year and future years, because I do think we have some very talented core players and we want to keep these players together as long as we can."
When Spielman was asked if 2013 first-round pick Xavier Rhodes is next on the list, he said, "Well, I'll anticipate and let you know if that comes true or not, but I'll just say we're working on extensions on a few guys."
Here are four other topics discussed by Spielman:
1. QB status
Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater arrived on Wednesday to join early arrivals Taylor Heinicke, Case Keenum and Wes Lunt in the quarterbacks' room.
Bradford is coming off his first season in Purple in which he started 15 games and threw for a career-best 3,877 yards. Bridgewater is coming off a knee dislocation he suffered last August, which led for the Vikings to acquire Bradford, and continuing to rehab.
Spielman said quarterback decisions "will come in time."
"I think we're very fortunate to have two quarterbacks like [Bradford and Bridgewater] on our roster, and I know what Sam did was unbelievable for the circumstances he came in last year, and he's had a great offseason," Spielman said.
"I know Teddy and what he means to this organization and how hard he has worked in his rehab to get back on the field as quickly as he can, so I'd rather face those type of issues as we move forward," Spielman added.
All players who arrived on Wednesday were scheduled to undergo physical examinations.
2. On different approach
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted to have rookies and select players report to camp on Sunday, and that group participated in three walk-throughs and two practices before the whole team will come together Thursday.
"Coach Zimmer, I can't recognize enough for some of the tweaks that he has made this offseason in a variety of areas that are going to pay huge dividends for us," Spielman said. "One thing that's definitely showed up is he decided to bring young guys and selected vets down early for an opportunity to get settled in, get the extra reps and practices that we haven't done in the past.
"A lot of these young guys are going to be counted on to carve out some significant roles on our offense, defense and special teams," Spielman added.
3. New offense
Spielman said he's got a pretty good idea of where the Vikings defense is and is looking forward to seeing how the offense develops. The defense has improved in multiple categories the past three years under Zimmer and remained in-tact, but the offense is changing to Pat Shurmur's system, and there are multiple new faces on that side of the ball.
"We have a lot of new pieces on the offense," Spielman said. "And I think the key thing is you know, with Pat Shurmur having a full season now, a full offseason. We have a lot of new faces that are going to have to come and jell together. You can see that coming together through the offseason program and through OTAs and minicamps. And that is going to have to continue.
"I think we have some talented players on the offensive side," Spielman added. "And just like anything, it's going to be the first time a lot of these guys are going to be playing together but hopefully, we can keep them together and not lose as many guys as we did last year on offense and they can jell together and move forward. But, I know we're looking forward to seeing these guys work together as one unit and growing together and coming together."
4. Thank you to Mankato
With the Vikings entering their 52nd and final training camp hosted by Minnesota State University, Mankato, Spielman thanked city and school officials for doing a good job of hosting the Vikings.
"I'd like to recognize the city of Mankato, their community leaders and all their community groups that put on these events in Mankato over the years," Spielman said. "I'd especially want to thank the university itself.
"In my opinion, this is one of the most prestigious universities in our state and to recognize Dr. [Richard] Davenport, Rick Straka, Shirley [Piepho] and people who probably go above and beyond the call of duty to make this, which has been such a great success and why the partnership has lasted as long as it has," Spielman added. "We are excited, next year, heading into our state-of-the-art TCO Performance Center building. I think that shows you the commitment the [Wilf Ownership group has] in making this a world-class organization. With that being said, I know Mankato will always be our home away from home."