EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman on Thursday held his annual pre-combine session with media members, detailing the process that the personnel department and coaching staff have gone through to prepare for major upcoming decisions.
Spielman is scheduled to go to Indianapolis on Monday for the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine and not return until March 6. While there, Vikings scouts and coaches will evaluate 330 top prospects at the invite-only event that provides helpful information to prepare for the NFL Draft in April.
On March 7, all teams will enter a two-day negotiating window before free agency opens on March 9.
Vikings.com will have several stories between now and next week from the session, but we'll start with the evaluations that Spielman, Head Coach Mike Zimmer and others have done on players who were with Minnesota in 2016.
"The first part of this whole process, is we have to address our team first and take out all of the relationships that you have with the players," Spielman said. "We brought our coaches together and our scouts together and went through every individual player we have. In order to get better, you have to identify what your needs are."
Spielman and company graded every player, then listed out potential free agents from other teams. The Vikings also make a cut-trade-restructure list to provide as much organization and order before the ice melts and situations become very fluid at the opening of the new league year.
Spielman was asked during the session about several players including four of the team's first-round picks since 2006.
Running back Adrian Peterson, the seventh overall selection in 2007, is under contract to return for an 11th season, but his future has been speculated by the media.
"Adrian Peterson has a significant contract coming up. We have to make a decision," Spielman said. "When that decision is made, I'll let [the media] know, but I'll never, until I talk to Adrian and his agent, I'm not going to announce anything, but that will be addressed here before free agency starts.
"One thing I'll say is if we don't exercise that option, that we will always keep the door open on all of our players," Spielman continued. "In my mind, regardless of if Adrian is here or not next year because of whatever, he will always be a Minnesota Viking, and if he's fortunate enough to go in the Hall of Fame and fortunate enough to go in the Ring of Honor, in my mind, he's a Minnesota Viking."
Chad Greenway capped his 11th season with the Vikings in 2016 and hasn't announced whether he will return or retire. The 2006 first-round pick said earlier this month that it will be "Minnesota and nowhere else."
"I think that Chad Greenway, that his future will all be decided before we start free agency," said Spielman, before adding during a follow-up, "What Chad does for this community is off the charts, and the things that he has set up are incredible for this community."
Former first-round selections Matt Kalil (2012) and Sharrif Floyd (2013) played in a combined three games in 2016 because of early season injuries. Kalil is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but the team also could re-sign him, a method frequently deployed by Spielman in his time in Minnesota.
"He was having the best, before he got injured, the best offseason and training camp he's had, before his hip started bothering him," Spielman said. "We were very excited about the projection that Matt was going. Unfortunately, when he did hurt his hip, it did affect his play when he tried to play through it.
"I think, Matt, there's no question about the ability part being there," Spielman added. "It's just, can he become more consistent? We watched every game in 2015 on him and reassessed those games. There are specific games in there where you say, 'This guy is the real deal,' and then there are a couple games where you say, 'He needs to play better.' The biggest thing with Matt is getting him to play at a consistent level week-in and week-out. We felt at the time that he was on the path to do that."
Spielman said the Vikings "have a plan in place on everything, but I also know I have a pretty good history of trying to keep our own guys as well."
Floyd is under contract for 2017 because the Vikings utilized their fifth-year option on his rookie last May.
"Sharrif's situation, in fact I just saw him down here [in Winter Park] continuing his rehab," Spielman said. "When he is healthy, he's a pretty good player. We know our defense played well last year, but we did miss Sharrif because when he's healthy, he's a significant part of our defense and can make a difference in games when he's in there."
The Vikings will have to declare by this May whether they will utilize fifth-year options on 2014 first-round picks Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater.