Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has been busy since the opening of NFL free agency March 9.
The team has lost eight free agents in Audie Cole, Rhett Ellison, Charles Johnson, Matt Kalil, Jeff Locke, Captain Munnerlyn, Cordarrelle Patterson and Andre Smith.
They also declined the option on Adrian Peterson, and Spielman said this past week that the record-setting running back will not return to the club after 10 seasons.
The Vikings signed tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, running back Latavius Murray and linebacker Datone Jones, and they also brought back cornerback Terence Newman and wide receiver Adam Thielen.
None of the free-agent losses is of huge importance. Kalil had his ups and downs at left tackle, though his role was magnified when the Vikings found his position difficult to fill after he got hurt last season. Smith was a starter at right tackle, but he only played four games before being lost for the season. Johnson was listed as a first-team receiver, but he only had 20 catches all season.
The loss that perhaps fans have disliked the most is Patterson, an explosive special teams player who again also was making an impact on offense. It was surprising that the Vikings let him go when all it took was $5 million in guaranteed money from the Raiders to lure him away.
Spielman said that all of this is a balancing act and the team still feels it’s in a good position.
“They’re all good football players, but when you lose that many, and we’ve only signed two [Vikings free agents] back, right now you also are trying to balance out the compensatory picks,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of compensatory picks, so a couple of things are going into this.
“As you lose those guys, potentially you could have three to four compensatory picks in next year’s draft. A lot of the guys we drafted in last year’s draft class were purposefully put in place to develop for a year, and hopefully those guys will come through and fill in for some of those guys we have lost.”
Tackles offer flexibility
Spielman said Reiff and Remmers were signed because they give the Vikings roster flexibility on the line, something lacking in 2016 when the line really fell apart throughout the season.
“There were five tackles out there that we knew were going to be in the market,” Spielman said. “We were as aggressive as we could be once we started negotiating [March 7]. Everybody, since there was such a small market of them, there was more demand than there was supply, so the numbers rose a little bit. But we couldn’t come out of there without getting one of those guys.
“Riley Reiff we have seen; the one thing we wanted to look at was not just a one-position guy. We wanted guys that were able to have flexibility. So we know that he can play on the left side. He played on the right side for the first time last year, and by doing that, having a guy that can play the left or the right side, it gives you flexibility going forward, especially as we get into the draft.”
Spielman said it was that same flexibility that led them to Remmers.
“When we got him here there were four or five calls trying to get him out of our building,” he said. “We were able to keep him here, and he has played some on the left but is better on the right. He also has some flexibility potentially to go inside at guard, as well.
“We’re trying to do a lot, as far as the guys we are signing, that they can do multiple things. Just because as we went through the numerous offensive linemen last year, if you have guys that have position flexibility, it gives you at least more ways to create an offensive line, if we get into a situation like we were last year.”
Still looking forward
In a hectic start to the offseason, Spielman said that all of the team’s moves can’t really be complete until the draft. And the NFL combine showed him there will be a lot of options there.
“It’s a very deep draft at a lot of these positions,” he said. “So as you go through this and assess the free-agent market, but also assessing the strengths in the draft. I think it’s a very deep class. As everybody is talking about the running backs, tight ends are very deep, I think on the defensive side it’s a tremendous amount of corners, and this is maybe the strongest safety class I’ve seen in a long time, and they have some very good pass rushers coming up.
“… I know we don’t have a first-round pick, but to have the second, two thirds and two fourths, I think there’s going to be a lot of good football players that will get pushed down to us. Looking forward to adding to this roster.”
Spielman also said that some of the Vikings’ decisionmaking has been based on the simple fact that they have some of the best young defensive players in the NFL, and those players are going to be expensive soon.
“The one thing we have to be cognizant of is that we have some big bills coming up in the following year and the year after with a lot of our core players,” he said. “So we’re balancing out what we can do this year and also keep enough resources in the tank to make sure we don’t lose our young core guys. There’s some extensions down the road coming up here.”
• ByungHo Park is hitting .357 with three home runs in 28 spring at-bats after the Twins took him off the 40-man roster earlier this offseason and he cleared waivers. “ByungHo is somebody who we talked to early on in camp after we made the decision to take him off the roster and one of the things I expressed to him is we view his career going forward,” Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said. “We weren’t here last year. We realize he went through some struggles, I think some of them related specifically to injury and not just performance. … We would continue to tell him to continue to put the work in, and when the opportunity arises we’re confident that if he’s the right guy we’ll make it work.”
• Former Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson told the San Jose Mercury News that one of the big reasons he signed a two-year deal with Oakland worth $8.5 million, with $5 million guaranteed, was that the Raiders want to use him at receiver as much as special teams. “It was one of the deciding factors,” he said. “We sat down and talked, saying how they could work on getting me better.”
• The 2012 UCLA football team had three players who most likely will start for the Vikings next season in linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks and defensive lineman Datone Jones. But the Vikings lost a Bruins teammate of theirs when punter Jeff Locke left for the Colts.
• The Gophers men’s hockey team is lined up to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The last time the Gophers got a No. 2 seed was in 2012, when they made the Frozen Four, beating Boston University and North Dakota at Xcel Energy Center before losing to Boston College in the national semifinals. With their 37th appearance, the Gophers will take over the all-time lead for most NCAA tournament appearances. They had been tied with Michigan, which just finished a tough 13-18-3 season in what might be Red Berenson’s last as Wolverines coach.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org