Vikings general manager Rick Spielman preached patience Wednesday afternoon when speaking with reporters.
After watching a half-dozen of the top free-agent receivers and cornerback go off the market – many of them averaging more than $10 million a year – Spielman remains steadfast in his approach to building a roster for the long-term in his first year as the general manager with full authority on roster issues.
"We're going to be patient with this. We're going to strike when we feel there's a player out there that can help us win ballgames," Spielman said. "The ownership has always given us the financial backing we need to go get players if we need them, but we're also going to be very patient and prudent as we go through the draft. We're not done (with free agency) yet. We are still looking at UFAs (unrestricted free agents) as we go along in this process and we continue to monitor that.
"There may be a few guys coming in over the next couple weeks. We'll continue to add players as we see fit. I really, honestly believe that adding a guy here or there through free agency (will help), but really honing in and building this roster through the draft."
Last fall, the Vikings gave lucrative contract extensions to running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Chad Greenway and center John Sullivan. Just before free agency started, they re-signed backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels and re-signed an emerging defensive component in defensive tackle Letroy Guion as the market opened.
But even while stressing the need to get younger, a new theme emerged that seemed to focus Spielman's influence: With a young quarterback in Christian Ponder, an offensive line that will get younger with Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera released, and newly signed tight end John Carlson taking over for outgoing free agent Visanthe Shiancoe, there is a special emphasis on a youthful offense growing together.
"Just give us time to put this roster together. But we're not only putting it together for the 2012, building this roster and being able to maintain this roster over the next three to four to five years," Spielman said. "… The goal is to hopefully have that offensive side together with our young quarterback over the next four or five years because I think that builds continuity having those guys together and understanding what each other is doing. I know we've got some defensive needs that we're going to have to address. We'll continue to look through that as we go through here, but also I know it's going to be a very good draft on the defensive side as well."
After signing Carlson, the first outside free agent for the Vikings this year, Spielman said his staff has been on the phone "all day" and "a couple" of free agents are expected to visit in the coming days. And, of course, that came with the ever-present reminder to be patient, despite entering the week about $24 million under the salary cap.
"We're going to be very patient with it and see where the market is on some of these guys because now the big frenzy is over," he said. "There are still some players out there that we think can come in and compete and potentially help us win ballgames."
Although the Vikings would surely like to improve on their 3-13 record from 2011, Spielman knows the state of the Vikings' roster. It was aging and he wants it to get younger. It was full of holes and he wants the flexibility to be able to fill as many of them as he can through "prudent" free-agent spending and the draft.
There is no one magic-elixir fix for the Vikings. That ship sailed when they mortgaged their future in 2009 feeling that Brett Favre was the answer to get them to the Super Bowl. Three years after the images of Favre hoisting the Lombardi Trophy while dressed in purple danced through the Vikings' heads, the old gunslinger is gone. So, too, is former head coach Brad Childress, who infamously picked up Favre at the airport and triumphantly drove him to Winter Park.
Those "all-in" days of making one big splash are over … at least for now.
"I don't think we're a player or two away to go out and say you're going to spend the money that's being spent on all those players that have gotten contracts early," Spielman said. "I think what we're trying to do is find some players that are going to be able to help us win ballgames, that are going to contribute, and then continue to build this through the draft and keep our draft picks and potentially get more draft picks and keep our roster competitive year in and year out."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Spielman focused on youthful offense
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