Spielman, Childress Expand on Signings

Why Visanthe Shiancoe and not Daniel Graham? VP of player personnel Rick Spielman and head coach Brad Childress explain. Plus, what's going on in their pursuit of a receiver? And we note other Vikings-related interests from the league.

The Vikings' signing of two relative unknowns may have surprised some fans, but Rick Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel, and head coach Brad Childress had their reasons for signing tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and linebacker Vinny Ciurciu.

"When we sat there and broke down tape on him, you see a lot of things from the pass-catching standpoint and some of the knocks on him have been as a blocker, but as you watch him progress from when he first came into the league to where he is now, he's grown so much in the position," Spielman told Viking Update Saturday. "I think playing behind a Jeremy Shockey type also improves him, but when you watch him on tape and see how he gets into and out of his cuts and how he catches the ball, those are things that really impressed us when watching him on tape."

Shiancoe, who spent time watching film with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson Saturday at Winter Park before addressing the media, was thrilled to be Viking after signing a reported five-year, $18.2 million contract that has $7 million guaranteed.

"I'm ecstatic. I'm calm right now, but inside I'm all over the place," said Shiancoe, who inquired several times about the weather (the Twin Cities just got done with back-to-back weekend snow storms). "I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to wear that purple and yellow, and I heard the fans are just terrific here. I'm speechless. I'm really excited about this opportunity."

He said he had other visit scheduled, but with the Vikings' offer there was no reason to take them.

"He's a solid enough blocker that you can line him up and block at the line of scrimmage. So he gives you the versatility on the receiving side, but also on the blocking side as well," Spielman said.

Childress is very familiar with Shiancoe's history. The former Philadelphia offensive coordinator worked out Shiancoe when he was entering the league after a college career at Morgan State. Shiancoe said it was between him and L.J. Smith when the Eagles drafted Smith four years ago and Shiancoe went to the Giants.

"I think he's well rounded. I think he can play on the line of scrimmage…," Childress said. "I think he can play away from the tackle extended. I think he can block and I think he can catch, so he gives you a little bit of everything, I think."

Childress got to see Shiancoe twice a year when Childress was coaching the Eagles and Shiancoe was playing with the Giants. Childress said he got to see Shiancoe playing in a variety of roles with the Giants, and the Vikings appear ready to test the tight end's flexibility.

The signing of Shiancoe takes the Vikings out of the potential bidding for Daniel Graham, Spielman confirmed.

"We talked about both, but Visanthe to me was – the criteria we're putting on these guys, usually the younger guys are coming out, it's their first time out of their rookie contracts and they're healthy and they're not only quality football players but they're quality character guys," Spielman said. "All the guys we had in today fit that criteria. We want to build this team with guys like that and then add through the draft.

"Graham's had some injuries, but he's been a full-time starter also. But Visanthe's been very durable; he's been durable throughout his collegiate career. He's been durable since he's been with the Giants—never missed a game there and he's a guy that shows everything. He's a guy that shows everything, and now we're going to give him the opportunity and add him to everybody else that we have on the roster and go from there."

As for Ciurciu, he knows he's a solid special teams player, but he talked about an opportunity to compete for a starting job on defense. He has experience at both inside and outside linebacker, but his main role is expected to be on special teams.

CURTIS LEAVES

Wide receiver Kevin Curtis (Rams) did visit the Vikings late Friday and Saturday, but he left Winter Park by early afternoon and headed for Detroit, where he will visit with his former head coach, Mike Martz, who is now the offensive coordinator with the Lions.

Still, Childress said he believes the Vikings remain in the running to sign one of the top wide receivers on the free-agent market.

"I left feeling that way as he went out the door," Childress said. "He was delayed coming in yesterday from Salt Lake with the weather. We had plenty of time to get his physical and chat with him."

On Saturday, wide receiver Drew Bennett signed with the St. Louis Rams and Ashley Lelie signed with the San Francisco 49ers, further thinning an already unimpressive crop of free-agent wideouts.

Former Saints and Eagles receivers Donte Stallworth remains on the market.

Lelie was scheduled to visit Winter Park on Monday. The Vikings won't have anyone visiting on Sunday, as Childress and Spielman are heading to Notre Dame for the workout of quarterback Brady Quinn.

Childress said the second wave of free agency could bring new prospects after an initial flurry of activity around the league.

"I would liken it to the second day of the draft. There is a break. I'm sure we'll have discussions as we get on the plane tomorrow and travel, but you re-group and you already have some kind of strategy of who you want to start with," Childress said. "It's not like in college where it is your recruiting weekend and you bring 25 or 30 guys in. You identify guys, you get them in and then you re-group and kind of talk about it some more."

NOTES

  • Former Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot, released on Thursday, has signed with the Washington Redskins, as expected.

  • The Vikings resigned safety Tank Williams after releasing him Friday. The release was a procedural move.

  • Another receiver that could have drawn interest was Seattle restricted free agent D.J. Hackett, who was tendered with an offer that would require second-round compensation if he was signed. However, since the Vikings have a high second-round pick, it probably makes it less likely they will pursue him, especially considering the deep draft class at receiver.

  • Scout.com's Adam Caplan reports that defensive end Patrick Kerney (Falcons) will visit the Seahawks, who are expected to make a serious push to sign him. The Vikings are believed to be interested in Kerney, but only for the right price, which likely means they'll take their time before pursuing him aggressively.


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