Vikings Don’t Play Tag

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2010 – 5:38 pm

The NFL Scouting Combine is an event designed to help teams evaluate the incoming crop of draft-eligible players. But during the Combine, the period for teams to apply the franchise and/or transition tag to players already in the league and on their roster expires.

Thursday at 3:00 p.m. CT was the deadline and it passed without the Vikings choosing to use either tag. The only real possibility for the Vikings was RB Chester Taylor, although that would’ve caught many people by surprise. Unless the Vikings and Taylor reach an agreement in the next week, the 9-year veteran will become a free agent.

While the Vikings didn’t use either tag, 6 other teams did. Among the 6 teams who tagged a player was the Green Bay Packers, who franchised DT Ryan Pickett. The other teams to use the franchise tag were: 49ers (NT Aubrayo Franklin), Patriots (NT Vince Wilfork), Raiders (DE Richard Seymour), Seahawks (K Olindo Mare) and Steelers (K Jeff Reed).

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A Break In The Combine Coverage For An Inside Look At NFLN With PA

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2010 – 3:27 pm

We’ve been covering the NFL Scouting Combine non-stop for the past couple days, but I want to take just a quick break to point out something that will capture your interest.

As we mentioned and showed on earlier this week, our buddy and Vikings Radio Network play-by-play extraordinaire Paul Allen was in Los Angeles doing a spot on NFL Network’s Total Access. As you’ll see if you click on the link in the last sentence, PA did a great job talking Vikings with the NFLN crew.

But PA also did a great job of capturing behind the scenes footage with his flipcam and he also posted it on his showpage. You can watch the bit by clicking here. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

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More On Spielman And Vikings Free Agency

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2010 – 3:08 pm

A few additional notes to our earlier post regarding Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman and his thoughts on the Vikings free agency situation…

– This was Spielman’s response when he was asked about free agent RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook, who’ve both been linked to the Vikings since their release from the Chargers and Eagles, respectively: “We stick to the same philosophy we’ve always had. Regardless of the position, if there’s a guy out there that can help us, then we do it. If we can fill it from within, then we do that as well. I don’t think we’d ever not look at anybody that becomes available, but you have discussions about it and you make your decision and move on.”

Spielman (wisely) didn’t elaborate specifically on either Tomlinson or Westbrook and instead reiterated in a general sense that the Vikings take a good look at every available player and make a determination, based on several factors, as to whether or not each player is a good fit for the organization.

– We discussed several of the Vikings unrestricted free agents (UFAs) in an earlier post on Thursday, but also don’t forget that the Vikings have a healthy crop of restricted free agents (RFAs) that they must address. Those RFAs are: OL Ryan Cook, DE Ray Edwards, DT Fred Evans, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Karl Paymah and FB Fahu Tahi. Spielman said today that the Vikings have decided which tender level they will assign to each player but that the club will not disclose that information until the day before free agency. If you’re confused about what a RFA tender is or how the process works, click here to learn more.

–As we touched on earlier Thursday, the lack of a salary cap and a salary floor this offseason could have any number of consequences on this year’s free agent climate (owners could spend like crazy or they could keep their pocketbooks closed). Spielman was clear in explaining that it’s not known how other teams will respond to this new environment and that his sole focus is on developing and executing a free agency plan for the Vikings. Asked if Vikings ownership has given a “green light” to pursuing players, this was Spielman’s response: “I just know that our ownership, since I’ve been here, has always done things to make sure that if there is someone we feel that unique about that we are able to go out and get them. Again, we are very fortunate, the fans of Minnesota are very fortunate, to have owners that are willing to go out and put the resources out there to go get the players that we need to win ballgames.”

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Spielman Talks About Vikings Free Agents

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2010 – 12:39 pm

Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman sat down with Vikings beat writers on Thursday after appearing on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, an annual tradition of his at the NFL Scouting Combine. Much was discussed during the sitdown and we’ll have plenty more updates throughout the next couple of days, but I wanted to quickly mention that Spielman was asked several questions about the Vikings strategy in free agency.

Teams are not allowed to talk to players who will become free agents on March 5 because they are still under contract with another team. But the Vikings are free to speak with their own pending free agents, such as RB Chester Taylor.

Others, such as DT Jimmy Kennedy, WR Greg Lewis and CB Benny Sapp are also on schedule to become free agents in the early part of March. Because the Vikings are limited in pursuing unrestricted free agents (UFAs) due to new rules that apply to the Final League Year, it’s even more important for the team to identify the players they’d like to retain.

From the sounds of it, the Vikings will try to retain most of their UFAs.

“We’ve always tried to keep our guys on the football team if we can get them back,” Spielman explained. “But sometimes, whether it’s a financial situation or something [else], it’s not always possible. Sometimes it works out.

“All our guys that are our unrestricted free agents are guys that helped us win ballgames last year and I think everybody in the organization feels strongly about at least trying to get these guys back.”

The highest-profile UFA on the Vikings roster is Taylor, who’s been an important part of the Vikings offense since he signed as a free agent back in 2006. If the Vikings are unable to reach an agreement with Taylor before March 5, the RB will be able to test the open market and assess his value.

With that said, Spielman was then asked what kind of market environment he expects given the new rules in the Final League Year. The new rules are such that the salary cap disappears, but so does the salary floor. So will teams spend money as if it’s going on trees? Or will they sit on the money because there’s no spending requirement?

“I don’t know where the market’s going because it’s a whole new deal this year,” Spielman. “I don’t know what other teams are going to do; like I said, it’s an unknown.

“But Chester is one of those guys that we would definitely want to try to sign back if we can. Just like Greg Lewis, just like Jimmy Kennedy, just like Benny Sapp. All those guys are a huge part of our success last year.”

We’ll have more updates from the conversation with Spielman posted shortly…

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Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz Speaks At Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2010 – 10:10 am

Head coaches from every NFL team and a personnel executive from many NFL teams make their way through the media center to meet with reporters during the Combine. I don’t stand in and listen to every one of them, but whenever a team from the NFC North sends a representative to the podium, I try to pay attention.

Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz just finished meeting with reporters and I was able to stick my ear in and hear some of what he had to say. Schwartz just finished his 1st seasons with the Lions and led the club to a 2-14 record. Detroit has the #2 pick overall in this April’s NFL draft.

A few quick notes/thoughts on what Schwartz had to say while answering questions from reporters…

– Schwartz said early in the conversation that one big difference between this year’s Combine and last year’s Combine is that this year he’s not looking to find a starting QB. Last year, the Lions selected QB Matthew Stafford with the #1 overall selection. Stafford played and started 10 games in 2009 and certainly had his fair share of struggles. But the process of developing him into an NFL starter and potential franchise QB is well underway, and that makes building the rest of the team much more manageable, Schwartz acknowledged.

– Continuing on the QB issue, Schwartz was asked about the future of Daunte Culpepper, who played in 8 games and had 5 starts for the Lions last season. Culpepper will also become a free agent on March 5. Schwartz did not say whether Culpepper would indeed return to Detroit or if the Lions would let him walk away and sign with another team, but the Lions head coach did say that the team is open to any number of possibilities.

– While the Lions selected a QB with the #1 pick of the 1st round last year, they used the #1 pick of the 2nd round to take S Louis Delmas out of Western Michigan. Schwartz called Delmas the team’s best defensive player, which is high praise considering he was only a rookie last year and also considering that Schwartz is a defensive-minded head coach.

But the thing that stuck out the most to me is that while speaking about Delmas, Schwartz perfectly characterized what the NFL Scouting Combine is all about. So often the perception is that this event is where decisions about draft day are made when in reality the Combine is just another small piece of a large puzzle. Schwartz said that the Lions felt good about Delmas, all the way from the good grades their college scouts gave him to the fact that he played his best ball against top competition to his performance at the Senior Bowl. Then, Schwartz said, Delmas impressed the club during interviews at the Combine and that Delmas generally showed the Lions that he was the same person on the field that he was off the field.

I’m off now to listen to Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman appear on SIRIUS NFL Satellite Radio and then meet with Twin Cities reporters. More from the Combine a bit later…

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Spielman Speaking Today; Other Scheduling Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2010 – 9:28 am

Day 2 of the Combine is underway in Indianapolis. I’ve wandered over from the hotel to the media center, which is where much of the action will take place over the next 2 days. On-field workouts really don’t begin until Saturday, but many NFL head coaches and personnel executives, along with players participating in this year’s Combine, will make their way through the media center to visit with reporters.

For those of you with satellite radio, Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman will appear on SIRIUS Satellite Radio today around 10:15 a.m. CT (give or take several minutes). After that appearance, Spielman is scheduled to meet with Vikings beat writers. I’ll be with Spielman at both stops and will provide updates on what he has to say.

As for the players, Groups 1-3 (PKs, specialists, OL, TE) will go through measurements, medical exams, media meetings, psychological testing and team interviews today. Day 2 is arrival day for Groups 4-6, which include QBs, WRs and RBs.

We’ll have more from the Combine all day today…

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