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Vikings Personnel Process Remains Certain In Uncertain CBA Climate

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 15, 2011 – 4:41 pm

The looming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) impasse between owners and players has left much uncertainty during this NFL offseason. But Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman says that, even with a potential work stoppage on the horizon, his staff is proceeding with business as usual.

Spielman heads the Vikings personnel department, overseeing both the college scouting and pro scouting departments as well as handling various other tasks related to building and maintaining the Vikings roster. At this time of an NFL offseason, pro scouting staffs across the NFL are gearing up for free agency while college scouting staffs are in the midst of their preparation process for the NFL draft.

But this year this is a catch. The normal order of offseason activities – offering tenders to players, re-signing players, applying franchise/transition tags, free agency, the draft, minicamps, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) – will see a drastic change if there is a work stoppage. In fact, all of those events, with the exception of the NFL draft, will not happen until there is a new agreement. So instead of going through the first wave of free agency and then drafting players, NFL teams might have to go through the entire draft process and then go through free agency months later.

So what does Spielman do to change his team’s offseason roster-building procedures in light of a looming work stoppage? Nothing. It’s business as usual at Winter Park.

“Our job is to just go through our normal procedures, our normal time line on making sure we have everything in place regardless of what’s going to happen in the future (with the CBA),” Spielman said on Tuesday. “If something gets done or if something doesn’t get done for a while, we’re ready on that (free agency) side. I know there’s no change in the draft procedures or when the draft is going to be, so we’re doing our normal process and normal procedures on that side (draft) as well.”

The pro scouts have gone through and written up reports on hundreds of potential free agents as they begin to formulate a plan for whenever free agency begins. Spielman said evaluating potential free agents is similar to evaluating a draft class. They even build a free agency board very similar to a draft board. Also, Spielman said, the scouts write up every player on the Vikings current roster so they can see where those players stack up against potential free agents.

The college scouts are now in town and meeting at Winter Park in advance of the Scouting Combine next week in Indianapolis. The college scouts arrived in town on Sunday and they’ll meet daily all the way until next Tuesday.

Spielman did a nice job of laying out a typical offseason for NFL personnel departments while meeting with reporters at Winter Park on Tuesday.

“First you’ve got to understand where the holes are on your roster and where you need to get better,” Spielman explained. “Then you’ve got to understand what are the strongest positions in free agency. And then where are the strengths in the draft.

In simple terms, Spielman said after assessing the draft pool, potential free agents and their own roster, NFL teams then formulate a game plan of how to fill the holes on the roster – which positions will be addressed via free agency and which positions will be addressed via the draft. In essence, then, it doesn’t matter which comes first between the draft and free agency.

So while Vikings fans will surely be disheartened if there is a work stoppage in early March, Vikings fans can also take solace in the fact that their favorite team’s personnel department will stay on the right track to building a talented roster that will remain competitive for years to come by conducting its business as usual.

It’s certainty for Spielman and his staff in what’s become an uncertain time.


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New Stadium Update

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 15, 2011 – 2:04 pm

In my estimation there are 3 significant issues surrounding the Vikings right now that should capture fans’ attention. The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and upcoming NFL draft are a couple. The other is the status of the new stadium issue, which has been a frequent subject in news headlines recently.

So what is the latest on this front? That’s a loaded question and one that requires a complex and difficult answer. So let’s keep it simple and focus on recent events.

Earlier this week the Vikings sent a non-exclusive and non-binding letter of intent to Ramsey County expressing interest in a potential partnership in redeveloping the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) property in the City of Arden Hills as a potential stadium site.

More importantly, though, is what happened on Tuesday. The 7-member Ramsey County Board of Commissioners took a necessary and important step in the stadium issue by passing overwhelmingly (by a 6-1 vote) a resolution that allows the Ramsey County manager to move forward and complete the due diligence required to begin negotiations with the Vikings to build a publicly-owned stadium at the TCAAP property.

Basically, both the Vikings and the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners believe that the TCAAP property has great potential for a new stadium site and therefore both parties are willing to explore the viability of this idea.

“The breadth of our responsibilities runs the gamut,” said Commissioner Jim McDonough prior to Tuesday’s vote. “It’s important for us to work on this opportunity to say, ‘Yes, it’s good for Ramsey County,’ or ‘No, let’s move on.’ We need to invest some time and some energy on this.”

The decision was a “Yes” and now the process will continue to progress, which is good news for Vikings fans.

“Today’s vote was a very positive development on the stadium front,” said Vikings VP of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley. “We believe the TCAAP property is a viable site. We greatly value our relationships with the Ramsey County Commissioners and County staff, and we look forward to those continuing.”

Bagley went on to say: “This is moving in the right direction. We’re going to have a good, hard run at it this year and we’re encouraged by the progress and the leadership of the Governor (Mark Dayton), (Chair of the Minneapolis Sports Facilities Commission) Ted Mondale and Republicans in the Legislature, particularly Senator Julie Rosen and Representative Morrie Lanning. It’s a bi-partisan effort and we’re trying to push the pieces forward and move into a position where we can tie them together in the not-too-distant future.”


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A Few Quick Hitters From Chat With Spielman

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 15, 2011 – 12:48 pm

Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman sat down at Winter Park with a few local reporters to discuss the status of the club from a player personnel perspective. This is a regular chat Spielman holds with reporters just a few days before the NFL holds its annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

We’ll go into some details of what Spielman had to say about a number of topics related to the Vikings personnel situation, but for now I just wanted to share several quick hitters. In no particular order, here they are…

– The pro scouts have gone through and written up reports on hundreds of potential free agents as Spielman and his personnel staff begin to formulate a plan for whenever free agency begins. Spielman said evaluating potential free agents is similar to evaluating a draft class, even in terms of how the scouts build a board very similar to a draft board. Also, Spielman said, the scouts write up every player on the Vikings current roster so they can see where those players stack up against potential free agents.

– The college scouts are now in town and meeting at Winter Park in advance of the Scouting Combine next week. The college scouts arrived in town on Sunday and they’ll meet daily all the way until next Tuesday when they head to Indianapolis.

– Spielman says all of the new coaches hired by Leslie Frazier have had a chance to evaluate the Vikings roster and share their thoughts on the players they’ll be coaching in 2011. Paramount in this process for Spielman is learning what each of these new coaches look for in certain positions. This is valuable knowledge for Spielman because it helps him communicate with the college scouts on what player traits the organization will value in the draft process. Also, Spielman mentioned that having several new coaches in the building can be beneficial in the free agent process because these coaches are coming from many different teams and divisions and therefore they have knowledge of certain players they’ve coached or coached against that will help the pro scouts in their evaluation process.

– Frazier has been an excellent communicator in the evaluation process, according to Spielman.

– Spielman was asked if the pending Collective Bargaining Agreement impasse greatly impacts his offseason plans. It’s a good question because a potential work stoppage can significantly alter the identity of an offseason. For example, if there’s a lockout on March 4 then we’ll see the NFL draft happen before free agency, which represents a dramatic shift in the normal routine of an NFL offseason. But Spielman said the unknown of a potential work stoppage really doesn’t cause him to change his philosophy or process in the offseason because all the tasks still need to be accomplished and the strengths of the players in the draft class and potential free agent class don’t change. Therefore, the team will choose to address certain positions via free agency and via the draft, regardless of which of those events happens first.

– Obviously the QB situation came up quite a bit in the discussion, from looking at players who are free agents and players who are draft-eligible. But Spielman also pointed out that he is very excited about the potential Joe Webb brings to the table.

– Spielman said the Vikings will be a much younger team in 2011 and beyond than they were in recent seasons, specifically in 2010. Spielman is excited about the core of young players already here and he said the personnel staff is excited about this offseason because there is going to be an influx of youth and therefore an importance placed on identifying which young players the team wants to pursue.

– With QB being such a key need for the Vikings, Spielman was asked if the philosophy of always taking the best available player in the draft (as opposed to drafting for a need) is altered if a QB they like is available. But Spielman insisted that the best available player philosophy trumps the urge to reach for a QB. That should give Vikings fans comfort that the Vikings personnel staff is going to be prepared to add young talent to this roster.

– Finally, Spielman – half in jest – was committed to finding a way to get that 3rd round pick back that was dealt last season.

That’s it for now, but be sure to check back frequently for more from the conversation with Spielman.


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