MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman insisted that no decisions have been made on the team’s No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft, but he could potentially be visiting Minnesota’s best options with the pick this week as he travels to watch the pro days at several schools.
Speaking at the Gophers’ pro day at the University of Minnesota on Monday, Spielman said he was leaving town later in the evening and heading west. He plans to watch the UCLA Pro Day on Tuesday and will be at the University of Southern California on Wednesday. As he makes his way back to the Midwest, he will have a Friday stop at Oklahoma State University.
Of course, Southern Cal left tackle Matt Kalil has been the player most linked to the Vikings at No. 3 with teams expected to trade with the St. Louis Rams at No. 2 for the right to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Indianapolis Colts likely to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top pick. Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon could be under consideration by Minnesota as well.
“I don’t know who we’re going to take,” Spielman said. “What if one of the quarterbacks slide down there? Do you trade or do you take one of those quarterbacks? …I don’t know. “We’ve got to do a lot more work on Blackmon. Everybody knows what (LSU cornerback Morris) Claiborne is too. All those are areas and needs we’ll definitely take a look at.”
Spielman said team officials would have one more meeting Saturday and be in the office all next week with free agency beginning on March 13. Claiborne’s pro day at LSU is also scheduled for March 19.
Spielman still maintains that trading the pick is an option for Minnesota as well.
“Again, we’re opening for everything right now,” Spielman said. “We’ve got 52 days to figure out. In fact, I’m heading out here today, going to be out the rest of the week. So, there’s a lot of things that will happen before now and then.”
Spielman said watching the various pro days are just another aspect of the evaluation process and likened the experience to a job interview. He said the pro days and combine are used to confirm what is seen on tape and will go back to watch the film again to measure up to what he sees in the workouts.
“I think you look at all the stuff and how they move around,” Spielman said. “You compare that and, ‘Oh geez, this guy moves a lot better than I saw on tape.’ Or, ‘This guy plays faster than he ran here.’ You always use the drills as a tool, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. You use the film.”
Vikings ready for next week: Spielman said the team has finished its evaluations for the upcoming free-agency period and the team will discuss free agents and any possible roster cuts one more time on Saturday.
Previously, Spielman has said the team might make some tough decisions regarding players currently under contract. While those discussions are still ongoing, he said any possible cuts would come next Monday, one day before free agency begins.
“We have a pretty good idea,” Spielman said about cutting players. “We had some meetings on Friday, had some meetings with our owners. We’ll get together on Saturday, one last meeting before everything gets started.”
Guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera are two possibilities, with cornerback Cedric Griffin being another. If the Vikings draft Kalil, last year’s left tackle, Charlie Johnson, could be possibly moved to guard making Hutchinson or Herrera expendable. Hutchinson has one year remaining on his current contract and is due $6.95 million. Herrera has one year left at $2.65 million. Either could also be approached to restructure their contract.
Cornerback Cedric Griffin, who is signed through the 2014 season at a total of $14.4 million, could also be a candidate to be cut as his play has slipped after two knee surgeries. Spielman said the Vikings are ready for free agency too.
“We’re done,” he said. “Everybody’s just sitting and waiting for the 13th. There’s not much more you can do. We were done before we went down to the combine and now we’re focused on this week, getting out there and doing the pro days and see where we’re at when we get back.”
The past week’s activity surrounding franchise tags and team’s signing their own free agents has affected the depth in free agency at two areas Minnesota is likely looking at — wide receiver and secondary.
Receivers Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City), DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia) and Wes Welker (New England each received the franchise tag. Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson signed a contract extension Monday. Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes was franchised, as were safeties Tyvon Branch (Oakland), Dashon Goldson (San Francisco) and Michael Griffin (Tennessee).
A few key players from a Vikings’ perspective, didn’t receive the tag, including San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson, New Orleans receiver Marques Colston, St. Louis receiver Brandon Lloyd, Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan, Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr.
Spielman said Minnesota could jump into the market right away, but will likely wait.
“If there’s a guy there that we covet (they could sign someone right away), other than that we’ll probably be patient and see how it shakes out,” Spielman said.