Rick Spielman was given the Minnesota Vikings’ general manager title in January and was proud to proclaim the fact he had the final say over the team’s roster.
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No longer is there a “Triangle of Authority” in Minnesota formed by Spielman, Rob Brzezinski and the head coach. Spielman is the top decision-maker. And entering his first draft as the lead voice, Spielman is doing just what might have been expected — getting ready for trades.
Spielman addressed the media Tuesday for his usual predraft press conference. As part of his opening remarks, he left little doubt he is looking to wheel and deal this week with the draft starting Thursday. After all, it’s what he’s been known to do. He’s been a part of five drafts with the Vikings and has executed trades in each one.
Though most talk has revolved around the Vikings moving back from No. 3 overall to acquire more picks and continue the turnover of an aging roster, Spielman is ready for anything.
“Potentially if there’s someone there that we covet, I will never shut the door on moving back up either,” Spielman said. “We have, since I’ve been here, moved up and we’ve moved back. We’ll continue to look at both angles.”
Spielman’s influence will be felt on Minnesota’s draft. He’s been an integral part of the past five drafts since joining the team after the draft in 2006. But never has he had the sole responsibility for the choices.
“Last year, it was a group effort,” Spielman said. “We worked very diligent on it, but I can sit up here in front of you now and say that, yes, I will have the final say on everything.”
Spielman admitted Tuesday if he doesn’t trade back the decision will come down to Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. All three are considered quality players and each would fit a potential need for the Vikings.
Spielman has made it clear he is receiving offers to trade out of the No. 3 spot, though. If left without a deal, Spielman said he has his favorite choice between Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon, but he will use the supporting staff to make sure he isn’t alone in the final decision.
“What you do is you sit there, and I’ve looked at all these guys as well, but you have to respect everybody’s opinion in there, and I’d be the first one up here to say that I’m not always right,” Spielman said. “If I’m out on an island, then, OK, tell me why I’m out on an island. That’s what this whole process is. I can be the one that’s going to have this final decision, and I know the picks are going to be on me, but I also know this is a group effort and it has to be a team effort because of what’s involved in the process.”
Since Spielman arrived in Minnesota in May 2006, trading has been a big part of the Vikings’ draft process.
In 2007, Minnesota made three trades. The Vikings moved back in the second round and still got receiver Sidney Rice. They traded up in the fourth round to nab Brian Robison, who turned into a starting defensive end last season.
In 2008, they swung the biggest deal in recent franchise history by swapping four picks, including the 17th overall selection, for defensive end Jared Allen. Minnesota executed three other trades that year.
In 2010, Spielman was busy again early on. He traded out of the first round with the Detroit Lions, taking Chris Cook with the Detroit’s second-round pick and later trading back into the second round to select running back Toby Gerhart.
Spielman was even affecting Vikings’ drafts before he arrived. In 2004, as general manager of the Miami Dolphins, he was part of a first-round deal with the Vikings. Miami and Minnesota swapped picks Nos. 19 and 20 overall, with the Dolphins moving up to get offensive lineman Vernon Carey. The Vikings selected defensive end Kenechi Udeze with the next pick and gained fourth-round pick Mewelde Moore in the deal.
Minnesota has 10 picks in this draft before any potential trades. Spielman calls himself a perfectionist, and he expects success with each pick. He doesn’t believe there is any more pressure this season as the final authority and is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m very excited about it because I know that this is my responsibility,” Spielman said. “My name is on this. But I also think my name has been on all the other drafts in the past. And I have the utmost confidence in the work that’s been done. And I have the utmost confidence in the people that get us prepared for this draft.”