Notebook: GM Rick Spielman proves he isn't afraid to wheel and deal
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Just call him Trader Rick.
Running his first draft as the Minnesota Vikings general manager, Rick Spielman made a splash even before the first round began Thursday evening by swapping opening-round selections with Cleveland and getting three additional picks (fourth, fifth and seventh round) from the Browns in the process.
Spielman wasn't done.
Holding 13 picks in the three-day draft, he then sent the Vikings' second-round choice (35th overall) and one of their fourth-rounders (98th overall) to Baltimore for the 29th selection in the first round.
Spielman used that pick on Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, who joined Southern Cal left tackle Matt Kalil as the newest Vikings. Kalil, whom the Vikings wanted all along, came with the fourth-overall pick. The Browns used the third selection they got from the Vikings on Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
Thus, the Vikings not only got the player they wanted early in the first round, they also were able to add three more picks in doing so.
"This is what makes the draft so fun," Spielman said late Thursday night at Winter Park. "The moving up and down and accumulating picks and then using some of those picks to potentially move back up if you target a player."
Spielman said he had discussed a potential deal with the Browns earlier in the week but the activity really began to heat up around 5 p.m. Thursday. That was what Spielman needed to create the perception that another team could come up and get Richardson and leave Cleveland without the running back it wanted.
"Multiple teams had started to call so you felt that jockeying and that positioning was going to take place," Spielman said. "Once we talked to Cleveland and got the deal in place that we got we were very excited about that and went ahead and pulled the trigger before the draft."
Before picking Kalil, Spielman said the Vikings did reach out to Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers did not bite on a potential trade. The Bucs held the fifth-overall pick and eventually made a deal with Jacksonville.
The Vikings' desire to add Smith did not come as a surprise given their need at safety, and Spielman became concerned that because the safety class in this draft is not deep that Smith wouldn't be around early in the second round.
"As we were sitting there and it started to get down into the 20s, we started calling teams trying to see who had an interest," Spielman said. "Everybody's starting to target their particular guys they want to go get and then Baltimore was the one that once they were on the clock, we had talked to them earlier, they had shown some interest in potentially moving back if their player wasn't there. It just happened to work out that that's where the pick landed."
Spielman confirmed the Vikings were "very active" in pursuing a trade in the bottom of the first round.
"He was the next highest player on our board and we didn't want to lose him," Spielman said of Smith. "With having the extra picks to go ahead and move up, that's why you do accumulate those picks. So if there is a player that you really target and see and have a chance to go get we wanted to definitely do that."
Spielman joined the Vikings organization in May 2006 and has been very involved in the draft since that time. However, former coach Brad Childress had final say on roster matters until he was fired during the 2010 season and last year the draft was run by Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier.
Spielman, though, was named general manager last winter after the Vikings completed a 3-13 season and he is now the final voice in the draft room. Others can weigh in with their opinions but this is Spielman's show.
"It just was a lot smoother," Spielman said of how the process unfolded Thursday. "As things are going on, I'll throw out this suggestion or that suggestion. As I see things develop, I'll ask for feedback.
"I'm talking to (vice president football operations) Rob Brzezinski and (assistant GM) George Paton, 'What are we going to have to give up to go back into the first round?' Talking to Coach Frazier on, 'We really like this player, we want to go get him.' It's a lot smoother because it's going through one person."
More of the Irish
"I was just teasing him when I was talking to him on the phone that we're almost reaching our quota as far as having the amount of Notre Dame players you can have on the field at one time," Spielman said.
• The Vikings confirmed the signing of WR Jerome Simpson, who agreed to a one-year deal earlier in the week. Simpson will wear No. 81. That number previously belonged to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who remains on the free-agent market.
• Frazier is pleased with the Vikings' early turnout for their offseason workouts. "We maybe have only three or four guys that aren't here," he said. "Our participation is the best we've had in any of my time here. I was talking to (strength and conditioning coach) Tom Kanavy, we've never had this type of participation here in Minnesota. It's great for us. Emotionally, to see the guys come in on Monday and the number that they did, I'm going like, 'Wow.' ... We're off to a very good start." Among those not in attendance is Jared Allen, but Frazier said the Pro Bowl defensive end was not expected to be at the workouts at this point.