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Updated: April 24th, 2012 10:37pm
Notebook: Vikings consulted players before signing Jerome Simpson

Notebook: Vikings consulted players before signing Jerome Simpson

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Coaches and personnel men weren't the only members of the Minnesota Vikings organization to meet with Jerome Simpson over the weekend.

According to general manager Rick Spielman, coach Leslie Frazier called in a group of players to have lunch on Saturday with Simpson, the athletic free-agent receiver who reportedly agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Vikings on Tuesday.

"That's a very important part of the process and a very important part of the team chemistry you're trying to establish in the locker room," Spielman said. "... That's one of the things we ask ourselves from everything, is this guy going to fit with what we're trying to build downstairs?"

Spielman wouldn't reveal which players were involved and wouldn't confirm the deal, presumably because Simpson, 26, has yet to sign it.

Simpson reportedly will be suspended for the season's first three games as punishment for his guilty plea last month to a felony drug charge. The Vikings thoroughly explored Simpson's background, Spielman said, and apparently came to conclusion his talent outweighed the risk.

"He really came into his own this year," Spielman said of Simpson, who posted career highs with 50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns last season with Cincinnati.

"He is a generic freak-type athlete. We were very interested in him when he came out of Coastal Carolina in 2008. He was here on a Top 30 visit. It's funny -- you don't think of it at the time, when you bring in all these players and the one thing he remembered was coming here on a Top 30 visit.

"He remembered (receivers coach) George Stewart, remembered meeting with myself, remembered meeting with Leslie even though he wasn't the head coach at the time. And sometimes that leaves an impression on someone that, 'Hey I remember those people, I remember what they are about.' That can come back and help you out four years down the road like in this instance."

No influence

How much influence will the signing of Simpson or eight other veteran free agents have on the Vikings' approach to the NFL Draft?

"No influence whatsoever," Spielman said. "Because everything, the philosophy has been in free agency this year has been a lot of shorter term, not big name-type free agents, but free agents we think are very good football players that will push, add depth and push for roster spots.

"Nothing that we have done up to this draft would prevent us from taking any position, I can tell you that."

The only free agent who received significant up-front money was tight end John Carlson, who got $9.1 million guaranteed on his five-year, $25 million contract. Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, cornerbacks Zack Bowman and Chris Carr, linebacker Marvin Mitchell and running backs Jerome Felton and Lex Hilliard all received one-year deals.

Spielman said the only positions he'd rule out drafting with a high pick are running back and quarterback -- "every position is wide open," he said -- and also downplayed the impact of positional depth within the draft class on the Vikings' selection at No. 3 overall, which they've narrowed to Southern California tackle Matt Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon.

"It has no effect," Spielman said. "(At) number three, I think those players are unique players. I can tell you, if you have the opportunity to take one of those three, those are players you can't pass up."

Good attendance

Spielman said the Vikings had "pretty much 100 percent attendance" at the offseason workouts that began on Monday.

One notable player absent is receiver Percy Harvin, who was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Tuesday.

The Vikings have remained optimistic Harvin will be ready when organized team activity practices begin on May 29.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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