Notebook: 'We want to win right away, too,' Vikings' Mark Wilf says
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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Minnesota Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf understands the frustration of fans who want the team to make bolder moves in free agency.
Ownership supported Rick Spielman's rebuilding plan when they promoted him to general manager in January, though, and that support hasn't changed.
"We want to win right away, too," Wilf said on Monday at the NFL meetings. "But the main thing is we want to be first-rate and first-class on a consistent basis."
Spielman has made clear he intends to build his roster through the draft, using veteran free agency mainly to improve depth and create competition.
With the exception of tight end John Carlson's five-year, $25 million contract, the Vikings have gone outside the roster only to add players on one-year deals.
"We want to be successful in the long term," Wilf said. "What Rick is about and he's spoken to you about is it's a long-term process in terms of building through the draft, filling in with free agency, and that combination is something we wanted to structure the organization where we could have our best chance for long-term success."
Two years removed from the NFC championship game, the Vikings are coming off a 3-13 season that matched the worst in franchise history.
Asked how he feels about the team they'll field in 2012, Wilf said, "Well, we're getting better every day and looking forward to the draft coming up in a few weeks with 10 picks here and a lot of young talent. We're going to improve."
More than a body
Fullback Jerome Felton's one-year contract with the Vikings includes a minimum base salary of $700,000 and a modest bonus of $50,000 tied to workouts and making the team. The Vikings took the minimum salary benefit to lower his cap number to $590,000.
But the Vikings' interest in Felton, 25, since his days in Detroit make him the early favorite to win the starting job, despite his nomadic stint with three teams in 2011.
"We are excited to bring him in," Spielman said. "Watched him over the last couple of years and he's going to come in and compete with (Ryan) D'Imperio and (Matt) Asiata, who we brought back because last year was having a real good camp before he got hurt."
Come it compete
Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz signed a one-year deal with a relatively modest bonus ($150,000) after sitting out last season because of hip surgery.
Spielman confirmed Schwartz, 25, is a candidate to start at right guard but mentioned several former late-round picks who could be in the mix as well.
"Yeah, he played in '10 (with Carolina), he started at right tackle and right guard ... and did a very good job for them," Spielman said. "He's just another young guy that we feel has an opportunity to come in and compete.
"But we're very excited about Brandon Fusco (a sixth-round pick in 2011) and some of the things he showed last year. We'll see if we can get Chris DeGeare (a fifth-round pick in 2010) back on track from where he was headed his freshman year. ... DeMarcus (Love, a sixth-round pick in 2011) had a really good training camp last year. So, you're betting that those guys will continue to develop and continue to make a push."
One name Spielman didn't mention: veteran Joe Berger, who was the favorite to start at right guard before the Schwartz signing. Berger, 29, received a $125,000 signing bonus on the two-year contract he received in September and has incentives that could push his 2012 compensation as high as $1.825 million.
Houston general manager Rick Smith and Batimore general manager Ozzie Newsome made a presentation on Monday to football operations people, including head coaches.
On Tuesday, a report will be made to ownership regarding seven potential changes to playing rules and several potential changes to the NFL's bylaws, with a vote scheduled for Wednesday.
Two changes to instant replay rules are on the table, as well as alterations to the definition of horse collar tackles, overtime rules and defenseless player rules.
• Punter Chris Kluwe received permission on Monday to switch his jersey number back to No. 5, which he gave up to quarterback Donovan McNabb last year. Schwartz will wear No. 76. Felton will wear No. 42.
• Wilf expressed support for the decision to retain CB Chris Cook, who was acquitted this month of domestic assault charges stemming from an October altercation with his then-girlfriend. "I think between Rick and Coach (Leslie Frazier), they've been working through with Chris in terms of getting him back in terms of the organization," Wilf said. "So, we're looking forward to him growing in his performance and staying a part of the Vikings family."
• The adjusted working arrangement between Spielman and Frazier has been "(r)eal good. Real good," Wilf said. "Everything's going well on that front and again looking forward to getting some more players in and getting us to the next level."