Rick Spielman vows a busy offseason for Vikings, 15 unrestricted FAs
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Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman isn't committed to selecting a quarterback with the team's eighth overall pick in May's NFL draft.
But with one quarterback under contract next season in Christian Ponder, Spielman and the Vikings front office have a bevy of decisions to make with their 15 unrestricted free agents that hit the open market on March 11, including veteran quarterback Matt Cassel, who opted out of the back end of a two-year deal he signed before last season.
"We've got to look into the Matt Cassel situation because he's become an unrestricted free agent," Spielman said Friday. "I know we'll sit down with his agent at the [NFL Scouting] Combine and see where that's going. But we're also going to look at other options out there, too. Potential guys that are [unrestricted free agents] or potential [quarterbacks] that may be getting cut as well. I know [offensive coordinator] Norv [Turner] and [quarterbacks coach] Scott Turner are heavily involved in the process. They're looking at every stone."
The Vikings have just over $103 million committed to 54 players for 2014, per Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, on a salary cap of around $126 million - meaning the Vikings have nearly $23 million to spend heading into free agency, the fourth most of all 32 NFL teams.
Starting with last offseason, NFL teams were granted three days to begin negotiating with their own free agents and unrestricted free agents from other squads. This year, that period begins on March 8 before free agency opens at 4 p.m. EST on March 11.
"It kind of gives you an idea of where [the UFA's] market is," Spielman said. "It helped a little bit, because - and again, it's all part of the negotiation - but also, teams that were interested in signing our own guys, they could come back and say, 'Hey, we have this offer or that offer on the table,' so that helped a little bit in that area."
The Vikings have 15 unrestricted free agents and major holes to fill across each level of the defense and at quarterback.
2014 free agents:
CB Chris Cook
G Charlie Johnson
QB Matt Cassel
DE Jared Allen
DT Kevin Williams
DE Everson Griffen
DT Fred Evans
RB Toby Gerhart
WR Joe Webb
RB Matt Asiata+
LB Larry Dean*
LB Marvin Mitchell
WR Jerome Simpson
QB Josh Freeman
G Joe Berger
T J'Marcus Webb
LB Desmond Bishop
*Restricted free agent
+exclusive rights free agent
The Vikings made in-season deals to extend contracts with safety Andrew Sendejo and defensive end Brian Robison, but held off on extending the likes of defensive end Everson Griffen and running back Toby Gerhart. Griffen told 1500ESPN in October that the two sides had talked, but that they were 'nowhere in the ballpark' to closing a deal, as typical with potentially high-priced contracts.
But as Kevin Williams, John Carlson and Charlie Johnson found out last offseason -- renegotiations with players already under contract are a valuable tool for NFL front offices looking to free up room for new talent.
"We will look at moving on from some players, too, that may currently be under contract," Spielman said. "So there is going to be a lot of moving parts."