Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "Rick Spielman"

Rick Spielman

I wasn’t all that surprised when the Vikings decided to select a kicker in the 2012 NFL Draft.  I wasn’t surprised that they cut Ryan Longwell.

Most surprising to me, however, was the timing of the move to waive Longwell.  That timing, as General Manager Rick Spielman explains it, was a matter of respect for Longwell.  Spielman wants to give him the best chance possible to find a good fit with another team.

“We felt that Ryan deserved an opportunity to go out and get employment instead of waiting through training camp,” said Spielman.  “Once we made the decision to go with Blair [Walsh], it was the only fair thing to do with Ryan, to give him an opportunity to potentially get hooked on with another team instead of waiting until the end.”

Spielman also indicated that the decision to move on from Longwell was one that was made when he gained full control of the roster.

“I think it all goes back to when we started our whole process of evaluating our roster back in January, when we started our meetings and evaluating everybody on our roster and making those difficult decisions on, like I said, some very good veteran football players,” Spielman said. “It makes it even more difficult because of the type of people they are as well.”

Longwell has always been a class act, at least until he came to his senses and left Green Bay (wink), and I look forward to seeing him kick a game winner or two in 2012… as long as it isn’t against us.

After a long day of work, I was expecting to settle into my laptop and try to motivate myself to write about my two least favorite subjects to cover:  Stadiums & Politics.

Of course, that is all big and important news, but luckily there is some actual football activity to discuss, as well, albeit bitter-sweet.

As Brett mentioned earlier, Ryan Longwell was released by the Vikings and he made a very gracious statement to fans about his time in Minnesota.

Now, on the surface, the move can make little sense.  He has been a special teams captain.  He has been a leader.  He has been one of the most reliable field goal kickers in the NFL.  He has been classy.  He is charitable.

He has been a very well liked Viking for six seasons.

Plus, last offseason, the Vikings gave Longwell a four year deal worth $12 million, with $3.5 million in guarantees.

However, as I eluded to back in February (I even mention Blair Walsh by name), the writing has been on the wall for a while now.

Longwell is a 38 year old kicker on a team that is rebuilding.  His kickoffs averaged 64.8 yards (21st in the NFL), his 19 touchbacks (23rd in the NFL) were a career high but mainly the result of a rule change, and his 79% field goal accuracy (26th in the NFL) were all stats that suggested that not only was Longwell’s leg strength beginning to greatly lack but that his skills were also degrading in general.

There is an old adage in NFL front offices that goes something like this: “It is better to give up on a player one year too early than one year too late.”

The Vikings had the chance, last offseason, to part ways with Longwell at exactly the right time but instead will be parting with him one year too late.

Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN, suggests that the move to extend Longwell last offseason was possibly a result of Leslie Frazier still having a say in the final roster and now that Rick Spielman has full control he was able to impose his will on the kicker position.

Zulgad calls it a reminder that Spielman will not hesitate to “retool” this roster regardless of what it means for the win column in 2012.

I would argue that the move makes sense for not only the future, but for 2012, too.  The Vikings may not be able to rely on the young Blair Walsh on clutch kicks until he proves otherwise, but they should put their defense in a much better position on a regular basis via Walsh’s strong leg pinning opponents deeper into their own territory.  The stronger leg will help the field position battle on a regular basis, which will help both the offense and the defense, and the hope will be he can eventually also develop into a trustworthy field goal kicker.

The Vikings should probably sign another kicker to provide Walsh with some competition, and to have another leg for special teams reps in training camp, but it is clear that the Vikings feel confident in his abilities to replace Longwell not only in the future, but right now.

Welcome to part two of our ten part series called “Welcome to the Big Show” where we give you an in-depth look into each of the Vikings ten Draft selections of 2012.  Brett did a fine job handling Part One, a look at Matt Kalil, and now we move onto our other first round pick, Harrison Smith.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Born on Groundhog’s Day in 1989, Harrison Smith grew up as an extremely gifted athlete.

From a young age, adults took notice of Smith’s leadership abilities and willingness to include everyone.  His mother received calls from summer camp counselors telling stories of Smith comforting kids through the night as they cried from being homesick, and often including other kids in activities even when other children considered them outcasts.

Smith went to high school at Knoxville Catholic where he was a do-it-all player.  Heck, he was even a solid basketball player.  He ran wild as a running back, was a gifted receiver, and showed prowess on defense, and even averaged 14 yards per punt return as a senior.  In 2006, he was selected as Tennessee’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year.

Having grown up at a Catholic school with a strict dress code, Smith got to Notre Dame and let his hair grow out.  While drawing comparisons by some to Justin Bieber, he preferred the Scooby Doo comparisons and embraced the “Shaggy” role when Halloween rolled around.

He was a four star athlete coming out high school, with some schools envisioning him on offense and some wanting him to play defense.  With offers on the table from a number of schools that included Tennessee, Auburn, and Alabama, Smith ended up choosing Notre Dame.  His decision not to play for Tennessee ended up seeing his family be semi-spurned in their hometown.

At Notre Dame, he graduated from Mendoza College of Business with a management-entrepreneurship degree and enrolled in a graduate studies program.

No fan or analyst is going to agree 100% with every move made in the NFL Draft in any given year, but this year has certainly left Vikings fans feeling better than they have in recent years.

The Vikings theoretically took big strides in improving their secondary, added a key piece to the offensive line, and should have an interesting competition amongst their receivers.  Still, it is tough to believe that the Draft, combined with the few free agent moves made earlier this offseason, will be enough to turn a 3-13 roster into a playoff contender.

Rick Spielman’s patience in the initial stages of free agency, however, could pay off in the months between now and September.  The team is believed to have $12.5 million in cap space after the Jerome Simpson signing, which is a considerable sum and gives them some firepower if a player that intrigues them becomes available as a result of being a cap casualty.

It is quite possible that this was Rick Spielman’s plan all along, to leave enough space to be major free agency players later on in the offseason when there is a great potential for steals.

Increasing the potential for success in this area is the fact that the Vikings will have third priority for players that are released from their current teams and subject to the waiver process.  Only the Colts and the Rams will have higher priority, and neither of them have the cap space available that the Vikings do.  In fact, the Rams may only have enough space left to sign their rookie class and that is it.

Names like Jacoby Jones, Mike Jenkins, and Josh Brown have already been mentioned in regards to potentially hitting the open market and many more are sure to follow.

The Vikings may be in an ideal situation to scoop up one or two players of value in an attempt to further rebuild this roster from top to bottom.

Earlier today, the Vikings took another step forward in improving their roster and, more specifically, bolstering their lackluster secondary. After surprising a few people and choosing to stay put with their pick at the top of the third round, the Vikings selected Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson. Robinson, although probably not an immediate starter has tons of upside and should be able to challenge some of the current starters for roster spots. Let’s take an even closer look at the pick, some of Josh Robinson’s strengths and weaknesses and how he could immediately contribute to the Minnesota Vikings.

Earlier this morning, I predicted that at some point in Day 2 of the NFL Draft, Spielman and the Vikings would participate in a trade. While it never ended up happening, there was ample opportunity for Spielman to move around. According to the Vikings General Manger, they received “plenty of calls” from other teams looking to move back into the third round and targeting them  as a potential trade partner. Instead, Spielman choose to stay patient and see what type of value would be available when the team selected at the beginning of the third

“I wanted to stay patient,” Spielman said. “I don’t want to lose all the ammunition that we have for (Saturday) and we have a lot of picks. We did get a lot of calls about trading into the second round, and when you see the board develop, you sit there and you see you have three or four options still and you’re holding your breath.”

At our Live Draft Chat, we were holding our breath, too. One of those options a majority of us were hoping would still be available for the Vikings pick was LSU wide receiver Reuben Randle who strangely fell much further down than expected by most. Reuben Randle was selected by the New York Giants right before the Vikings selection. Another player the team coveted and have met with at Winter Park was cornerback Trumaine Johnson who was also selected right before the Vikings were on the clock by the St. Louis Rams. Fortunately, the Vikings were still able to nab a great talent like Josh Robinson with their pick.

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