The month of February was eerily quiet for the Minnesota Vikings as the front office prepared for an impactful March and April. There was an arid stretch of 3-4 weeks that resulted in speculation city for followers of the team – about all folks can do when no news is reported.
Kirk Cousins trade rumors, erroneously spitballing of a Danielle Hunter holdout, and mock drafts galore have filled folks’ hobby time.
So when Rick Spielman hopped onto a videoconference call on Wednesday, it felt like any sentences that escaped his lips would be newsworthy.
Here we are.
The media-driven takeaway culminated when Spielman – without reservation or caveat – affirmed that Kirk Cousins is the team’s starting quarterback. Indeed, Spielman has a history of committing to players via microphone and trading them months later. But the Cousins avowal seemed different. Why would the team want to trade a quarterback that tosses 30+ touchdowns like clockwork? Minnesota is long starved at the position for that consistent production.
Other informational nuggets were derived from the presser, and here’s what they mean.
The Trade-Back Philosophy
Asked about the draft in two months, Spielman was, of course, vague on what the Vikings might do for personnel. He alluded to positional needs, which is to be expected.
Then he also said, “if we stay at [number] 14.”
Bingo. This indicates to the listener that Spielman is already contemplating a trade, presumably backward, as the team did in 2020 – when the tactic netted D.J. Wonnum and K.J. Osborn as gravy to Jeff Gladney potatoes. Minnesota and San Francisco swapped in the 1st Round last year, enabling the 49ers to select wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and the Vikings to move down. Minnesota chose Jeff Gladney at the 31st spot with Wonnum and Osborn as compensation later on.
This might just happen again in 2021. The Vikings need a 2nd Round pick because that commodity was lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Yannick Ngakoue trade. Hoodwinking a different team this April could careen Spielman back into the 2nd Round – a place where he has documented success.
In theory, Spielman could trade up in the 1st Round, but he does not have a history of doing so. And that usually entails a splurge for a quarterback – the Vikings have one of those.
Life without Eric Wilson is Real
Spielman later on in the videoconference confirmed that employing three linebackers with fat contracts is unlikely. With Eric Wilson heading to free agency, this tapers the expectations on retaining the 26-year-old. Comparatively speaking, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks have fat contracts. The Vikings probably cannot spend a bundle on Wilson because they already invest heavily in Barr and Kendricks.
It felt like Spielman sees the writing on the wall. He even acknowledged that Wilson might walk and that a player like Troy Dye would get a chance to develop – because Dye is affordable.
On the open free-agent market, non-EDGE linebackers do not break the bank unless they are named Bobby Wagner or Anthony Barr or Eric Kendricks. Wilson will not be ghastly expensive. Yet, even a mid-tier deal for Wilson is too spendy for the Vikings – especially per Spielman’s commentary.
Moral of the story: Get emotionally acclimated to something like Anthony Barr-Eric Kendricks-Troy Dye or Anthony Barr-Eric Kendricks-Todd Davis.
Hunter Contract Stuff Was Probably Fake
Spielman was also asked about “Danielle Hunter’s contract situation.” He reacted as if it was the first time he’d heard of malcontent.
For context, the stakes of Hunter’s longevity with the team were allegedly raised because of this tweet last autumn:
#Vikings star Danielle Hunter is having surgery to clean up a herniated disc, knocking him out for 2020, per me & @TomPelissero. MIN has a decision this offseason: Make Hunter the highest-paid defender in football or trade him. Have we seen the last of him in a Vikings uniform👀
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 22, 2020
Hunter has never expressed these feelings personally – at least not out in public. Spielman’s take on the probably-fake matter was akin to fans’ on October 22, 2020, when they read the Rapaport tweet.
To be sure, Hunter is underpaid if one grades his 2019 performance to the rest of the elite EDGE rushers in 2020. But it was very weird – per the Rapaport tweet – that Hunter would flex during a timeframe of a season-ending injury. Too, this wasn’t just any injury – it was a neck ailment. That is one of the most fearful injuries in all of sports.
It never made sense that a player would stomp around Minneapolis asking for a new contract while rehabbing from a neck injury. Spielman’s comments tend to prove Rapaport mistakenly believed that Hunter was a free agent. He is not. Hunter is under contract through 2023.
“Hunter wanting a new contract” was likely a false narrative from the onset.