Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman
Free agency has officially kicked off and I’m down here talking to you guys. First off, we’re very excited to get the Phil Loadholt deal done, that was one of our primary players that we wanted to make sure returned. We drafted Phil, he’s really developed into a player. We feel he is a key part of our offensive line in our blocking, his run blocking. Not only what he does on the field, but what he is out in the community and what a leader he has developed in our locker room. As we headed into this, Phil Loadholt was definitely our top priority and very, very excited that Phil Loadholt will be here. Antoine Winfield was a very tough decision. It was a business decision as we move forward. Antoine is a great football player for us, he’s another one that’s a tremendous leader and great what he does in this community. We definitely want to keep the door open on his possible return, but at this time we had to release him in order to get him out in free agency. I can officially announce the Percy Harvin trade has also been completed. It was an opportunity for us to accumulate some draft picks and we just felt it was too good to pass up for us to move forward as an organization and continue to build this organization to have long-term success for years to come. I’ll go ahead and open it up to questions.
Q: With Percy Harvin it was first, seventh and a third next year?
Q: What all went into the decision to move him?
A: It was an opportunity that came really quick. We had something that presented itself that we felt would not only help us in the short-term but in the long-term as well. You know my philosophy of trying to build this roster year in and year out through the draft because I think that’s the way you’re going to maintain success. It was a situation we felt was the best decision we could make going forward.
Q: How does that help in the short-term to lose a player who does so many things for a team?
A: We just look it over at the overall picture. What we hopefully will accomplish here before we open up for training camp and what that opens up for us in the potential draft. There are a lot of things that we’ll be looking at that really helps our success going forward.
Q: Were you surprised by Adrian Peterson’s reaction and have you spoken to him since?
A: Oh yeah we’ve spoken and I know Leslie [Frazier] has spoken to him. I understand the players because these guys are out there battling every Sunday with each other and these are the decisions that are very, very tough. None of them are easy but we make decisions based on what we think is best for this organization and how we can move forward and to build success from what we had last year.
Q: Does releasing Antoine at all speak to your confidence in your other cornerbacks you have right now?
A: Yeah we feel confident in the way Josh [Robinson] has developed and tendering A.J. Jefferson and Chris Cook. We have a couple other young guys that we’re going to look at as well but no means do we want to shut out Antoine. We’ll hopefully have the door open for his potential return if that’s possible.
Q: When Percy was put on IR, did he actively come to you and ask to be moved?
A: I will get into nothing on the business standpoint. I just know making the decision to trade him we felt was the best business move that we could make going forward.
Q: Can you comment on Greg Jennings and if you have interest in him?
A: We’ll look at everything. We’re going to look at the UFAs. The philosophy here is putting an emphasis on signing your own back. We’ve been doing that through the night. We’re currently doing that right now and trying to get as many of our guys back that were UFAs last year because of the success we had last year. If we can sign some of those guys back that were a key to that success, and then have another strong draft, we feel very excited about the direction this team is going.
Q: Did you see Winfield decline at all?
A: Antoine played very well last year. He probably is one of those players that defied odds for his age in what he did for our football team last year. There is no question about what Antoine Winfield does for our football team on the field and off the field as well.
Q: Was it a matter of if he was going to take on a reduced role at age 36?
A: I don’t want to get into the details of it. It was just a very, extremely hard decision to make but hopefully we’ll be able to keep the door open for him.
Q: You left the door open for a possible return; what would it take for him to circle back?
A: We’ll just have to see.
Q: How many more years on Phil Loadholt?
A: I won’t get into the details on the contract. It’s multiple years, multiple years.
Q: Are you going to release anyone else today?
A: Well, it’s past 3 o’clock so no.
Q: Do you have any intent to release anyone tomorrow?
A: This is a very fluid business.
Q: How are you situated right now under the salary cap?
A: We’re in good shape under the salary cap. As these deals come in, as we’re working these deals, our emphasis right now is really focusing on our own UFAs. We have three or four, some five different things going on right now upstairs. As those deals come in, we’ll find out where we’re at from a cap standpoint, but we’re in good shape from a salary cap standpoint.
Q: With Phil Loadholt being your top priority as you went into this, what signs of growth did you see in him that convinced you you need to have him?
A: The one thing about Phil is he’s not only a physical run blocker, and I think that right side and what he does for that right side when Adrian [Peterson] runs to that right side, there’s not question about the accomplishments Adrian has made. A lot of that has to do not only with Phil but with our whole offensive line. The goal was to keep that line together to create that continuity as long as we can. We were able to get Matt Kalil in there, did some things with the guards, extended John Sullivan, and now Phil Loadholt will be part of that for a long time.
Q: With Harvin’s departure, was it something where you were going to try to get the best deal you could get for him or the deal came that was enough for him?
A: We weren’t out there actively shopping Percy, it was something that was basically approached to us and we felt that opportunity was too good to pass up.
Q: Jerome Simpson did tweet that he’s returning too, can you confirm that?
A: I won’t confirm anything just until we have signatures.
Q: With Antoine, were you discussing with him about a restructure deal or did you just have to make a decision to cut him?
A: I had spoken with Antoine earlier today, spoken with his agent, but I won’t get into anything from a discussion standpoint on what was said.
Q: Do you have any concerns about the message that gets sent to the locker room in terms of cutting the type of player who is performing at the level?
A: Like I said, these decisions are very, very hard to make. That’s why we want to definitely keep the door open for potentially having Antoine return, but we have to make all the pieces fit into the puzzle as well.
Q: Where are things at with Jerome Felton in terms of trying to bring him back?
A: We’ve been in discussions and we’re currently in discussions with Jerome. If there’s an opportunity to get him finalized, we definitely are trying to do that.
Q: With the process that is this fluid these days, how many different forks in the road do you have for your plans?
A: It changes by the minute up there. As you sit there working on deals, and then this falls through, then what’s your plan B and what’s your plan C? There are things that are changing by the minute up there on who and what is potentially coming and going.
Q: Your philosophy is to build through the draft but do any of these moves have an eye on this year’s free agency and competing next year?
A: Well we think we’re going to compete next year, there’s no doubt about that because we were a playoff team last year. By keeping your own and continuing to build through the draft and the success we’ve had the last couple of years with this draft and feel very strong about this draft class coming up, that that’s the approach and philosophy that we believed in and it’s showing that we are having success with that philosophy.
Q: Were there any off the field issues with Harvin that made you more willing to trade him?
A: We just made the best decision that we felt was right for us as we moved forward.
Q: Did the three-day negotiating window impact the speed at which these deals have gotten done?
A: It was basically an opportunity to speak with agents. We could not speak with the players themselves. But getting parameters in place on deals and getting an idea where the potential market was going to come in. It gives you an opportunity where your guys actually have a chance to go out and see what kind of market they could potentially get and it gives us an opportunity to try to keep them here. There was a lot of maneuvering going on, I would say, but it will be interesting to see how significant and how quickly things happen with this new three-day window.
Q: Does that play in to the prior team’s hands?
A: It’s hard to say right now because almost each individual case was different. Some agents were more aggressive about getting it and some agents were more trying to collect information and then make decisions based off that.
Q: You’ve mentioned many times that you’re leaving the door open for Winfield. Are you hoping that he does return? And did he give you any inclination after speaking with him?
A: Yeah, we’re always going to keep the door open to someone of that, not only a football player, but what he means to this organization and what he means to this football team. When you have to make tough business decisions, it makes it extremely hard. One minute you’re elated because you got Phil Loadholt done and the next minute you don’t feel as good because you had to do something with Winfield, which makes this job extremely, extremely difficult. We’re very excited about the progress of getting our own guys back and potentially getting some guys back and maybe adding some in free agency, but really honing in and focusing on the draft.
Q: How enticing was getting that first-round pick from Seattle in the Harvin deal?
A: Well I know we have the 23rd and 25th pick and to have two first-rounders we were able to capitalize on that last year. You know, we don’t have a fourth this year, but they’re down relatively close and I think with the depth of this draft and as we’ve developed this board, we feel very strong about getting two players that can come in and help us win ball games right away.
Q: Is there a feeling you have to fill in at the receiver spot before you get into the draft?
A: I don’t think you panic because you don’t lineup and play till August. There are so many things that happen between now and then. Your roster isn’t set by tomorrow at four o’clock. It’s a continuous process and you have to be patient. You have to have a schematic type approach and doing your due diligence and if there’s something out there that we think is not only going to help us in the short term, but the long term, we’ll definitely take a peek at it. But if there’s something out there that we don’t feel very good about, we’re not going to do it. We’re not going to do something just to do it. We’re going to be very meticulous on how we handle this.
Q: Looking at the amount of cap room you have, it may seem to fans that you’re gearing up towards doing something, is that the case?
A: Cap room can be deceiving. The only thing is that as we get our deals in from our guys, that cap room changes.
Q: Were you able to restructure with John Carlson?
A: I’m not going to comment on anything about restructures.
Q: With your conversation with Winfield, what were the sentiments he expressed to you?
A: We had a very good conversation with him. I’ll just leave that between me and him.
Q: As you guys stepped back and evaluated Jerome Simpson’s performance, what were your thoughts?
A: Jerome had to deal with his suspension and he had to deal with the injury through most of the year, but I know coming back for a second year in the offensive system, coming back healthy, you can see some of the potential that he showed during training camp and that he showed in the preseason. If officially Jerome is signed back here, we look forward to having him.
Q: Where do things stand with Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley? Is it a choice of one or the other or the possibility of maybe signing both back?
A: Everybody is open. We’re talking to everybody. It will all depend on how things shake out because as one piece gets put into place, maybe another piece gets eliminated. It all depends on the market they’re looking for and how that fits into the whole big picture. We’ll continue and like I said, we’ve been in contact with almost all, if not all, of our UFAs and are really honing in, trying to see what we can get done there first.
Q: You’re in discussions with both of them right now?
A: We’re in discussions with everybody. We’re allowed to discuss over the three-day period.