EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings need wide receivers. Just not Randy Moss.
Given the trouble he caused during his second stint with the team, a memorable month in the 2010 season, the disinterest in bringing back one of the most popular players among Vikings fans in franchise history comes as no surprise.
But general manager Rick Spielman confirmed Thursday the Vikings “will be moving on” without Moss. The 35-year-old Moss didn’t play last season, but he announced this week he plans to return to the NFL, assuming a team will have him.
“Randy was a great player,” Spielman said, “but again our focus is more on trying to get a young team.”
That leaves the rest of the unrestricted free agent market, which opens March 13, and the draft, held April 26-28. Spielman said he sees a rich, deep talent pool in both areas. However they’re acquired, the Vikings need more big-play threats at the skill positions to help quarterback Christian Ponder and supplement wide receiver Percy Harvin, tight end Kyle Rudolph and, assuming he’s healthy again, running back Adrian Peterson.
“To give Christian the best chance at success is to get him around as many playmakers as we can on offense,” Spielman said.
There are plenty of other needs, at cornerback, safety, left tackle and nose tackle, for starters, and the Vikings are clearly in better position to address those through the draft for the sake of long-term development. They’re counting on 10 picks, including compensatory selections for lost free agents last year, starting with the third overall slot.
Spielman said he counted contract extensions in the past six months for Peterson, linebacker Chad Greenway, center John Sullivan and long snapper Cullen Loeffler as free-agent signings, one hint that the Vikings won’t be active on the open market. All of those players would’ve been free agents next month. But Spielman, who ascended to general manager in January after serving as vice president of player personnel, said the team won’t rule out a major signing.
“Whether we make a big splash or not, if there’s someone out there we think can help us then we’re willing to spend a lot of money. We’ll definitely look at those options,” Spielman said.
With 16 players from last year’s team eligible for unrestricted free agency, the Vikings will have plenty of roster space. They’re almost certain to create more openings by cutting a few veterans still under contract, both for salary cap relief and the youth movement they’ve begun. Cornerback Cedric Griffin, right guard Anthony Herrera and left guard Steve Hutchinson are candidates given their age and salary. They could also be asked to restructure their deals in order to stay. Griffin has three years remaining on his contract, and Herrera and Hutchinson have one.
“Sometimes, when you move on from guys, it has nothing to do with their character and what they brought to the team. Sometimes, you just have to make some tough business decisions,” he said.
On other subjects:
— Peterson’s rehabilitation is proceeding as planned. “We’ve been very pleased,” Spielman said. Peterson is in Houston and will make occasional trips to Minnesota this year. Vikings athletic trainer Eric Sugarman speaks daily with Peterson’s physical therapist. Spielman said Peterson is on track to being “extremely close to being ready” for the start of the season.
— Spielman said the Vikings are “very, very confident” in Ponder but added if they determine one of the available quarterbacks in the draft is “too good to pass up” they’ll have to weigh that option. The Vikings are sure to field several trade offers for the No. 3 pick. Spielman said he and his staff will use a “full monty” approach to evaluating every prospect, even expected No. 1 selection Andrew Luck, because he doesn’t want to be “under-prepared.”
— Sage Rosenfels will be considered among other veteran backups for the No. 3 spot behind Ponder and Joe Webb. Spielman also said the Vikings could go with only two quarterbacks on the active roster, with a developmental player on the practice squad.
— Cornerback Chris Cook’s felony assault trial is set to start March 5. Spielman said he’s spoken to Cook since his arrest in October and believes he has grown and matured from the situation, an alleged choking of his girlfriend during an argument. Spielman declined to speculate on Cook’s roster status without resolution from the court, but said, “You can never have enough good corners.”
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