Rick Spielman's Full Comments On Diggs, Cousins, Cook, More From NFL Combine
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman gave his annual NFL Combine press conference on Tuesday morning from the Indianapolis Convention Center, and he had a number of interesting things to say about the Vikings' roster and their plans going forward. Below are his full answers to all of the relevant questions that were asked during the 13-minute session.
Spielman's opening statement
"Just assessing where we're at; last year, we did have a good season. We ultimately didn't reach our goal but you can see the progress that we made from the year before. I do believe we have a very strong foundation, not only with this roster but also with this coaching staff. The coaches have always done a great job developing young talent, and I know we have a lot of tough roster decisions to make with where our cap situation is right now. As much as we'd like to keep everyone, I know that's not always going to be the case. But I do know, with the strong coaching staff we have under coach Zimmer and even some of the coaching staff changes that he made this year, that we have a lot of young guys in the pipeline when their opportunities come up, they're able to step in and we don't lose a beat."
"It's going to be a very busy combine for us in general, we're going to meet with most of our players' agents down here. We've been through our process on evaluating our roster, where we're at, evaluating the free agent market, evaluating the draft and where it is before this event. What's different this year is the league year doesn't start for two weeks after we get back, so once we get back, we'll assess where we're at after we've met with some of the agents down here, and come up with our final plan."
Where is Kirk Cousins' contract situation on the priority list this offseason?
"We have a lot of things on the priority list. I know, just assessing where Kirk was last year, and putting him in a system that pretty much emphasizes what he does well with the play-action and establishing a running game, his accuracy is second to none, I believe, in this league, when he has time in the pocket. Not only short and intermediate [throws], but also when he throws down the field. And I think the second year – which I don't think he's been in, to go into a system for two years in a row – we just see him progressing and improving more. From a business side, I won't talk about anything on contract negotiations or what we're doing, but I do know we were very excited. I think the other thing that Kirk answered last year too was can he win the big game? When you see him go down there and lead us in Dallas, and then even when we didn't play very well the first half [against] Denver, for him to bring us back and win that game. And to go down there and have a big signature win in the playoffs against New Orleans in overtime. So you're seeing things, and I give a lot of credit to coach Zimmer and Gary Kubiak putting him in situations to have success. I think it's even going to go farther next year playing in the same system."
On the Stefon Diggs trade rumors
"Stefon last year had probably his most productive year. And he's a young receiver we just extended [in July 2018]. He's not only a major part of our offense and a major part of our organization winning games, but he also does a lot of things for this organization off the field as well. There's no reason – the rumors, or whatever you're talking about – to anticipate that Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking. When you have some of the offensive talent that we have, with him and [Adam] Thielen together, with Rudy [Kyle Rudolph] and Irv Smith, with Dalvin Cook and [Alexander] Mattison, we have a pretty good support cast around our quarterback."
Thoughts on the offensive line last year
"I think it's still a work in progress. I think when we went to the outside zone [scheme] there are specific guys that have to have specific physical traits that we're looking for. I think that'll be an area that we continue to try to improve, but we made tremendous strides from last year. I give a lot of credit to Gary Kubiak and I give a lot of credit to Rick Dennison and Andrew Janocko for what they did to develop those guys. I think we have two really good young cornerstone-type players in Brian O'Neill and [Garrett] Bradbury, and I think we're going to continue to grow and develop. Because to me, all the passing or anything that gets done in this league, you're going to win up front in the trenches, both on the offensive and defensive side."
Is re-signing Anthony Harris a priority this offseason?
"Everybody's a priority for us this offseason. Anthony's a perfect example of – again, giving credit to the coaches – where, he was a corner at Virginia, and he had a [shoulder injury] when he came out and didn't get drafted. But we look at all these young guys that maybe won't get on the field right away, but how I assess as these guys develop is how well they do on special teams. Anthony developed into one of our top special teams players, and I've seen the same thing happening with [rookie cornerback] Kris Boyd this year. But once Anthony got that opportunity to start, and even when he started last year, at times, he's proven that he is phenomenal and one of the best safeties in the league right now."
What do you look for in late-round prospects?
"I think we're all on the same page on the physical traits that we're looking for. I know not only our scouts but our coaches, really, we take that Saturday [rounds four through seven of the draft] and college free agency just as serious as we do the first couple picks. I think also what has helped us identify those guys a little more is Scott Kuhn, our director of analytics, we've implemented some analytics as another tool. It's not a decision-maker for us, but they can really vet out guys that legitimately have a chance and guys that don't. So when you have 700 guys on your back board, they may pull out 20 or 30 guys that have a legitimate chance to make a roster, and then we kind of hone in on those guys to see if they're a fit for the Minnesota Vikings."
Thoughts on a possible Dalvin Cook extension
"I put Dalvin in the same class as I have all of our other young guys, whether it's Danielle Hunter – we've always tried to keep our core young talent that we draft and develop. [Running backs coach] Kennedy Polamalu has done a phenomenal job with that position, and we'll look at that. Usually we do not look at extensions until after we get through the draft. Right now, we have so much ahead of us and a lot of decisions to make before the free agency [period] begins and the new league year begins. And then we look at the draft, and once we settle down and everything. But I consider Dalvin as one of those core group of players that we definitely want to try to keep."
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