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Vikings committed to slow(er) DB rebuild

3/26/2012

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- By the looks of it, those of you who are disappointed about the Minnesota Vikings' offseason thus far can be categorized in two ways: Those who wanted to see the Vikings pursue a starting-caliber wide receiver and those who thought they needed to prioritize a depleted secondary that contributed to one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history last season.

I think the former is mitigated a bit by the addition of tight end John Carlson, who has been a slick pass-catcher when healthy in his NFL career. But I do think it's fair to question how the Vikings intend to improve their pass defense without a talent influx, and that was on the top of my mind Sunday when Vikings general manager Rick Spielman stopped to speak with reporters here at the NFL owners meetings.

Spielman defended his approach, saying: "I just really believe in doing the due diligence and being patient." He added "there's no hurry for anything" and pointed out that veteran cornerbacks Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield should form a decent foundation for the Vikings' 2012 secondary.

In the end, however, it seems clear that Spielman has targeted the draft for difference-makers in the secondary, whether they are cornerbacks or safeties.

"There's a pretty good crop of corners in this year's draft," he said, "and we know if we do go that route, the coaches will have to step in and do a great job developing them."

Speaking generally, Spielman said his approach to building the roster is that free agency is a time to "get a lot of value" from players, but the draft is "hopefully we're going to get our top of the line, blue-chip players."

I appreciate Spielman standing in on a number of questions on the subject. I understand where he's coming from but think it's only fair to point out a number of facts:

  • Both of the cornerbacks he's counting on have had trouble staying on the field in recent years.

  • Cook missed 10 games in 2010 because of knee injuries and another 10 in 2011 after he was arrested in a domestic incident that he was ultimately acquitted for.

  • Winfield, meanwhile, missed 11 games last season, six in 2009 and will turn 35 in August.

  • One of their 2011 starting safeties, Husain Abdullah, has a history of concussions and has yet to re-sign.

  • Candidates under contract to start at safety include Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford, both of whom got chances in 2011.

How many starting defensive backs can you get in a single draft? Maybe one if you do a good job and two or three if you have a great draft. Sitting out the opening days of free agency prevents paying elite money to above-average players, but it also leaves a team in the predicament the Vikings are in now: Hoping to recycle some players with question marks near their names.

It doesn't mean the Vikings can't fill all of their needs. It just means they won't do it all at once, or even in one year.

"It's funny," Spielman said. "People think you have this need and you have to fill it now. There's no order that you have to fill your needs in. Not the last time I looked."