Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 3/20/12
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Rick Spielman has a plan as the Minnesota Vikings' general manager and he's sticking to it. While Vikings fans have been frustrated with the team's relative inactivity in free agency coming off last season's 3-13 record, Spielman has been preaching patience. It's hard for fans to hear, but the team's new solo decision-maker is doing just what he planned, staying patient and trying to build a competitive roster for the long haul. For so long, Minnesota was enamored of the quick fix. But finally with full control over the roster, Spielman believes in building through the draft. He knows there isn't any quick fix for a team that just tied a franchise-record worst season. So in the first week of free agency with money available to spend -- Spielman and the Vikings have watched as big names have signed for big dollars elsewhere. "I don't think we're a player or two away to go out and say you're going to spend the money that's being spent on all those players that have gotten contracts early," Spielman said last week. "I think what we're trying to do, again, is find some players that we think are going to be able to helps us win ballgames that are going to contribute and then continue to build this through the draft and keep our draft picks and potentially get more draft picks and keep our roster competitive year in and year out that way." Spielman hasn't had many opportunities to institute his way of building a team. While in Miami, he was the vice president of player personnel but didn't have final authority over roster decisions. Even in his one year as general manager there, the Dolphins were focused on competing right away and Spielman didn't have time to make an impact with draft picks. In his six years with Minnesota, he was only part of the decision-making process. That all changed when Spielman was named general manager after last season and given autonomy to make roster decisions. Since then, he has wanted to stay patient, stick to the plan and focus on April's draft, where Minnesota is expected to have at least 10 picks, including the No. 3 overall selection. So, while big contracts have been handed out around the league, the Vikings' most important signing has been former Seattle Seahawks tight end John Carlson. Carlson, 27, signed a five-year contract and is considered as much of a piece for the future as the present. Minnesota also signed Lex Hilliard, a backup running back from Miami, little-known defensive back Nick Taylor, who played basketball in college and minor-league arena football last year, and re-signed third-string quarterback Sage Rosenfels and backup defensive tackles Letroy Guion and Fred Evans. Meanwhile, other free agents reportedly have been in for visits, including versatile offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and receiver and returner Ted Ginn. Spielman believes the market will settle now that the "frenzy" is over and has said the Vikings aren't done, with several spots still open on the 53-man active roster. But they aren't rushing into paying contracts that will look foolish down the road. "We're going to strike when we feel there's a player out there that can help us win ballgames," Spielman said last week. "The ownership has always given us the financial backing to go get players, but we're also going to be very patient as we go through this. "Part of our needs can be filled through the draft. We're not done yet. We are still looking at UFAs that I think in this process we will monitor that, and there may be a couple of guys coming in over the next couple of weeks. We'll continue to add players as we see fit. But again, I really honestly believe in adding a guy here or there through free agency, but really going in and building this roster through the draft." The patience displayed by Spielman, especially when it comes to the understaffed receiver and secondary positions, could be a sign of how Minnesota will approach the draft. The passing game pieces, offensively and defensively, have garnered the most money in free agency. The prudent philosophy might be to fill those positions in the draft. The Vikings have been most linked to the draft's top left tackle, Matt Kalil from Southern Cal, with the No. 3 overall pick. Finding a franchise left tackle would be a strong addition, and nothing Spielman has done in free agency alters the belief that Kalil is the team's top option. Picking at the top of each round, the Vikings could focus on receiver and secondary with those later picks. Perhaps the team's biggest surprise of free agency so far has been the stagnant movement among linebackers, specifically by the team's own free agent, Erin Henderson. Henderson and his brother E.J. were both starters last year and both reached free agency. There appeared to be mutual interest in the return of Erin, just 25 and a player who developed into a starter last year. But Spielman is also being patient with Henderson, waiting for the linebackers market to set itself. Henderson shared his frustrations last week via Twitter. "I've watched every single 1 of my games from last yr 10x's over. I know what I'm worth. Not to mention they aint even give me an offer....," Henderson tweeted. "Whats crazy is I'm not even asking for big money. All I want is respectable money for what I'm asked to do." A contract offer might come from Spielman and the Vikings, but Spielman is sticking with his plan and being patient. He's even asking for patience. "Give us time to put this roster together," he said. "We're not only putting it together for 2012. We're building this roster so we will be able to maintain this roster over the next three, four, five years." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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