EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Listen to the Minnesota Vikings and they will tell you they always had designs on making the playoffs and outperforming outside expectations based on their 3-13 record in 2011.
They can boldly claim they foresaw a turnaround that ended with a 10-6 regular-season record, a second-place finish in the strong NFC North and an unlikely playoff appearance.
But Minnesota's roster moves suggested otherwise.
Granted full control over personnel, general manager Rick Spielman culled the team's roster last offseason, parting ways with overpriced or underperforming veterans and replacing them with younger, cheaper players. More than a third of the roster turned over in less than one year. The Vikings entered the season with the seventh-youngest team in the NFL at an average of 25.72 years old. Minnesota had 12 rookie or first-year players on its opening day roster, tied for the seventh-most in the league.
Spielman, promoted to general manager in January 2012, had his plan an...