Do you guys remember when Rick Spielman was hired? It was right after the 2006 draft, shortly after it was determined Fran Foley couldn't play well with others. Spielman had been an analyst on ESPN for a few years, and before that he had been the GM of the Miami Dolphins. His claim to fame there was trading a second round pick to Philadelphia for A.J. Feely.
Needless to say, there was a healthy amount of skepticism when the hire was made. But considering it came on the fiasco of the Foley firing, you also got the feeling that Zygi Wilf would move quickly to correct mistakes. And fans were willing to give Spielman a chance, especially since he was one of the corners in the 'Triangle of Authority'.
I liked the move because he was Chris Spielman's brother. And Chris Spielman went to Ohio State and was awesome. Logical? Maybe not to you. Worked for me, though. Anyway, Spielman was one of the key decision makers for the Vikings, and since he's been here, they've made some big trades and free agent acquisitions.
Let's take a look at some of the bigger draft picks and trades that have been engineered under Spielman. Just for clarification, I am not including either the Brett Favre signing or the Randy Moss trade in this article, as it is commonly known that both of those moves were engineered by former head coach Brad Childress. He gets all credit/blame for those.
The Vikings moved down in the second round by trading with the Falcons, and drafted Sidney Rice. They also got two late round picks (176 and 233) that didn't amount to anything. The Falcons took CB Chris Houston...who's had a career similar Rice, except on defense. He had a couple good years with the Falcons, then left and went to the Lions, and he's started for them for three years.
The trade that turned out the best for the Vikings in that draft was the one that netted them DE Brian Robison. They traded their fourth and sixth round pick to Tampa move up four spots in the fourth round. Robison has turned out to be a solid player for the Vikings, and just signed a contract extension.
The Vikings made a huge trade on the morning of the draft, sending their first round pick and two third round picks to Kansas City for Jared Allen. Allen has been arguably the best defensive end in football since he came to the Vikings, and a fan favorite.
The Vikings traded out of the first round and into the top of the second with division rival Detroit. Detroit selected RB Jahvid Best, and the Vikings took CB Chris Cook. I really didn't like this trade at the time, because I never like trading within the division, and I thought the Lions got a steal in Best. Spielman won this one, though, as Best has battled concussions and probably won't play anymore, while Cook has overcome early legal issues and is now a starter.
2011: This was the first draft where Spielman had final say over the roster, yet still wasn't officially the GM. So we'll look at some significant draft picks as well.
In the draft, he took Christian Ponder in the first round. Ponder will ultimately determine Spielman's legacy, much as Tarvaris Jackson defined the Brad Childress era. The Ponder pick was a surprise to many, and equally praised and panned. Ponder has improved, but it still remains to be seen if he is a franchise quarterback. Kyle Rudolph in the second has panned out beautifully, as he went to the Pro Bowl last year and has become a major part of the offense. They also grabbed Brandon Fusco in the sixth round, who has earned a starting job as RG.
The Vikings also traded their fifth round pick (150 overall) to Cleveland for two sixth round picks. They turned those picks into Mistral Raymond, who was a starting safety until he was hurt early last year, and OL DeMarcus Love.
2012: Spielman named GM on January 3rd, and he has full control over trades and roster moves.
Draft Move 1: After a low key free agency and entering the draft with the #3 overall pick, the Vikings needed to really overhaul their roster, and this draft became Spielman's high water mark. He moved down from #3 to #4 overall with Cleveland, and also got Cleveland's 4th, 5th, and 7th round pick. The Vikings got Matt Kalil at #4 and didn't look back. The fourth round pick they got from Cleveland they used on WR Jarius Wright, who came on strong at the end of last year and looks to be a big part of the offense in 2013.
Draft Move 2: Traded his second round pick and 4th round pick to Baltimore to move back into the first round at #29 overall. They selected Harrison Smith with that pick, who was as good on defense as Kalil was on offense.
Draft Move 3: Drafted K Blair Walsh. At the time, everyone thought 'WTF'? There were better kickers statistically out there, and the Vikings already had Ryan Longwell, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. A week after the draft the Vikings cut Longwell, and all Walsh did was set an NFL record as a rookie with most FG's from 50 yards.
So far in 2013, he's traded Percy Harvin to Seattle for their first round pick in this year's draft and next year's 3rd rounder and cut longtime CB Antoine Winfield. No one wanted Harvin traded, but with Harvin unhappy and unwilling to play for the Vikings, getting a first and third round pick for him was a great return.And with two first round picks and 11 overall entering the draft, Rick Spielman has an opportunity to exceed the 2012 draft.
Rick Spielman's legacy has been a good one in Minnesota, and most of the moves he's made have turned out well. His free agency signings haven't been much to brag about, but being able to turnover an old and uncompetitive roster in 2011 into a 2012 playoff team was impressive.
But that said, how he will be remembered will be largely determined by the play of Christian Ponder.
No pressure, kid.