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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings’ GM anticipates ‘significant’ extensions down the road, including Harrison Smith

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A young and talented core can transition a NFL general manager’s primary focus from building to maintaining.

That’s where Vikings general manager Rick Spielman finds himself after an 11-win season and NFC North title. A 29th-ranked offense leaves much to be desired, but a run of valued draft picks on defense sets the stage for trying to keep the band together. Many of the Vikings’ budding stars on defense still have a year or two left on their rookie deals, including the 2013 first-round duo of cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

Even so, Spielman has to account for potential future extensions when planning the Vikings’ financial approach this offseason. And there is one player who could see a big payday before the 2016 season.

“We always look at, not only this year’s financial picture, but down the road and some significant contracts that we may have coming up in ’17 and ’18,” Spielman told local beat writers on Thursday. “You don’t spend all your money and mortgage the future because I know there are some significant contracts that will be coming down the pipe here the next couple of years.”

The big name this offseason is safety Harrison Smith, who led the Vikings’ fifth-ranked scoring defense with eight All-Pro votes. His fifth-year option was picked up last spring, so he’s not a free agent. Though through 54 starts, Smith has become the stalwart of the Vikings’ secondary and they’d like to lock him up sooner rather than later.

“I would imagine he’ll be one of those guys coming down the pipe here soon,” Spielman said.

Since Spielman was promoted to general manager in 2012, the Vikings have focused on building through the draft. Ten selections is Spielman’s annual target, and he’s often utilized draft-day trades to accumulate more picks to add to the Vikings’ influx of youth. He’s reached that mark in both drafts with head coach Mike Zimmer, who has been given five defenders taken in the first three rounds between cornerback Trae Waynes, linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive end Danielle Hunter, linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Scott Crichton.

Their goal is to draft, develop and then extend internally.

“That’s the number one thing to me,” Spielman said. “If you draft them right, those are the guys that you should know. If you know them the best, it’s the safest investment. Hopefully. Now you can’t predict injuries, but you should know the warts that they have, if they have any warts.”

Coaches haven’t pointed to many warts on Smith, who was taken 29th overall in 2012. One noted area for improvement last year was Smith’s pass rush when sent on a blitz, which is something he didn’t do often under former head coach Leslie Frazier.

Smith, 27, has 12 interceptions in four seasons, including a franchise-record four picks returned for touchdowns. As Spielman and Smith’s agent begin (or continue) contract negotiations, public perception can play a role as to where Smith lands among the league’s highest-paid safeties. On Thursday, Spielman lassoed his praise of Smith, calling him one of the league’s ‘better, not best, playmakers.’

“I just think Harrison, the way he runs our back end, I think he’s one of the better playmakers,” Spielman said. “Better, please put better, not best, playmakers at safety. He can play free and strong. He can be effective on the deep end and he’s just as effective when he gets walked up to the line of scrimmage.

“He’s a good safety. Good.”

The post Vikings’ GM anticipates ‘significant’ extensions down the road, including Harrison Smith appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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