MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't until Friday morning, when Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was in Columbus, Ohio, for Ohio State's pro day, that he found out he could part with a mid-round pick to acquire a receiver he'd coveted in free agency two years ago.
Spielman talked with the Miami Dolphins from Columbus, setting the trade for Mike Wallace in motion, then flew back to Minneapolis. When he landed, the deal was nearly ready to be put to bed. Spielman reconvened with the rest of the Vikings' front office to put the finishing touches on the trade, and set off for Manny's Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis to join Vikings coaches for dinner with free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson. When he entered the restaurant, there were two things Spielman had yet to do on Friday: Shake Johnson's hand, and eat a meal.
And, Spielman said, "you come to a steakhouse, and it's Lent."
Condolences probably aren't necessary for Spielman, though. He finished the day by polishing off a lobster tail while feting a defensive end the Vikings wanted last year, and it cost him just one of the Vikings' two fifth-round picks to solve one of their biggest needs on offense.
It remains to be seen whether Wallace will fit in Minnesota after falling out of favor in Miami, and the Vikings have to determine whether they can commit a combined $20.9 million of their cap space to Wallace and Greg Jennings. But improving the wide receiver position was a top priority for the Vikings this offseason, and they put Wallace at the top of the list of receivers they were targeting. Running backs coach Kirby Wilson knew Wallace from their time together in Pittsburgh. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner had been enticed by Wallace's lethal speed and what it could do for his vertical passing game. And Mike Zimmer, who has faced Wallace at least once every year since the receiver entered the league, couldn't forget that lightning first step.
"He’s so fast, and he’s a quick starter -- he can really get going fast," Zimmer said in the entryway of the steakhouse. "We want to have a lot of speed offensively, and we feel like that will help a lot. With Charles Johnson, it opens up more things for the runners, it opens up more things for the tight end. And with Teddy [Bridgewater], you know, he plays so damn accurate, it opens things up.”
Adrian Peterson is never far from the Vikings' minds these days, and it was impossible not to wonder whether the running back's apprehension about returning to Minnesota would be offset by the appeal of another weapon in the Vikings' offense. But with or without Peterson, the Vikings' offense is morphing into something different. It's going to be built around Bridgewater, and the Vikings want to surround him with a fleet of dangerous receivers. That group could still take on a different look -- Jennings turns 32 in September, Cordarrelle Patterson is entering a pivotal season and Spielman might use the No. 11 pick in the upcoming draft for more help. But the Vikings were tied for the seventh-fewest completions of at least 20 yards last season and lacked what Wallace represents: A receiver with afterburners.
"Norv's system is based on speed and having a vertical threat," Spielman said. "By adding him, and CJ and Cordarrelle and [the] Jarius Wrights of the world, those guys are able to stretch the field. We have a young quarterback who is just going to continue to get better, and you saw that improvement out of him as we went through the season and now you add another weapon to the offensive side. We're pretty excited about where we're headed."
And so Spielman headed home after a day that included more time zones than meals. The Vikings have two receivers who have gone to zero Pro Bowls after being given a combined $47.8 million in guaranteed money in 2013. They have a former first-round pick who is trying to prove he can be a star, a promising prospect signed off a practice squad, a tight end with a big contract and a history of injuries -- and a former MVP running back whose future is an open question. It's a vibrant, and possibly combustible, mix. But after a year in which Bridgewater made do with an offense in flux, the Vikings want to place as many weapons at his disposal as possible. They put another one in their stockpile on Friday.
"You saw how much more comfortable Teddy was, especially down the stretch [last season]," Spielman said. "And they start developing that chemistry. Now, getting another big play potential threat, as our young guys continue to develop, that's kind of the direction we wanted to go."