With long-time leaders Jared Allen and Kevin Williams departing, the Vikings saw upgrading the pass rush as imperative in a division where they face star quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford.
"I'm looking forward to learning from coach Zimmer," Barr said. "I know he's a very smart defensive coach so I'm looking forward to pick his brain, meeting my teammates and getting to work."
The Vikings started the night with the eighth overall pick, but traded down one spot with Cleveland, picking up a fifth-round pick to do it. The Browns took Oklahoma State defensive back Justin Gilbert, another player the Vikings were believed to have been interested in, and Minnesota pounced on Barr the next pick.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Barr ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.44 seconds and the Vikings hope he can bring some much-needed athleticism and playmaking to an undistinguished linebacker corps. Spielman, the general manager, said he's heard comparisons to Jason Taylor, Chris Doleman and Von Miller, and evaluated Barr as the best edge pass rusher in the draft after No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.
"You just don't pass up these athletic-type players because they're too rare and too hard to find," Spielman said.
The Vikings have been searching for a young franchise quarterback ever since Daunte Culpepper went down with an injury in 2005. The Jacksonville Jaguars chose Blake Bortles at No. 3 and Spielman apparently envisioned pulling off a similar deal to last year, when he traded back into the first round to grab receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Spielman couldn't quite pull off the deal at 22, but didn't stop there. Spielman said it was important to get a quarterback in the first round, which gives them a chance to have a fifth-year option on Bridgewater's contract and keep him under team control for a year longer than had they taken one in the second round.
"I felt very confident tonight that I was going to end up in Minnesota some way, somehow," Bridgewater said on NFL Network.
With veteran Matt Cassel re-signed for another two years in the offseason, Bridgewater doesn't necessarily need to feel the pressure to start right away.
"There is no pressure on this kid to play right away," Spielman said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org