Let The Fun Begin

It's been so long since the Vikings were an active participant in free agency that it's lost much of its luster with Vikings fans. But this year will break new ground -- starting today.

It's become almost comical as local Twin Cities media types start breaking down what the Vikings are going to do with Red McCombs' money. With free agency now officially underway, the question that remains unanswered is quite simple -- will McCombs let the Vikings spend to win a championship?

At VU, we have always had a solid relationship with McCombs. We look beyond the used car salesman rhetoric and see a man who wants what few billionaires have ever achieved -- a Lombardi Trophy. He was sure he had it in 1998, when the Vikings shattered offensive records that had stood for decades. He thought he might have it in 2000, when the Vikings had a chance to play against former offensive coordinator Brian Billick in the Super Bowl. In both instances, his team came up short -- losing at home in a historical heartbreaker to the Falcons in 1998 and getting blown out in Biblical proportions by the Giants in 2000.

In the two years since, the Vikings have compiled a Bengal-like 11-21 record -- earning the No. 7 draft pick two years running. The difference this time around in free agency is that the Vikings can sign ANYONE they want. With $25 million to spend -- trust us, they won't -- they could use that money on three players, four players or 12 players. Thursday's cuts alone speak volumes on the current state of the NFL -- all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith sent packing before he's ready to call it a career.

The word VU is hearing is that the Vikes want to strike quickly -- two or three players on their radar screen will get the bum's rush (if you consider a bum's rush being offered millions of dollars). If nobody is signed immediately, the Vikes may wait until after the draft to get aggressive. They have that option.

Our take is that McCombs is looking at his own bottom line at this point. If so, he may be missing the big picture. Where were the Rams in 1998? Or the Ravens in 1999? Or the Patriots in 2000? They had their chance, they took it and made the most of it. The Vikings have that chance in 2003. Where were they in 2002? Hanging with the Bengals, Texans, Bears and Lions among the have-nots of the NFL. If McCombs wants his Purple Pride mantra to ring true again, he has his chance. It's just a matter of how far he's willing to go to make his team the envy of the rest of the league.

It's started already. Now it's a matter of who answers to who. If the football people have their way, Vikings fans will be gathering to watch their team in January. If the financial bottom line becomes the actual bottom line, it's anyone's guess.


* In a move that displays the Vikings' willingness to move away from the past, the team released FB Harold Morrow and LB Patrick Chukwurah. Morrow was a special teams standout, while Chukwurah was a failed attempt at starting linebacker. Loyalty is dead in the NFL new millennium. If haven't done something for me lately, you don't matter.
* The franchise tag on Jim Kleinsasser caught many by surprise -- including Sass himself. There has been speculation that, because Kleinsasser is represented by the same agent as new Dallas coach Bill Parcells that the Cowboys would spend an inordinate amount of money to get him had he been slapped with a transition tag. Don't buy that. The real interest was from the Texans (who have no running game) and the Bengals (who are centered offensively around RB Corey Dillon).
* Speaking of the Texans, VU has been told by a team source that, with Kleinsasser off the table, they have a legitimate interest in free agent TE Hunter Goodwin.
* Mike Tice has stated his three free agency needs are cornerback, offensive line and a kickoff specialist. Two things to take from that. He has stated he wants a guard, but, by signing a right tackle, he will get his guard in Chris Liwienski if he's moved to his natural position by the signing of a right offensive tackle.
* Thanks to some moronic remarks after being released, Mitch Berger -- who could fill the kickoff specialist/punter role perfectly -- isn't a consideration ... at least not yet.
* CB Tory James, cut by the Raiders, is scheduled in for a visit Monday at Winter Park.
* The Vikes signed long-snapper Brody Liddiard to a two-year contract Thursday.
* On a day that will live in NFL infamy -- Emmitt Smith being cut -- it continues to be a dark time for former Vikings. Pro Bowl center Jeff Christy was cut by Tampa Bay and WR Qadry Ismail was cut by the Colts.

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