Vikings general manager Rick Spielman believes a new rule that essentially legalizes an advanced negotiating period with pending free agents is a good move.
This year for the first time, the NFL is allowing teams to start negotiating with pending free agents from other teams in advance of the start of the free-agent signing period. The belief is that some teams and agents were already doing that, and numerous big-money contracts executed within hours of the start of free agency only fueled that belief. The new system will essentially move up the negotiating period between players scheduled to be free agents to three days before they can sign.
Free agency is scheduled to start March 12, but teams can begin negotiating with outside free agents on March 9.
"It will be interesting because I think with the ability to talk with the free agents before it actually happens, you'll probably get a truer, maybe, idea of where the market is going to be on that player because that agent wants to have the ability to talk to other teams and he'll have a sense of potentially where his market is going to be, and you know it's legal what he's telling you," Spielman said.
What essentially amounts to a three-day negotiating period will allow agents to legally negotiate with multiple teams without the previous fear from teams of tampering with players still under contract. However, that might also encourage the free agents to wait until that period before deciding to re-sign with their current team.
"I think it could work both ways," Spielman said. "It could work to your benefit, but it also could work against you because on the other shoe – maybe he didn't think his value was out there as far as what he thought it would be."
The Vikings have 10 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents: Tackle Phil Loadholt, fullback Jerome Felton, receiver Jerome Simpson, linebackers Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell, safety Jamarca Sanford, offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz and Joe Berger and receiver Devin Aromashodu.
Spielman said he plans to meet with the agents for all of those players down at the NFL Scouting Combine, which runs Feb. 20-26, in Indianapolis. He still isn't supposed to start talking about pending free agents with other teams who are still under contract.
"This is the first time going through it so it kind of will be interesting to see. It's funny because now if anything gets done when free agency kicks off, you'll know why because there has been negotiations going on. You won't have to get a multi-million deal done in an hour now," he said with a smile.
Spielman reiterated his canned answer that he wants all of their own free agents back, but he declined to say if the team would be asking some of the veteran Vikings with prohibitive contracts to renegotiate.
"I'm not going to talk about anything we're going to do in-house with our current players," he said.
In addition to the Vikings' unrestricted free agents, they have cornerback A.J. Jefferson as a restricted free agent and three exclusive rights free agents – cornerback Marcus Sherels, offensive lineman Troy Kropog and safety Andrew Sendejo.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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