Free Agency Period Set to Die Down

With a flurry of signings of free agents expected this week, some teams have already shut down free agency and others will follow soon as teams begin deep preparation work for the 2002 NFL draft.

Some teams announced late last week that they're through with free agency until after the 2002 NFL draft April 20-21. Others will follow soon. For the Vikings, this week could be an important step to shaping the future of the franchise.

With more than $11 million in available funds left under the salary cap, the Vikings are still in the market for some players -- specifically a wide receiver and perhaps a pass rushing defensive end and special teams low-budget commodities.

While a flurry of signings can be expected this week, by this Friday, the number of players changing teams will likely be reduced to a trickle, as teams beging the annual pilgrimage to their respective war room bunkers to finalize the process of rating and evaluating talent for the draft.

The Vikings already have a preliminary draft board completed, but now comes the process of factoring in the differing views of scouts and coaches, along with front office overseers like Frank Gilliam and Scott Studwell to produce a final master list that will be part of the Vikings draft strategies.

Will the Vikings stay at No. 7? If they do, will they go for an offensive tackle like Mike Williams if he's still there? Will they take a DT like Tennessee's John Henderson? Will they take a playmaker like Oklahoma safety Roy Williams? Those are the questions that will be answered after the Easter holiday and ones that will go a long way to determining how many players can make an impact on the new-look Vikings.

* Yesterday VU took part in a mock draft of league insiders for a pay-per-view football web site with interesting results. Since the draft was for pay subsribers, VU is unable to reveal all of the picks that were made, but as the people selecting for the Vikings, VU was faced with a life-imitating-art scenario.

With the No. 7 pick, VU was contacted before making a selection by the Oakland Raiders rep, who has deep connections with the franchise. As rumored here and elsewhere, the Raiders offered their two first-round picks to get the Vikings slot at No. 7 -- where VU was prepared to take OT Mike Williams. VU made the deal, Oakland surprised some by taking safety Roy Williams in a push for a Super Bowl run and, with the 21st and 23rd picks the Vikings grabbed DE Kalimba Edwards and OT Levi Jones. If only it can be that easy for the Vikings April 20.

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