Sign Time Could Be Near

With other teams slowing their free-agent shopping spree, the Vikings may be able to pick up some legitimate bargains on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerbacks, defensive ends and even a linebacker/rush end are being considered.

Big money was thrown around in the early days of free agency, and the Vikings were one of the teams that were in the game but did not get caught up in the hype. Free agency is a long process, with financially responsible teams generally reaping the rewards in this high-stakes game.

Over the past 10 days, the Vikings have emerged from their seclusion. The signings of cornerback Denard Walker and Billy Lyon were only the warming period of the process. Many players have visited, many more players will soon follow suit, in another strange twist, a Viking from the past may find his way back.

Quarterback Jeff George is expected to rejoin the Vikings later this week. We all remember that George was jettisoned from Minnesota when former head coach Denny Green had a brilliant idea that never came to fruition, that being an attempt to lure Dan Marino to the Twin Cities. Discussions this week with George have gone extremely well and indications coming from a member of the Vikings front office is that negotiations are moving forward quickly.

"It appears that we will get something done in the next day or two. We are confident that Jeff (George) can come in and help us. He is still a talented player that has been around the game for a long time," the source said. "Never would we have thought this would be happening, when you look at the quarterbacks in free agency. George has the intangibles that are beneficial to this team and he is a good fit for the system as a backup quarterback."

Cornerback Donald Mitchell's visit with the Vikings went well and he is on the Minnesota radar screen. Seeking additional help at the cornerback position, Mitchell could be a valuable addition to the team. He is an experienced defensive back and could fit nicely into the Vikings' nickel package. The present situation is that Mitchell would like to return to Tennessee, but the Titans have salary cap issues to work through and an offer to Mitchell could be presented late this week.

The Vikings maintain an interest in cornerback Alex Molden, but only at a low price. Molden is shopping his services at the present time and a suitor hasn't come forward at this time. This column has been told by a league source that Molden is looking to sign a deal with a team within the next 10 days to secure a modest contract before teams maximize their salary cap space, thus only having the league veteran minimum salary to offer. Stay tuned, the Vikings have not closed the door on Molden.

Desperately looking to add a pass rushing defensive end to the roster, the Vikings have had internal discussions about Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Chike Okeafor, and Jamir Miller.

Gbaja-Biamila is a restricted free agent and an offer sheet would have to be extended to the defensive end from the Green Bay Packers. The Packers would have seven days to match any offer forwarded to Gbaja-Biamila, if they refuse to match, the team signing him to the offer sheet would relinquish their first-round draft selection to the Packers, in the case of the Vikings it would be the seventh selection in the draft. This is where this could get sticky for the Vikings, they would like to acquire the talented defensive end, but are not willing to part with their first-round selection.

Chike Okeafor is a player that has quietly rose to the top of many teams' wish lists. Okeafor, a defensive end who recorded six sacks in his first season as a starter, is expected to command a signing bonus of between $2 million and $3 million and a five-year deal worth approximately $20 million dollars. The Vikings, looking for a solid defensive end to work with defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Fred Robbins/Billy Lyon are taking a long look at Okeafor.

A wildcard in the scenario is former Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Jamir Miller. Miller, coming off an Achilles tendon injury that required surgery, could come as a cheap alternative to the numerous high-priced defensive ends on the market. With a 13-sack season under his belt in the 2001 season as linebacker/defensive end, Miller has received interest from teams as a defensive end. While talks within the Vikings organization are in the early stages, Miller is a player that may do more than perk the Vikings interest.

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