After all the over-analysis and "what-if" scenarios being played in NFL front offices around the country, the Vikings have prepared for several different scenarios.
The questions are many for NFL clubs waiting for clarity on the rules of free agency. Will players with fourth years of experience and expiring contracts be unrestricted free agents, as they were in 2009 and prior years, or restricted free agents, as they were last year? How about five-year veterans? The Vikings offered qualifying tenders to receiver Sidney Rice (four years of experience) and defensive end Ray Edwards (five years of experience) just in case the 2010 rules of free agency are enacted for 2011.
"We've looked at a lot of different options, a lot of different scenarios. It's the most unique offseason because there are so many unknowns, from every aspect," Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said.
The Vikings would certainly like to add a few quality veterans to their roster, something they've been forced to wait on while the lockout continues, but they also would like to keep some of their own potential free agents.
"There will be specific guys that we have targeted and specific guys that we'll go after," Spielman said, "but I know what we'd like to do and try to do what we always do – try to keep your own, especially those guys that are young enough and just now hitting in the prime of their career."
That is generally players coming out of their rookie contracts and becoming unrestricted free agents for the first time. Rice will turn just 25 on Sept. 1 and Edwards is 26, meaning they should both have at least a few productive seasons ahead of them.
But whenever the lockout ends and free agency starts, there could be a flurry of free agency, especially if the timing dictates a compressed period to sign players before the start of whatever may be left of training camps or the preseason. It could create a sign-and-go scenario, where free agency opens, players are signed and days later are preparing for a preseason game without the benefit of weeks of offseason practices.
At least the veteran free agents would have an advantage in that scenarios, and Spielman raised another interesting point regarding the delayed start of free agency.
"I think it will go off quickly. What will be the interesting part is: Does college free agency go off at the same time and there's a flurry there too?" he said. "That's one of the most exciting times of the draft and after the draft – trying to get those guys that you have targeted and trying to work deals that night. And you're competing against all 31 other teams, or teams that have interest in those guys. But we have a game plan in place if they both go off at the same time."
The assumption was that the Vikings would prioritize on proven veteran free agents before concentrating on the college players who weren't drafted.
"I wouldn't say that. I'd say we are concentrating on both phases because we've had some success with college free agency and guys that have had some success becoming pretty good players," Spielman said.
Whenever free agency starts, especially if it is at least a month away, it should be a compressed, ultra-busy time for the Vikings front office, a period that Spielman has prepared for and patiently awaits.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings prepared for quick free agency
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