Teams have another week to establish franchise players – a practice many of them are looking to avoid. Although they currently dot the top of the available free agent lists, don't expect players like wide receivers Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker or DeSean Jackson to the hit the open market. Or cornerback Brent Grimes or safety Dashon Goldson. All five of them could be in the sights of the Vikings as they in their positions of need, but, barring getting contracts done next week, don't be shocked to see all five of them locked into the franchise tag.
Two teams – New Orleans and Houston – have really sticky issues to deal with next week. The Saints are going to slap the franchise tag on Drew Brees if he doesn't get a long-term deal done. However, if he doesn't sign this week, the Saints won't be able to protect guard Carl Nicks – another player the Vikings might have an interest in signing.
In Houston, the problem is different, but no less challenging. Both defensive end Mario Williams and running back Arian Foster are free agents. The Texans want to sign both of them long-term, but can only franchise one of them. If neither signs, the franchise tag will be thrown at Williams, because Foster is a restricted free agent – giving Houston the right to match any offer. However, as the franchise that brought the term "poison pill" into the NFL lexicon, the Vikings know all too well how offer sheets can be massaged to make matching extremely problematic for the home town team (see: Seattle, Steve Hutchinson).
To date, the focus of the entire NFL has been on the college crop currently showcasing their skills at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Owners, G.M.s, coaches and scouts will all be leaving Indy in the next couple of days and, in the process, the focus will change to pending free agency.
The first week of teams able to take action on franchising or re-signing players has been ominously silent. Expect that to change this week … in a big way – vastly changing the landscape of what free agents will be on the open market when the bell rings in two weeks.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.