The Vikings entered the week about $24 million under the salary cap.
After signing two in-house free agents – quarterback Sage Rosenfels and defensive tackle Letroy Guion – in the days and hours before free agency started, the Vikings are likely sitting at about the $20 million mark. However, on the first day there wasn't a big signing of an outside free agent.
That doesn't mean there wasn't interest. New general manager Rick Spielman was taking a patient approach.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan signed a five-year deal with the St. Louis Rams that FOXSports.com reported averaged $10 million a year. Another one of the top cornerbacks, Carlos Rogers, re-signed with the San Francisco 49ers for four years, $31.3 million.
In the Vikings' defensive system, cornerbacks aren't that valued that highly. They also weren't expected to have an interested in Brandon Carr, the other big-name free agent that was on the free-agent market. Eventually, likely in the coming days, they will get involved as the prices come down and they can afford to fill multiple needs instead of paying the inflated prices that come with the initial flurry of free-agent activity around the league.
There is an interest in tight end John Carlson, who grew up in Minnesota and played at Notre Dame and then for the Seattle Seahawks. He will visit the Vikings on Wednesday, according to NFL reporter Adam Caplan. He is one of the more well-rounded tight ends in free agency, and the Vikings could use that with second-year pro Kyle Rudolph providing a big receiving threat, big blocker Jim Kleinsasser retiring and Visanthe Shiancoe being allowed to test the free-agent market.
Carlson was scheduled to visit the Chiefs, but if Kansas City isn't able to lock him down, the Vikings are one of at least four other teams that have shown an interest. The Chiefs entered free agency $22.3 million under the salary cap.
Carlson didn't play last season due to a torn labrum in his shoulder, but he averaged 46 catches, 506 yards receiving and four touchdowns in his first three seasons in Seattle.
Carlson preceded Rudolph at Notre Dame.
But with numerous holes in their roster, tight end wasn't the only position where they at least the Vikings were putting out feelers. Despite re-signing Guion in the hours before free agency opened, there were indications that they may not be done working on the defensive line and that is most likely to be on the interior of the defensive line.
The Vikings' patience saw numerous receivers sign big deals elsewhere. There was Vincent Jackson signing a five-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers worth a reported $55.55 million with $26 million in guarantees. There was Marques Colston re-signing with the New Orleans Saints for five years, worth a reported $40 million with $19 million in guarantees. The Washington Redskins signed Pierre Garcon to five-year deal worth $42.5 million with around $21.5 million in guaranteed money, according to FOXSports.com, and Josh Morgan to a two-year, $5.5 million contract. The Indianapolis Colts also re-signed Reggie Wayne and the Chargers signed Robert Meachem.
The biggest surprise may have been a trade that the Miami Dolphins, Spielman's former team, made that sent receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for two third-round picks.
But, while the Vikings didn't make any big signings in the first 12 hours of free agency, several NFL writers, agents and former scouts pointed out that teams that win free agency don't win the Super Bowl. The Redskins have built a reputation for spending big and they were at it again on Tuesday, but they haven't won the Super Bowl since that spending spree began. The New York Giants, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers have built reputations of being more conservative in free agency and those teams own Super Bowl titles and more consistent success in recent years.
Of course, those teams don't have nearly the holes to fill that the Vikings do – upgrades are needed at receiver, the hottest position early in free agency, tight end, linebacker, cornerback and safety.
After a 3-13 season, the Vikings aren't likely to be playoff contenders in 2012, but a patient approach – something they may have been lacking the last few years – could pay dividends in future win columns even if it isn't popular with an eager populace.
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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