Vikings talk with Cassel, other free agents

The Vikings are arranging their annual meetings with representatives of their own free agents. QB Matt Cassel is near the top of that list. Rick Spielman talked about the busy days ahead at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has already started the process of meeting with representatives for the Vikings' unrestricted free agents, a list that now includes QB Matt Cassel.

Spielman was scheduled to meet with Cassel's agent, David Dunn, Thursday in Indianapolis with the large gathering of NFL general managers, coaches, agents, and draft prospects in town for the NFL Scouting Combine.

"We'd like to sign Matt back," Spielman said. "But also I think there will be some other options out there too and we'll look at those other potential options as well."

Cassel opted out of his contract earlier this month, which would put him on the unrestricted free agent market when it opens on March 11, unless the Vikings can reach an agreement with him before that. Cassel was scheduled to count $3.7 million against the Vikings' salary cap in 2014 but was likely looking for at least more guaranteed money than the $500,000 his Vikings contract would have guaranteed him in 2014.

Spielman called Cassel voiding his contract an "expected" move.

"We'll visit with his agent down here (in Indianapolis), and we'll also look at other opportunities potentially in the UFA market – anyone that could potentially get cut or on the trading block – and also focus heavily on this draft to get another young quarterback in our system as well," Spielman said.

Spielman wouldn't speculate on the likelihood that an extension with Cassel would be reached before free agency. But as things currently stand, Christian Ponder is the only Vikings quarterback currently under contract.

"If you look at Christian and look at what he's been through over the last few years, last year he started out strong, went into a dip. The encouraging thing was he came out of that dip and played very well down the stretch," Spielman said. "That last game against Green Bay got us into the playoffs. This year that consistency or next step forward didn't happen.

"There are games when you watch him play – the Washington Redskins game or watch him play in Green Bay – he's playing at a very high level. Then there are some other games when he hasn't been. Christian just hasn't been that consistent. He's shown flashes of it but never been able to do it on a consistent basis."

Spielman said the Vikings are little bit behind in their free agent evaluations because of the new coaching staff and everything that went into getting that in place.

"We're going to have our UFA meetings when we get back from the Combine. We did have our draft meetings, so I have our initial reports on the draft, but then when we get back we'll tie all of that part of it into it. We've got up until March 11," he said.

He also didn't rule out releasing any more players. The Vikings already released LB Erin Henderson, saving them almost $2 million on a salary cap that figures to be somewhere around $130 million.

Restructuring contracts is also a possibility, he said.

"Potentially. We're open to all avenues: cuts, restructures, trades, signing UFAs, drafting players," Spielman said. "We're an equal-opportunity employment agency."

In the meantime, the Vikings continue to talk the agents of their own free agents. That process started Wednesday night with discussions with two agents and will continue over the next several days in Indianapolis.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.

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