Vikings ‘by no means' done in free agency

The top of the free-agent market is getting picked over and the Vikings have filled several needs. But that doesn't mean they are completely done, according to GM Rick Spielman.

After a frenzied week in free agency, the Vikings aren't quite finished.

They have re-signed four of their own unrestricted free agents, re-signed their two restricted free agents, tendered their exclusive rights free agent and signed four unrestricted free agents that were with other teams last year.

After spending about $25 million of their cap space this year in the last week, the Vikings are ready to enter the next phase.

"We're trying to be as aggressive as we can, trying to hone in on specific guys that we know can come in and help our ball club. I think by the activity that we've done so far, it's by no means the end of what we're going to do," general manager Rick Spielman said Friday afternoon, shortly after the Vikings announced they had re-signed receiver Jerome Simpson. "We'll continue to monitor the market and work through the next couple weeks. But it gives us the flexibility that we'll need heading into the draft, where you don't have to say you have to take this position."

The Vikings started free agency about $41 million under the salary cap. With big deals for outside free agents like nose tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and re-signing defensive end Everson Griffen and quarterback Matt Cassel to significant contracts, they are believed to have about $14 million left under the cap. More than half of that will be needed to sign draft picks and have space to add players for injury during the season.

After parting ways with four of their own players since the beginning of February – Erin Henderson, John Carlson, Letroy Guion and Greg Childs – the Vikings turned their attention to their own free agents before they were able to sign contract with other teams.

The biggest of those, at least financially, was getting defensive end Everson Griffen back under contract. The Vikings dished out big money in order to do it, giving him a five-year, $42.5 million contract that includes a $6 million signing bonus and $19.8 million in guarantees. His 2014 and 2015 salaries are guaranteed, but with a relatively small signing bonus, the Vikings could move on after two seasons without much consequence.

Their other big re-signing was quarterback Matt Cassel, which allows the team to be more flexible in their decisions with the draft, not needing to select a quarterback in the first round and force him into a starting role as a rookie. While Cassel got a raise over the $3.7 million with only $500,000 guaranteed that he was originally scheduled to make, the Vikings still reached a fair deal with him, signing him to a two-year, $10.5 million contract in which he reportedly can earn another $1.25 million in incentives each year.

Still, for a starting quarterback, that's a very fair price for the Vikings.

The other re-signings – like CB Marcus Sherels, OL Joe Berger, LB Larry Dean and DT Fred Evans – were good for depth and spot roles and came in around $1 million apiece.

Then came the outside free agents at two positions of need for the Vikings defense.

Nose tackle Linval Joseph came on a five-year, $31.5 million contract and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn came on a three-year, $11.25 million contract that could be worth nearly $15 million with incentives.

"We had guys that we specifically kind of honed in on that we were trying to go get, but we also had some alternatives that we wanted to look at as well," Spielman said. "But we had a specific plan in place and very pleased how that plan came together."

Spielman said the Vikings talked with about 15 to 20 agents in the three-day negotiating window that preceded the start of free agency on Tuesday afternoon.

With Cassel and Griffen under contract, the flurry of activity for outside free agents began and the Vikings were immediately players in the market – agreeing to terms with Joseph within two hours of being able to officially do that.

"I think that first week was a frenzy, and I think it will always be because of the three-day negotiation period before everything starts," Spielman said. "And that's why there's such a frenzy when guys hone in on guys, and there was a pretty good amount of money out there that was spent.

"But I think some teams are now going to sit back because a lot of the top guys are off the market and see if there's some bargains out there. I know as we met on it yesterday on guys that are still available to us and any guys that we have interest in, we continue to talk to their agents. We'll have a couple visits set up in the next couple weeks."

One of the known visits is offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse, but none of those visits, at least at this point, are expected to be priority signings. All of the top 20 free agents in Scout.com's ranking have either been signed or given the franchise or transition tags.

Only 11 of the top 50 are without a tag or unsigned.

"We'll continue to monitor the market. We'd like to still continue to fill some holes," Spielman said. "… We're not saying by any means that we're completely finished, because you don't know what's going to happen."

But with Spielman and other members of the Vikings staff heading out on Sunday night to take in workouts from the some of the top draft prospects, the signings should slow significantly early next week … unless some of the contract demands from other free agents drop precipitously.

"Are some guys that are looking for a lot of money at this point that weeks from now that could potentially change? We'll continue to monitor that," Spielman said. "If the market changes, then we'll be able to get a good buy there and a good player, if they can come in and help our ball club or want to come in and compete, we'll be looking at that."


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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