New, lesser period of free agency begins

Teams can now sign unrestricted free agents without it counting in the compensatory pick formula and the Vikings have an open roster spot.

Wednesday was the official start of the latest wave of free agency, but unlike its precursor opening of free agents, where hundreds of millions of dollars were spent daily to get players to sign, this one came without much attention or fanfare.

Any unrestricted free agent who did not receive a tender from his old club prior to Wednesday can now sign with any team without impacting a new team’s position in the formula used to determine compensatory picks.

While it may not seem all that important, given the value that draft picks – from the first round to the seventh – have in the NFL, it’s no surprise that some teams have shut down their free agent signings. Compensatory picks are meant as a way to benefit teams that lose big-name free agents. Those picks range from the third round to the seventh round and can’t be traded.

When Ndamukong Suh signed with Miami, early word is that, given past history, the Lions are likely going to get a third-round pick because they didn’t sign a highly-paid defensive tackle in free agency as a replacement for Suh. They made a trade with Baltimore to land Haloti Ngata, but traded players aren’t calculated into the formula.

With the deadline passed, now any team signing a free agent won’t be subject to having that player, including big names like Wes Welker, Michael Vick or Chris Johnson, count against their compensatory pick ledger.

Some teams, like Pittsburgh and Baltimore, have been famous for stockpiling compensatory picks by not signing outside free agents and waiting for the deadline before they start making moves to bring in outside veterans.

Fans are likely familiar with the policy, just not in its current state. The deadline for such signings was typically June 1, but was moved up this year for the first time, with the idea being that as teams are preparing for minicamps, more veteran players will have a better opportunity to sign contracts with new teams without having to wait.

If the Vikings are interested in a veteran safety, players like Denver’s Quinton Carter, Quintin Demps of the Giants, Dawan Landry of the Jets and Washington’s Brandon Meriweather remain available.

The same is true at guard, where the Vikings have yet to officially replace starter Charlie Johnson – although they did draft a pair of college offensive tackles that likely will be slid inside to guard and hopes are that David Yankey will make big strides in his second season.

Potential veteran guard candidates include former Viking Jeff Baca, Atlanta’s Justin Blaylock, Chicago’s Eben Britton, Tampa Bay’s Oniel Cousins, Carolina’s Derek Dennis and St. Louis’ Davin Joseph.

There is no guarantee that the Vikings will be active in the freshly-opened secondary market of free agency, but after almost all teams have been dormant in free agent signings since the weeks leading up to the draft, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a mini-wave of signings take place over the next week or so, as teams can now sign players that won’t come with a compensatory price tag attached to them.

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