Will Kleinsasser Go?

Entering free agency at the start of February, Jim Kleinsasser is the only key unsigned Viking. The question facing the Vikes is how much are they willing to invest on Kleinsasser?

A year ago, the Vikings stunned many NFL observers when they made Jim Kleinsasser their franchise player -- avoiding the possibility of losing him in free agency.

This time around, the Vikings aren't going to go the same route by franchising him again. While a quiet effort has been initiated to try to get Kleinsasser signed before free agency begins, VU has been told Kleinsasser is willing to go into free agency and check out the interest other teams might have in him.

The case for Kleinsasser's value is clear. After coming out of Division II competition in college, Denny Green, who traded up in the second round to get him, claimed he would be one of the game's dominant tight ends. Over the next three years, he was shuttled from tight end to fullback and didn't excel at either. But that changed starting late in the 2001 season. Kleinsasser became a dominant blocker and was being used more as a receiver.

Kleinsasser became a focal point of the Vikings' offensive attack. After catching just 12 passes in the first eight games of the season, he had 34 catches in the final eight games -- behind only Randy Moss and Moe Williams.

The Vikings have additional money to sign Kleinsasser -- cash that was saved with the release of Byron Chamberlain. The question is, does Kleinsasser want to return? If he does, the Vikings will get the signing done.

* Former Vikings kicker Gary Anderson announced his retirement after the Titans' playoff loss to the Patriots last weekend.
* In the coming weeks, VU will hit the college draft scene. One important date is coming Friday. That is the last day underclassmen can declare themselves eligible for the 2004 draft.

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