Vikings: Free Agent Players Or Not?

The personnel department is set to make their moves and the salary-cap gurus have certainly done their job. The biggest question remaining is how much owner Red McCombs will allow to escape his pocket book. See how one team source thinks the Vikings will play out the free-agent signing period.

The days leading up to and including the free-agent player signing period can be some of the most exciting and anticipated of the off-season. Having holes to fill and being significantly under the league mandated salary cap, the Minnesota Vikings could be poised for a run at improving the team roster.

A monkey wrench could be in the works to negate a tremendous job done by the front office in putting this team in prime position to acquire impact players at needed positions.

Upon the conclusion of the 2003 season, the Vikings were non-committal regarding the direction the organization would partake heading into this ever-important season of securing talent. Though we were informed by members of the organization the team would be an active participant, the overall commitment of the team owner Red McCombs could be waning.

Seeking to improve the defensive backfield, linebacker, defensive line and wide receiver positions, the Vikings' front office personnel have targeted players to fill the void.

Still, the questions about McCombs are concerning.

"At the present time we are addressing free agency as we do every year. We have a list of players we have an interest in and will be talking … with player representatives," a team source said. "As we do every year, we'll open up negotiations with players we want and want to play for the Minnesota Vikings and take it from there.

"We are not going to get into any type of bidding wars or competitive negotiations for any player from another team. That is just an exploitation of the process and the parties involved."

How far the organization is willing to go to secure the rights to talented, available players could dramatically impact the 2004 team and has been an ongoing question.

"Right now, we will be involved and active in the free agent market. Just how active and how much of an impact we have will basically some down to the owner (Red McCombs) and the market itself," the team source added. "Our first objective is to make the right deals and not get caught up in the frenzy which the early days of this signing period can create. After a few days, things settle down and become much more realistic.

"Also, we intend on letting the market set the price, and then we'll see how much of a player we are."

Despite issues on the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings were on the brink of the playoffs in the 2003 season. Following the season, there was an understanding or potentially a misunderstanding within the ranks in Minnesota. You could imagine the excitement of head coach Mike Tice heading into the off-season, believing the organization was ready to acquire talent to improve the roster.

"We have a plan heading into free agency to improve this team. … We are ready in the event we lose some of the talent we have on this team," Tice said. "If we don't get the guys we want, it will not be because we were not prepared."

Being prepared may be the understatement of the off-season in Minnesota after the job the salary-cap guys did. Now it's up to the pocket-book guy to make their work pay off.

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