The brass at Winter Park has to be feeling pretty good this morning, after accomplishing one of their main free agent priorities as well as beating out the defending NFC champs to sign a tight end.
In something of a shock, Jermaine Wiggins, who has played in two of the last three Super Bowls, turned down an offer for more money from the Panthers to visit Minnesota Thursday. He left Friday with a contract barely over NFL minimum -- a one-year, $600,000 with about $150,000 available in workout and incentive money.
Wiggins' agent admitted there was more money on the table from the Panthers, but believed Wiggins could have a breakout year in a role similar to that performed by Byron Chamberlain before he was released last year after a four-game drug suspension. With Jim Kleinsasser entrenched as the starter, Wiggins' role as designated TE pass catcher could be a valuable role for him to fill.
The other signing came later Friday, when the team announced the signing of punter Darren Bennett to a two-year, $1.9 million deal. Bennett, who has averaged more than 44 yards a punt as a pro over nine seasons, was viewed as one of the Vikings' top priorities.
According to coach Mike Tice, the Vikings' free agent priorities were to re-sign Kleinsasser, sign CB Antoine Winfield and sign Bennett. They have accomplished all three and might be done with the current phase of free agency.
* As with the signings of Marcus Robinson and Tyrone Carter that led to immediate dismissals of the players who held similar spots on the roster, it is expected that TE Hunter Goodwin and punter Eddie Johnson will both be released as early as Monday.
Vikes Sign Wiggins, Bennett
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