McDaniel, Thomas Likely to Be Unprotected

Ed McDaniel is expected to be one of the five Vikings exposed for the expansion draft in February.

The Houston Texans have quietly started to build a team. Today, that process will take on more urgency.

The existing 31 teams, with the exception of the four teams still playing, have to submit a list of five players that they will leave exposed for free agency today.

The expansion allocation draft is expected to be conducted similarly to that of the Cleveland Browns in 1999. Each team leaves five players unprotected and, when one player is selected, the team has an option to remove one player from the list.

VU has been told by team sources that two players are sure to be on the list -- veterans Ed McDaniel and Orlando Thomas. Neither is going to be with the team next season, barring one or both not being picked up and potentially willing to play for league minimum.

Other names being thrown around as possibilities for the list are safety Don Morgan, return man Troy Walters and linebacker Antonio Wilson. While some would expect players like Spergon Wynn or Gary Anderson to be put on the list, teams can only expose players who are under contract for 2002 and kickers and punters are not allowed to be put on the list.

* The lists submitted by teams won't simply include include bums, aging veterans and unproven youngsters. Salary cap issues could come into play. Believe it or not, VU already has a source with the Texans and one of the names they're hearing could be exposed is 49er All-Pro Terrell Owens, who has a mammoth salary cap number. If the 49ers do let Owens get exposed, the Texans may take him with hopes of trading him for draft picks. Some names on the list could be a surprise. VU will highlight some of the bigger names, as well as the Vikings quintet.
* Former coaches Dennis Green and Tony Dungy were both in Washington D.C. today for a ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King.
* VU has been told Dungy will likely make his decision on his coaching future this week. He left Carolina Monday without signing a deal and is said to be most interested in inking a deal with Indianapolis, which has a great offense in place and could use his expertise to build a defense around Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison.
* Mike Tice is at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and is in the process of speaking to coaches about the Vikings vacanices. The current discussions center on a special teams coach, where he spoke to Atlanta's special teams guru Joe DeCamillis Monday and could talk to Rusty Tillman, San Diego's Bruce Read and Baltimore's Russ Purnell later this week. Tillman would be an interesting choice, because he made one of the few headlines in the defunt XFL when he was a coach and got into a verbal sparring match with anemic color commentator and tax-hike specialist Jesse Ventura -- the governor of Minnesota.
* VU has been told by a source close to former Viking Randall Cunningham that he may not be ready to hang it up. He was thought to be out in Baltimore, but his relationship with Brian Billick could be enough to bring him back in 2002. Billick wants to develop young QB Chris Redman, but with the problems the Ravens had with starter Elvis Grbac, having a veteran backup, especially one who knows Billick's system as intimately as Cunningham, might be cause to invest in him for one more season.

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