Two Defenders Expected To Visit

The Vikings have said they'd be players in the 2005 free-agent market but won't throw money away. While they lost out on two interests Wednesday afternoon, they are expected to visit with two others in the next 24 hours.

Last year the Vikings were aggressive in their pursuit of free-agent cornerback Antoine Winfield. They set a franchise record for money laid out to an outside free agent, and the dividends paid off with a great season from Winfield.

Less than 24 hours into the free-agent signing period this year, the Vikings have lost out in the pursuit of one of their offensive interests — wide receiver Derrick Mason. While the Vikings wait to officially announce the trading of Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders, the Baltimore Ravens landed Mason, a premier wideout Baltimore has long sought.

After failing to land Terrell Owens last year, the Ravens were reportedly interested in a trade for Moss this year, but they weren't willing to part with linebackers Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis or safety Ed Reed as part of that trade. When the Vikings agreed to a trade with the Oakland Raiders for linebacker Napolean Harris, the No. 7 overall pick and a seventh-round pick in this year's draft, the Ravens started looking to solve their receiver problems elsewhere.

Wednesday, they got it done with the signing of a five-year contract with the former Tennessee Titans receiver, whom the Vikings expressed an interest in. Mason was released last week in a salary-cap move.

The Vikings also lost out on defensive tackle Jason Ferguson, late of the New York Jets. The Cowboys and Ferguson reached an agreement on a multi-year deal. Ferguson's addition makes it clear that the Cowboys will switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme where he will play at nose tackle. The club is looking for size on the defensive front and Ferguson will give them that. Ferguson had played for Vikings defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell with the Jets.

The Vikings have, however, scheduled visits with two defenders that would translate into starters.

Defensive tackle Pat Williams and linebacker Antonio Pierce are expected to visit the Minnesota Vikings over the next 24 hours. The Vikings are looking to upgrade at both positions and have enough money under the salary cap to sign both to lucrative deals should they choose to.

The Vikings had Pierce in for a visit last year as a restricted free agent, and he could be in line for his first big payday. He shifted to middle linebacker at the start of the 2004 season and set career marks in tackles (160), interceptions (two), fumble recoveries (two), and starts (16). The previous three years, he was used mainly as a special teams player and reserve linebacker.

Williams is a 6-foot-3, 317-pound nose tackle that played for Cottrell in Buffalo. In seven seasons with the Bills, Williams has amassed 419 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 35 quarterback pressures.

Another Vikings interest from last year, free-agent linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, is on his way to Kansas City today to meet with the Chiefs. A Vikings source told Viking Update that they have no real interest in pursuing Trotter this year because they'd like to see if Henderson can improve at middle linebacker and they have concerns about Trotter's knee holding up while playing on artificial turf full-time. However, if the Vikings would get a deal done with Pierce, Henderson's future as a starting middle linebacker may be in doubt once again.

In other free-agent news for the Vikings Wednesday afternoon ….

  • The Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets have discussed dealing for Washington Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner.

  • The Vikings were also expected to make a run at free-agent cornerback Andre Dyson.

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