Bonus Structure Could Scare Away Others

The Vikings lost one free agent and nearly lost another because of their rocky ownership situation. And there are other factors that could chase away other potential signees.

Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski insisted free agency would be "business as usual" despite the team's pending sale to Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler.

But the Vikings hit immediate snaps directly related to Red McCombs' status as a lame-duck owner. On the first day of the free-agent signing period, the Vikings lost Redskins linebacker Antonio Pierce and nearly lost Bills nose tackle Pat Williams because McCombs demanded that any up-front bonuses be paid in July, when Fowler presumably would own the team and have to foot the bill.

Pierce balked and ended up signing with the Giants. Too bad. He would have vastly improved the Vikings' linebacker situation.

Williams was out the door, too, but reconsidered because the Vikings raised their offer to $13 million over three years with a $6 million bonus. Williams also is close to Vikings defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who coached him with the Bills.

The Vikings will count Williams' $6 million either as a signing bonus, which would allow them to spread the salary cap implications over three years, or as a roster bonus, which would allow them to eat up some of the $36 million they have available to them under the cap this year.

The Vikings are certain to miss out on more free agents if they insist on not paying bonuses until July. Other red flags that will scare top shelf free agents away include an entire staff of coaches with one-year contracts, a pending sale of the team and inferior facilities.

Ravens free-agent receiver Travis Taylor, the 10th pick in the 2000 draft, visited the Vikings late in the week. He never lived up to his first-round selection and is a No. 3 receiver at best.

Taylor called the Vikings and asked to visit after the team traded Randy Moss. The Vikings agreed because they might need to add at least two receivers this offseason.

Current No. 3 receiver Kelly Campbell was arrested on weapons and drug charges in Atlanta on Feb. 24.

"Kelly has his version of the story that he has told me, and he will get his chance to tell it in court," Tice said Feb. 26 during the NFL scouting combine. "Let him have his day in court. But if there is something to this, I may have to re-evaluate my options with Kelly Campbell. Absolutely."

Campbell is charged with possession of marijuana and theft by receiving stolen property involving a Smith & Wesson handgun, according to police records stemming from a traffic violation stop near the Georgia Dome.

He could face a suspension from the NFL if he is found guilty. A restricted free agent, Campbell received the low-level tender of $656,000 from the Vikings. Since Campbell wasn't drafted, another team can sign him without the Vikings receiving compensation.

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