Front Office Frustrated With Constraints

The Vikings have the chance to be major players in the free-agent market, but the front office personnel know the constraints put on them by the owner could cause the team to lose more talented players.

With more than ample space under the league-imposed salary cap, the Minnesota Vikings should be a major player in the free-agent signing period, which commenced on March 2. With the team estimated to be about $31 million under the cap after signing defensive tackle Pat Williams, there isn't a viable reason for the team not to be an active participant in the coming weeks.

Within the first few days of this available player feeding frenzy, the Vikings have been a participant, and a hamstrung one at that.

As the team is in the process of being sold, current owner Red McCombs has played another one of his customary financial lockdowns on his front office staff. While the Vikings have conducted talks and some limited negotiations with free-agent players, the only major free agent signing for the team was a difficult deal to close due to McCombs' refusal to pay bonus money to the player in short order.

Defensive tackle Pat Williams, arguably one of the best available players at his position, had reportedly turned down a significant offer from the team when it was suggested the Vikings would not pay the signing bonus negotiated until June or July. The reasoning? Ownership of the team is expected to transfer and McCombs would not be out of pocket for the signing.

Only when the team raised the signing bonus amount did Williams reconsider and ink a deal with the team.

"We are in for an interesting transition period if we are going to basically have to sell ourselves short in the pursuit of quality players during free agency," a team source said. "How can you possibly compete when you are unable to offer a player a contract and/or bonus which has been set by the market? Having to hold back on providing a bonus until the summer, once the player has been under contract for potentially a few months, is ridiculous.

"Our discussions and negotiations with Pat Williams were very smooth until the payment of the bonus. We almost lost this guy."

Being financially frugal may be one thing, but becoming a miser at the professional sports level is unacceptable. The wealthy McCombs and his prudent method of pocketing the almighty dollar is again placing a stranglehold on the organization.

While negotiating and offering a substantial contract to free-agent linebacker Antonio Pierce from Washington, the issue of the signing bonus reared its head once again. With a competitive offer on the table, the Vikings were not willing, or should we state McCombs was not willing, to provide the front office led by Rob Brzezinski the latitude to get a deal done with the much-needed defensive standout.

"The offer on the table for Pierce was very competitive which he signed for in New York, from the reports we have heard. The majority of these players and agents seek is the up-front money to ensure the player receives the reward, rather than down the road," the team source continued. "In the case of Pierce, we did not have the ability to walk in and say we would pay him a $10 million dollar signing bonus on March 15 or whatever date.

"Our hands are tied and it is going to cost us the ability to land the caliber of talent we need to take this team to the next level."

Taking the Minnesota Vikings to that next level is the passion for those within the organization, and it is unfortunate the owner of the team doesn't share the same common goal.

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