What's Left For Vikings?

While the Vikings will be looking at a couple of players today, even more players are going off the open market. The team is still believed to be nearly $31 million under the salary cap, but its options for big-time players are dwindling. We take a look at what's left.

To date, the Vikings have only signed defensive tackle Pat Williams during the one week NFL teams have been allowed to sign unrestricted free agents. At an estimated $31 million below the salary cap, the Vikings continue to have needs at cornerback, safety, linebacker and wide receiver, while tight end might also be an issue if they lose unrestricted free agent Jermaine Wiggins.

The Vikings visited with wide receiver Plaxico Burress over the weekend, but they are now in wait-and-see mode. Burress was scheduled to meet with the New York Giants on Monday, but an illness will delay that meeting until either today or Wednesday.

After making inquiries about Burress' work ethic and attitude, the Vikings are willing to let Burress meet with the New York Giants and, if he doesn't sign there, see if they can get him for a lower price than his agent was originally willing to agree to when meeting with Minnesota officials.

At 6-foot-5, Burress was thought to be one of the top receivers on the market, but his production faded in 2004 and his attitude may be keeping him on the market longer than expected. Several other top wide receivers who entered the free-agent market — including Derrick Mason (Baltimore), Muhsin Muhammad (Chicago) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Cincinnati) — have already signed with other teams.

Cornerback seems to be the Vikings' next interest, and that market is drying up now too.

On Monday, the Baltimore Ravens reached a multi-year contract agreement with free agent cornerback Samari Rolle. He'll take the starting job vacated by Gary Baxter, who signed with the Browns. The deal is believed to be for six years, $30.5 million, including an $11 million signing bonus.

Before free agency opened, a Vikings source told Viking Update that he believed the top three cornerbacks available were Charles Woodson (franchised by the Raiders), Ken Lucas (signed with Carolina) and Gary Baxter.

All three of them are gone now, but the Vikings will look to strike a deal with cornerback Fred Smoot. The Vikings are meeting with Smoot, late of the Washington Redskins, today.

At 5-11 and 173 pounds, Smoot was the sixth-ranked cornerback on the market this year, according to Scout.com. New England's Ty Law, who isn't expected to be fully recovered from foot surgery for at least another month, and Tennessee's Andre Dyson are ranked higher and are still available.

The Vikings are expected to continue to look for value and not rush to a deal that would overpay a player in their estimate. However, that patient approach has allowed Rolle (ranked No. 2) and Lucas (ranked No. 5) to already sign with other teams without a visit with Minnesota.

If the team loses out on Law, Dyson or Smoot, it may be better off waiting until the April 23-24 NFL Draft to select a cornerback and enter the season with Brian Williams opposite Antoine Winfield. After the aforementioned big three still available on the market, all other cornerbacks may be a crapshoot in the Vikings' efforts to upgrade the position through free agency.

And Minnesota may have to move swiftly on Smoot, as Kansas City is reportedly trying to schedule a visit with him if the Vikings don't sign him today. Kansas City was also in pursuit of Law immediately after his release from the Patriots, but they weren't able to reach an agreement with him.

The Vikings' patient approach also left them without any of the better kickers that entered the free-agent market.

The Atlanta Falcons signed Todd Peterson (49ers) and the New York Giants reached a contract agreement with Jay Feely (Falcons) Monday.

The Vikings are also keeping their sites set on a potential replacement for tight end Jermaine Wiggins, who is going to explore the open market. Wiggins, who had a career-high 71 catches in his first year in Minnesota, has said he'd like to re-sign with the Vikings, but the two sides haven't been able to agree on terms.

As a backup plan, the Vikings have shown an interest in Freddie Jones (Chargers), who is visiting Winter Park today, and Itula Mili (Seattle). Both are considered pass-catching tight ends in the mold of Wiggins. The Vikings are expecting all-around tight end Jim Kleinsasser to return to full health this summer.

LIONS' UPGRADE CONTINUES

While the Vikings are treading water in the free-agent ocean, the NFC North division rival Lions' version of free agency is going swimmingly.

Detroit reached a five-year agreement with unrestricted free agent safety Kenoy Kennedy (Denver) on Monday. The Lions also reached a three-year contract agreement with free-agent tight end Marcus Pollard (Colts) on Monday.


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