June 1 Cuts Looming

With all the moves the Vikings have made since March 1, there is still the possibility that they will continue to look into potential signings after the annual June 1 blood purge of veteran contracts.

Following the draft in April, Vikings head coach Mike Tice "complained" about a problem the Vikings hadn't seen in many years -- too many quality players. With as many as seven new defensive starters, the healthy return of Mike Rosenthal and Jim Kleinsasser, the signing of offensive veterans like Brad Johnson and Travis Taylor and the drafting of players like Erasmus James, Troy Williamson and Marcus Johnson, the Vikings had difficulties trying to fill out the roster for training camp.

Why? Because agents for those undrafted players felt the chances of their clients actually making a 53-man roster were no longer good in Minnesota. Agents refused to even return calls in some instances.

So it might come as some surprise that the Vikings may have an interest in one or two of the anticipated June 1 salary cap casualties. One name that has surfaced in recent days is Tampa RB Charlie Garner, who is expected to get the hook now that the running game appears to be in the hands of Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman.

While Tice admits that the depth chart at most positions is fuller than the roster will allow in many areas, with the one-year supsension of Onterrio Smith, a new spot has been opened for a running back and a veteran, from what we're hearing, makes the most sense.

There had been talk about a potential deal with Buffalo for Travis Henry, but the combination of a degenerative knee and Henry's agent insisting on a long-term deal -- not to mention Buffalo wanting a second- or third-round pick as compensation -- have quelled the interest of a lot of teams that might have shown a willingness to make a move.

Garner does a lot of the same things Smith does -- slashing-type running, good receiving and adequate blocking. He could be had for a song, since most teams have already addressed their needs at running back. While the future is currently in the hands of Ciatrick Fason and Mewelde Moore and the present is in the hands of Michael Bennett, there's a good chance that Smith has played his last down with the Vikings and that Bennett could be gone via free agency a year from now. A player like Garner would give the Vikings some veteran stability as insurance if Bennett once again goes down.

While nothing officially can be done until he's released, don't be surprised if the Vikings try to make a quick incentive-laden offer to the Bucs veteran as a replacement for Smith -- whether for just 2005 or a year or two beyond that.

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