How Many Free Agents Will Vikes Lose?

The Vikings had a plan in how to handle free agency. If what VU is hearing is any indication, there better be a Plan B in place.

Before free agency officially began last Friday, Mike Tice told VU and other media outlets that he had plans to sign every free agent the Vikings "want to keep." That list wasn't long -- Robert Griffith, Dale Carter, Bryon Chamberlain and Kailee Wong, with the faint hope of getting Cris Carter to have a change of heart.

By last week, the Vikings had pretty much resigned themselves that Carter wouldn't be back, but Tice was confident he could have three of the other four signed and had the money set aside to get all four of them done to deals if possible.

Now it's looking like the Vikings could be using that money to spend on other players instead.

VU has learned the first to go could well be Robert Griffith. Monday, Griffith reacquainted himself with former defensive coordinator Foge Fazio and Browns coach Butch Davis. Fazio was instrumental in getting Davis to make Dwayne Rudd one of his first free agent signings and the Browns were delighted with his performance. That success could go a long way to getting Griff signed.

Last week, VU was told Griffith tops the Browns' free agent wish list and that was confirmed Monday when Griffith's agent, Mitch Frankel, was also brought into Cleveland -- a sign the Browns may want to get this deal done before Griffith leaves town. While others may soon follow, it looks like Griff could be the first to go in an exodus from the Vikings.

* The Browns aren't looking just at Griffith. The team entertained Wong Monday, as well as New Orleans DT La'Roi Glover and Washington DE Kenard Lang. In addition, Cris Carter and Garrison Hearst are expected in today and the Browns expect to make at least one signing within the next 24 to 48 hours.
* Carter will be busy over the next two days. While VU continues to hear he's almost a lock to sign with St. Louis, he will meet with Miami officials this morning before going to Cleveland this afternoon.
* Griffith has other options aside from the Browns, which VU has been told includes the Packers, Eagles and 49ers. But, until he hears what Cleveland has to offer, he hasn't firmed up any other team visits -- another sign confirming what VU has heard that he may leave Cleveland with either a contract in hand or an offer to use against other pursuers.
* Wong isn't as certain to find a landing spot. He has a visit scheduled with Houston Wednesday.
* The Vikings aren't sitting idle. VU has been told that the three defensive ends being interviewed today -- Miami's Kenny Mixon and Lorenzo Bromell and the Patriots' Brandon Mitchell -- are in a slot the Vikings are targeting hard and want to have one of the three signed before they leave Minnesota Wednesday.
* VU has been told the Vikings have all but accepted the fact that Dale Carter won't be back next year. With the money New Orleans is rumored to be throwing around, as well as interest from Dallas and Kansas City, the Vikings likely aren't willing to match that sort of huge money -- between $4 million and $5 million a year.
* Linebackers Henri Crockett (Atlanta) and Greg Favors (Tennessee) as well as WR Donald Hayes (Carolina) are all scheduled to be at Winter Park Thursday for visits with the coaching staff.
* From the You Can't Make This Up Department, VU still has contact with people around Jeff George, who, while with the Vikings, was nothing short of a model citizen. Although he reverted to some of his bad QB habits, the main reason he wasn't re-signed, George wants to play again. And guess where he might land? VU was told Monday that he met for a couple of hours with new Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who apparently wants every QB in the world to come to Tampa except Brad Johnson, who he is contractually bound to.
* One player VU has been hearing the Vikings have an interest in if he's still on the board in the first round at pick No. 7 is Texas offensive tackle Mike Williams -- as of now, VU's draft analyst has Williams available when the Vikings pick and being the selection they make. However, VU was told a lot of concerns, especially from a couple teams picking in front of the Vikings, could have some bad news associated with Williams. Two team doctors were very concerned about the condition of Williams' right knee and what was described as a "looseness" to it, prompting some to think he may have a partially torn ACL. Williams played right tackle at Texas, primarily because No. 2 overall pick last year Leonard Davis played left tackle for the Longhorns. There is the belief that Williams will likely start his career at right tackle, but may move to LT eventually and be a stud there, which is why the Vikings still may have an interest in him.
* As reported last week by VU, the NFL has confirmed what our league source told us -- the 2002 NFL season will begin with a Thursday night game with the 49ers at the Giants Sept. 5 -- the first time an NFL season hasn't begun on a Sunday.

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