One of the Vikings' biggest concerns heading into free agency was that simply keeping Robert Griffith, Dale Carter, Kailee Wong and Byron Chamberlain was going to break the team's enviable position of being $14 million under the salary cap.
With Griffith and Wong already gone, Carter likely to sign with the Saints Monday or Tuesday and Chamberlain preparing to make the free agent rounds, the Vikings struck back by signing defensive end Kenny Mixon.
Mixon, a LSU standout who joined the NFL in the same Class of '98 with Randy Moss, signed a five-year, $17 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $3.4 million and base salaries of $600,000 in 2002, $2 million in 2003, $2.6 million in 2004, $3.8 million in 2005 and $4.5 million in 2006.
The contract fits perfectly with the Vikings' cap situation, which will count just $1.3 million against the cap this year, $2.7 million in 2003 and $3.3 million in 2004. Even if things don't work out as the Vikings hope they will, those numbers are likely lower than the rookie they take at pick No. 7 will cost the club.
While Mixon has never been a sack specialist in the pros -- he had only 6-1/2 sacks in four years with Miami -- he wasn't asked to be a sack specialist. Miami had Jason Taylor and Trace Armstrong to do that. Coming out of college, he was viewed as a player who could develop into a double-digit sack man and plays the run well also.
VU is being told the Vikings aren't going to go headlong into free agency, perhaps waiting for more values after the draft when initial demands of unsigned players go down, Mixon fills the top need the Vikings slated for free agency, and, at age 26, gives the Vikings a player who could easily fulfill his entire contract while never having a cap number exceeding $5.2 million.
* From the Get a New Cellular Phone Department comes this: VU has been told the problem with Cris Carter's discussions with the Browns that resulted in him blowing off the Rams was that he misunderstood what the Browns were offering. From what we've been told, somehow he understood the offer to be four years for $4 million a season, while the offer was actually a two-year deal for $4 million total. If it wasn't so sad, it would really be funny, since the Rams now say they have absolutely no interest in dealing with Carter anymore.
* The Vikings' chances of signing Donald Hayes may not be anything they rush into. A VU source with the Patriots, who made overtures to Hayes, said his initial request is for a deal for $2 million a year with a signing bonus of $3-4 million -- a price too rich for the Pats and likely too high for the Vikings.
* There has been a rumor surfacing that, if the Vikings don't get a left offensive tackle in the draft, they may consider moving Matt Birk to LT and put Cory Withrow at center. While Mike Tice believes Birk could do the important LT job, when you have an All-Pro at one position, it may be best to keep him there.
* The Vikings were pleased with their meetings with kicker Todd Peterson and punter Kyle Richardson, both of whom visited Winter Park Friday, but both are asking pretty steep contracts that could take the bargain-seeking Vikes out of the running. Gary Anderson was spotted by VU at Winter Park Friday also, a clear sign he wants to stay with the team.
* A VU source with the Titans told us Tennessee is confident it can re-sign LB Greg Favors since they're hearing the Vikings are much more intent on signing Atlanta's Henri Crockett than they are Favors.
* Byron Chamberlain may hook up with Marty Mornhinweg in Detroit. College football fans may remember that Chamberlain played at Division II Wayne State in Nebraska, where Mornhinweg was his coach.
* The Bucs signed Rob Johnson to a one-year, $1 million contract, which has some of our Bucs sources saying Tampa Bay may not be 100 percent happy with Brad Johnson. But the problem is that the team is on the hook for his five-year, $28 million contract, which he signed just last year and, if he was traded or cut, it would result in a $5 million cap hit -- too much for a team with pricey veterans and no high draft picks coming, thanks to the signing of Jon Gruden and the forfeiture of four premium draft picks to the Raiders.
Vikings Sign Mixon
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