Tice At League Meetings

This weekend's NFL league meetings have a much different look for the Vikings without Dennis Green at the wheel.

Until the first week of January, few coaches in the NFL wielded as much power as Dennis Green.

With control over all personnel decisions, as well as being the longest-tenured coach with a franchise in the NFL, Green had a lot of stroke at league meetings. If you wanted to talk to the Vikings, you spoke to Green.

Two months later, things are much different. Mike Tice is surfing through the old boys mine field at this weekend's NFL meetings of team brass, reacquainting himself with many of the front office people he's met over the years and introducing himself to others as the new front man for the Vikings.

While these meetings aren't covered closely by the national media, that could be a mistake. It was at these meetings that Green established a foothold on a couple of critical league committees, like the competition committee that can potentially change the face of the game. Tice is viewed by many in the NFL as a novice, but this weekend will be a chance for many to get to know who he is and what he's willing to do in terms of dealing with other organizations -- as well as the rest of the league to get a first-hand view of what power Tice wields within the organization.

As reported yesterday, the Vikings are a team being targeted, along with Dallas and Kansas City, by the Oakland Raiders and a couple of other organizations, to move up in the draft into the Nos. 7-9 slot to grab a player they covet. While this weekend may seem routine to many, it could have a mammoth impact on the short-term and long-term future of the Vikings, as well as Tice as the owner of one of the 32 most coveted jobs in the NFL.

There may not be a lot of news coming out of the meetings this weekend, but, as far as Tice and the Vikings are concerned, the next 48 hours are going to have a significant impact on the future of the franchise -- whether it comes from the perception of Tice or the impression he makes on the rest of the league.

* A positive free agent note should be made by the lack of action concerning a player who has yet to come to Winter Park. Cincinnati CB Artrell Hawkins, targeted by the Bengals as a priority signing, has opted to wait until after the league meetings to make any decision, saying he's waiting to meet with the Vikings first. At least two other teams are interested in signing Hawkins, but the fact he's willing to see what the Vikes offer can only be viewed as a positive sign.
* Houston signed former Bears RB James Allen to a one-year contract Friday. Not only does it take Anthony Thomas' primary backup away from Chicago, but, by merely signing him to a one-year deal, it still keeps alive the very real possibility that the Texans will take a running back at the start of the second round -- a position the Vikings aren't interested in chasing in the first two rounds -- the "free pick" mode that Vikings war room personnel are watching closely.
* Will Cris Carter ever find a landing spot? Friday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press quoted a "high-ranking official" of the New Orleans Saints as saying, "We are not going to mess with him" -- just another sign that Carter has made a shambles of his first chance at free agency.
* From the "Yes...No...Yes...No" Department comes this: First mention of Bengals DE Reinard Wilson being in the Vikings free agent plans were dismissed. Then Wilson was brought in for a visit, after he contacted the team. After word came out late this week that the Vikings again aren't interested in Wilson, his agent David Levine denied the rumor that he isn't a part of the Vikings plans.
* While not confirming that Wilson is in fact a ship that has sailed, Tice has said the Vikings are concentrating on trying to sign DE Keith McKenzie of the Browns, as well as tight end Hunter Goodwin -- since the talk of signing Byron Chamberlain seem to be contentious at best right now.
* A Redskins source has told VU that Jeff Blake will likely sign with Washington next week. The importance of that? If Blake signs with Washington, he will not sign with Buffalo and, if Buffalo can't secure a veteran QB before the draft -- regardless of the long-term status of Alex Van Pelt -- the Bills will likely take Oregon QB Joey Harrington on the first round. The Vikings would like nothing more, because they're not in the market for a QB and Buffalo has one of the six picks in next month's draft ahead of the Vikings.
* The Vikings may have an interest in free agent CB Fred Vinson, who has been out of football with a serious knee injury. If the name is familiar, he was being considered by the Vikings before being drafted by the Packers in 1999 and became part of the infamous Green Bay rape of Seattle in acquiring Ahman Green for next to nothing.

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