Sunday Morning Massacre

The ins & outs, ups & downs and back & forth of free agency involving the Vikings, the NFC North, and the rest of the National Football League.

Publicly, head coach Mike Tice was more than a little miffed that tight end Byron Chamberlain decided to visit Detroit instead of continuing negotiations with Minnesota.

Privately, however, Tice was "mad as hell," a source close to the club tells The Insiders.

Though the two sides are far apart on a new deal for the free agent, Tice felt that there was potential for that bridge to be gapped in the coming days. That bridge, according to the source, is "well on its way to burning" following Chamberlain's decision to visit the NFC North rival Lions.

The move does ensure that, if Chamberlain re-signs with the Vikings, he will do so at considerably less monetarily as the Vikngs have pulled their current offer off the table.

"There's a lot to repair in order for [Chamberlin] to come back [to the Vikings]. He's not the most popular player in Winter Park right now," the source said.

Incidentally, as of late last night, Chamberlain had not received a contract offer from the Lions......

MAC ATTACK: The Vikings will continue negotiations with the agent for defensive end Keith McKenzie even as they plunge into this week's owners' meetings, although no deal is on the horizon. It's believed that McKenzie is asking for considerably more in the form of guaranteed money than teams feels he's worth, which is the reason the Browns allowed McKenzie to test the free-agent market and signed fellow DE Kenard Lang to replace the veteran.

The Browns have held a couple of conversations with McKenzie's representatives since the start of free agency, but would only be willing to bring him back if his price bottomed out.

Thus far, only Minnesota and Cleveland have expressed more than a tepid interest in the defensive lineman, with the Vikings sitting as his lone visit......

ANOTHER LB COMING: While we don't have the specifics at this time, The Insiders has learned that the Vikings have shown interest in another veteran linebacker to compete for the roster spots vacated by Ed McDaniel and Kailee Wong. This past week the Vikings signed veteran linebacker Henri Crockett to replace Wong, who signed with the Houston Texans......

CB OR NOT?: The Vikings have quietly been evaluating the available cornerbacks on the market and the findings haven't been in their favor. Donnie Abraham, released by Tampa Bay in a salary cap move this past week has drawn the interest of 14 teams, one of those being the Vikings. While the Vikings won't comment on Abraham, representatives close to Abraham tell The Insiders that Minnesota was one of the teams that have expressed an interest in their client. League sources tell The Insiders that the New York Jets appear to be the frontrunner for Abraham's services......

DRAFT MUSINGS!: Early draft prognosticators and league personnel evaluators have the Vikings targeting for a defensive end/tackle, offensive tackle, or cornerback with the number 7 selection in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft. One rumor that has picked up steam this past week has Minnesota offering to trade their first round selection......
NFC NORTH-SIDE TIDBITS: The Bears have begun talks on restructuring the contract of offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer. Last week, the two sides agreed to push back the date Brockermeyer was slated to receive a $500,000 roster bonus from March 15 to April 1. ... The four-year, $4.68 million contract linebacker Mike Caldwell signed with the Bears on Friday will include a first-year cap number of $1.0875 million. The signing of Caldwell gives Chicago veteran insurance against the possible loss of Warrick Holdman, a restricted free agent who has yet to receive an offer sheet from any team he has visited. ... The Packers are strongly considering offering a contract to free agent Robert Jones and making the 10-year veteran their starting middle linebacker.
LEAGUE-WIDE BAUBLES: The three-year, $5 million contract signed by New England's Adam Vinatieri yesterday makes him the third-highest paid kicker in the NFL. The hero of this past February's Super Bowl falls in financial line behind Tampa Bay's Martin Gramatica and Miami's Olindo Mare, who both average $2 million a season on deals signed in the last year. ... Offensive tackle Barrett Brooks, who was released by the Browns during training camp last year, signed a one-year deal with the Broncos over the weekend. ... Kudos to the Jets for their signing of offensive lineman Dave Szott late last week, not necessarily for size of the deal -- a three-year, contract worth $4.2 million -- but for the concessions to Szott's personal life that allowed the agreement to be finalized. Szott's son Shane suffers from cerebral palsy and attends school in New Jersey. Szott, who signed with the Redskins last offseason to be closer to home, requested that he be allowed to spend a minimum of three nights a week at his home in Morristown, New Jersey. The Jets were more than amenable to that stipulation and landed a quality locker room presence and a solid performer on the field. ... Ravens free-agent wide receiver Patrick Johnson paid a visit to the Dolphins last week, but, as of yesterday, had not received an offer from the club. ... The Bengals have been in contact with the agent for cornerback Donnie Abraham since his release from Tampa Bay Thursday, The Insiders has learned. The Bengals are still looking for a veteran corner to add via free agency after losing Walt Harris to the Colts. A source close to Harris tells The Insiders that the thrifty Bengals offered the corner a contract that was "substantially lower" than he eventually received from the Colts. ... The 49ers, Packers and Saints were the first teams to contact the agent of Johnnie Morton following the receiver's release from the Lions last Wednesday. Word out of Detroit is that Morton's preference is Green Bay and San Francisco, in that order. ... Linebacker Shawn Barber, who signed Friday with Philadelphia, would have preferred to sign with the New York Giants if all things were equal, but the cap-strapped club simply did not have the kind of space to even offer the veteran a bare-bones contract. The Eagles still acquired Barber for the bargain-basement price of $1.5 million on a one-year deal. ... The signing of Barber was the Eagles' second "major" defensive acquisition in two days as they also added veteran safety Blaine Bishop on Thursday. Bishop received a three-year deal that could be worth in excess of $6 million. ... Given their decisions this offseason, the Cowboys may be offering a clue as to what direction they may be headed with the sixth pick in this year's draft. Earlier this offseason, Dallas waived safety George Teague. Then on Friday, the club allowed nickel safety Izell Reese to sign with the Broncos. While the team has stated a public interest in cornerback Quentin Jammer, their target could very well be safety Roy Williams.

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