Bates Signs Sheet, Will Bears Match?

The Vikings officially signed D'Wayne Bates to an offer sheet Wednesday. Now the question is whether the Bears will match -- VU hears they intend to.

There is an art to signing restriced free agents. When Bill Parcells did it in New York with RB Curtis Martin, he accepted a huge hit to do it -- two No. 1 draft picks. When the Eagles did it with RB Ricky Watters they did it with a "poison pill" contract -- a signing bonus and first year salary so steep the cap-strapped 49ers couldn't match the offer.

The Vikings did neither Wednesday, signing D'Wayne Bates to a three-year deal with $2.85 million with no signing bonus, an offer the Bears can easily match if they clear up the proper cap space.

For Bates, the signing wasn't about getting a huge contract, it was about getting to play. With the Bears loaded at wide receiver, Bates is the No. 5 receiver behind Marty Booker, David Terrell, Marcus Robinson and Dez White. With the Vikings, he would come in as the No. 3 receiver and be given every chance to win a starting job opposite Randy Moss.

Almost immediately after being signed to the offer sheet, VU heard from one of our Bears sources saying Chicago is leaning toward matching the offer. The main reason is the egg on the face the Bears would have if Bates was allowed to leave without compensation. Due to a paperwork error in the Bears front office, instead of receiving a third-round draft pick as compensation, the Bears would receive nothing.

The Bears have until next Wednesday to match or decline, but, if they can finalize a deal to restructure OT Blake Brockermeyer's contract, don't be surprised if Chicago matches the deal.

* As reported last week in VU, it looks final that when the NFL schedule is released today, the Vikings will be off the Monday Night Football schedule for the first time in 15 years. A VU source with the league said the NFL has dropped its plan to alter the late-season schedule, so it will be released in its entirety today. The Vikings will have a pair of Sunday night games, according to the last revision to the NFL schedule -- vs. Green Bay and Seattle -- as well as a Saturday game Dec. 21 vs. Miami.
* In another schedule note, the Vikes are expected to open the regular season Sept. 8 at Chicago. The home opener is set for Sept. 15 vs. Buffalo.
* The Vikes re-signed DE Lance Johnstone yesterday to a one-year deal worth %525,000.
* The chase for DL Shane Burton ended Wednesday when the former Jet signed a contract with Carolina.
* The Vikings conducted a private workout with rookie fullback Jarrod Baxter of New Mexico, an indication the team may look to take him on the fourth round of next month's rookie draft. No fullbacks are expected to be taken in the first three rounds of the April 20-21 draft.
* The official website of the Cincinnati Bengals has finally dropped the Vikings off a list of teams chasing DE Reinard Wilson, who is expected to sign a contract today. Wilson, whose agent continues to drop the name of the Vikings among his suitors, has been trying to negotiate with teams to drive up his asking price, but the Bengals website was cryptic in saying he will sign with a team "somewhere in the Midwest." While that would technically apply to the Vikings, the Midwest teams mentioned are the Bengals, Bears and Colts. However, if he signs with the Bears, that would put Chicago near their salary cap limit and almost assure the Vikings would be able to keep Bates.

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