Top Free Agents Discussed at Senior Bowl

Thanks to sources at the Senior Bowl, we have updates on two NFL free agents who should be attractive and legitimate interests for the Vikings.

While head coach Brad Childress can be guarded with some of his analysis of the current Vikings roster, he has stated the obvious more than once—the Vikings likely will need to upgrade on the offensive line and find a feature running back.

Upgrading the offensive line might simply mean re-signing a healthy Toniu Fonoti and counting on the continued development of big Marcus Johnson in his second season. Fonoti, acquired from the San Diego Chargers during the 2005 season, took longer than anticipated to recover from a broken bone in his hand, then started one game before injuring his groin and being placed on injured reserve. He came to the Vikings weighing more than 400 pounds and the team was trying to get him around 380 before playing him. That didn't happen, and now Fonoti's representatives would like to see him get to around 370 pounds to make him a more valuable prospect in free agency.

But if the Vikings determine that upgrading the offensive line has to include an additional free agent from another team, then a likely candidate would be Philadelphia right tackle Jon Runyan. Childress' desire to build up front and his familiarity with Runyan would seem to be a natural fit.

A league source at the Senior Bowl told that Runyan would like to stay with the Eagles and might be willing to accept a little less than market value to do so, but not much less.

Runyan has been extremely durable over his 10-year career, playing in 154 games with 144 starts. He has been a mainstay on the Eagles offensive line since the fourth-round draft pick of the Houston Oilers signed with Philadelphia in 2000, starting every regular season game since then and making the Pro Bowl in 2002.

The durable veteran lineman feels that he can play at least three to four more years and would like to get a long-term deal, according to the source.

  • One of the biggest names scheduled to hit the free agent market is Seattle running back Shaun Alexander. According to a league source at the Senior Bowl, the possibility of Seattle re-signing running back Shaun Alexander doesn't seem promising. In fact, Alexander has only received two offers from the team and both were well below what he's looking for.

    It's believed Alexander is looking for at least a five-year deal and the Seahawks don't seem willing to agree to such a deal. The Seahawks are reluctant to give Alexander a huge deal since he turns 29 before the start of the 2006 regular season. Most league insiders believe that 30 is the age where backs start to lose productivity.

    However, a marginal slip in production for Alexander would be a step up in production for the Vikings at that position. Alexander has made the Pro Bowl the last three years running, finishing 2005 with a career-high and league-leading 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns rushing in the regular season.

    As a team, the Vikings produced 1,467 yards rushing, with Mewelde Moore leading the way with 662 yards. Being that both Runyan and Alexander are familiar with Vikings coach Brad Childress' West Coast offense preferences, each should be among the scheduled free agents discussed in-depth at Winter Park in the coming weeks.

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