Bye, Bye Bennett

In a five-year career that has been marred by more disappointment and injury than achievement, the Vikings let Michael Bennett and his agent know that they don't intend to have him back with the team in 2006.

Mike Tice seemingly had a vested interest in running back Michael Bennett. In each of the last two years, Tice had claimed that he expected Bennett to run for 1,300 or more yards. Instead, Bennett fell short of achieving even half of that total.

So it shouldn't have come as any surprise that Bennett won't be back with the Vikings in 2006. But what may have come as a surprise is that Bennett has been informed by the team that it won't be making any effort to bring him back.

Bennett was one of four veterans that have been informed that the team won't be bringing them back -- the others being cornerback Ralph Brown, third-string quarterback Shaun Hill and reserve center Cory Withrow.

Bennett has said his preference would be to sign with either the Packers or Cardinals. The Packers would allow him to stay close to his home in Milwaukee, while the Cardinals would reunite him with Dennis Green -- who drafted Bennett on the first round in 2001 following the abrupt retirement of Robert Smith.

Despite high hopes and several starting opportunities, Bennett rushed for just 3,174 yards. While that figure is eighth on the all-time team rushing list, it represents less that 40 yards a game in the 80 contests Bennett could have played in if not for injuries.

* VU has been told that the Vikings might consider using its franchise tag on cornerback Brian Williams, but we're not as positive. Williams sat out all of last year's minicamps in protest of not getting a new, larger contract, so it seems unlikely that he would take part in the offseason program again if he was slapped with the cornerback franchise tag of $5.9 million. VU has heard that the Packers are going to make a strong push for Williams if he hits the open market.
* The team is expected to make a first-round qualifying offer of $1.55 million to wide receiver Nate Burleson, who becomes a restricted free agent March 3.
* The Vikings signed cornerback Ronyell Whitaker Tuesday. Whitaker, who missed all of the 2005 season, played two years with the Buccaneers under defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.

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