Free Agent Speculation vs. Real Interest

Two top players at their position have been speculated as being targets for the Vikings, but how accurate is that? Not likely, according to what we've been told.

"Connect the dots" is in full bloom in early March. Two high-profile situations prove that.

The Vikings will be looking for help on the offensive line. True. The only two starting positions that are probably completely safe are left tackle (Bryant McKinnie) and center (Matt Birk, assuming he truly is as healthy as he hopes). The Vikings will be looking at improving the offensive line, the team's sore spot last year, but one player speculated to be garnering an interest from Minnesota doesn't appear to be heading this way.

The Philadelphia Eagles are prepared to let right tackle Jon Runyan hit the free agent market, but has been told by a source close to the situation that the Vikings aren't one of the teams showing an interest in Runyan. Of course, he's an easy player to connect to the Vikings because of his affiliation with former Eagles offensive coordinator and now Vikings head coach Brad Childress.

The Vikings, however, might be inclined to stick with Marcus Johnson or Mike Rosenthal at right tackle, although there have been rumors of Rosenthal possibly being released. The Vikings could also look elsewhere, depending on which players are cut on Thursday, as massive cuts appear imminent as close to half of the teams struggle to get under the salary cap or position themselves better for the free agent market, which starts at midnight Eastern Thursday night.

The other widely speculated NFL star to be garnering interest from the Vikings, or at least their fans, is league MVP Shaun Alexander. Again, has been told that isn't a likely scenario. Many teams question how much longer a workhorse like Seattle's Alexander can hold up, and the running back has been seeking a contract similar to the extension LaDainian Tomlinson signed with San Diego in 2004, which amounted to an eight-year, $60 million contract with $20 million in guarantees.

The strongest running back interest coming from Minnesota has been told about is being directed at Baltimore running back Chester Taylor, who has amassed 1,599 rushing yards and 737 receiving yards in four seasons as Jamal Lewis' backup, along with 937 yards in kickoff returns.

The 2006 free agency signing period begins at midnight Eastern Thursday when the NFL office sends to all clubs the list of players eligible to be signed as free agents.

In 2005, 104 of 312 unrestricted free agents signed with new teams. That number is expected to increase this year with the uncertain future of the salary cap. The Vikings, however, are in prime position to take advantage of other teams' cap woes, as Minnesota is thought to be about $23 million under the cap.

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