Free Agent News Still Flying

While the delay to the start of free agency may have hurt the Vikings, the players they are said to have an interest in are still making news. We update the status of several players connected to the Vikings, including a new and intriguing defensive interest popping up.

The Vikings were ready to roll through free agency in great salary cap position—about $23 million under the cap—while about half of the other NFL teams were busy preparing for massive veteran cuts to get under a cap that was about $10 million lower than some of those teams expected.

When the NFL delayed the start of free agency until 11 p.m. Central on Sunday night and moved the deadline to get in cap compliance until 5 p.m. Sunday, it gave teams more time to prepare and the league and its players association more time to negotiate an extension of the collective bargaining agreement.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the NFL and NFLPA are not that far apart on a new deal, but the two sides had not changed their public stance that no deal was at hand. The issue between those two sides is the percentage of revenue that should be placed toward the players' salary cap for each team. The players want more of the local football revenues, including local media contracts and suite sales, parking, concessions, merchandising and other game-day revenues.

Even with that current stalemate, players the Vikings are reportedly interested in are making the news—and a new and big name has popped up.

The Rock Hill Herald reported that linebacker Will Witherspoon is receiving interest from four teams, and the Vikings are among them. Witherspoon said on a radio show that he had received an offer from his current team, the Carolina Panthers, but that he would still test the free agent market. The Vikings, looking for additional linebackers, are a natural fit for Witherspoon, but they are expected to receive some competition for his services from the San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints.

Witherspoon has 421 tackles, eight sacks and seven interceptions in his four years of service to the Panthers, according to the team's official web site. In 2004, he had 110 tackles, four interceptions and three sacks. He has played mostly weakside linebacker but has started 11 games at middle linebacker.

The Vikings were also reportedly interested in Saints Pro Bowl offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, but he is due to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles at the start of free agency, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Another hot offensive line prospect expected to hit the open market is Kansas City guard Will Shields, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. He isn't expected to retire, but he could be a cap casualty in Kansas City, as his agent expected him to be released Thursday, when it was assumed cuts were due. The extension to the deadline will give the Chiefs more time to restructure his contract.

Saints guard Jermane Mayberry is another respected offensive lineman and potential salary cap victim, according to the New York Times.

At running back, the Vikings are expected to pursue the Baltimore Ravens' Chester Taylor, according to what a league sources told Taylor plans to reach the open market, and the Baltimore Sun reported that the Ravens and Taylor have made no progress in contract negotiations.

Chiefs running back Priest Holmes is also on the block to be cut if his contract isn't restructured, and he might be another nice fit for the Vikings.

Finally, NFL Network reported that the Vikings have kick-started trade talks with other teams regarding quarterback Daunte Culpepper, citing a strained relationship with head coach Brad Childress.

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