Vikings Sign Two

Although the free agent period didn't begin as scheduled Friday, it didn't stop the Vikings from starting their own offseason activity -- re-signing safety Willie Offord and signing offensive lineman Jason Whittle to a one-year contract.

The Vikings are expected to be one of the most active teams in free agency this season and, while the process was delayed 72 hours in hopes of the league and the players association agreeing on a labor extension, the Vikings got their offseason plans underway regardless on Friday.

The Vikings made two signings -- re-signing Willie Offord to an incentive laden two-year contract and signing offensive lineman Jason Whittle to a one-year deal.

Whittle, 31, is an eight-year NFL veteran, spending seven of those seasons with the Giants. He is a versatile lineman who can play both guard spots as well as center. He has been compared to similar players the Vikings have had in the past that can play multiple positions, like Cory Whithrow and Everett Lindsay. The team signed him to a one-year deal in which the details were not immediately available. Whittle became available when the Giants released him last week as a salary cap move to position themselves under the 2006 salary cap.

Offord's signing sent another indication that the team may not be looking to re-sign Corey Chavous. Offord will have a chance to compete for a starting job, and his contract reflects that. His contract calls for up to $3 million over the next two years if he reaches incentives, but his actual pay at this point includes a $275,000 signing bonus, a $545,000 base salary in 2006 and $650,000 base salary in 2007. The remainder of the contract language -- half the total of the contract -- is tied into performance incentives.

* There had been speculation that the Vikings would make a strong push to get Saints offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, but the Whittle signing may be the handwriting on the wall that it's not going to happen. VU was told that, if free agency had begun as scheduled on Friday, Bentley likely would have finished the day signing a contract with the Eagles.
* Agent Joe Linta represents not only Whittle, but also Matt Birk and Mike Rosenthal.
* The Vikings want Rosenthal and guard Chris Liwienski to restructure their contracts downward. Both of them lost starting spots last year. Liwienski is close to signing his amended contract, which has three years remaining but is expected to be trimmed back to two years. There is no word whether Rosenthal will be willing to take a pay cut.
* The Vikings are hoping to get a deal done with wide receiver Koren Robinson, but the sides appear to still be considerably apart on a contract offer. While there is still a chance that the two sides can get a deal worked out before free agency begins late Sunday night, it looks as though K-Rob may hit the open market. Because of the contract he signed last fall, the Vikings have the ability to match a contract offer Robinson receives from another team.
* The buzz around the Patriots training facility is that, if the team loses out to re-sign David Givens (several teams are apparently willing to give him more than the Pats are), the team is seriously considering giving up a third-round draft pick to sign Nate Burleson to an offer sheet. Earlier this week, the Vikings gave Burleson the lowest tender offer they could give the restricted free agent.

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