Another Defender In Vikings' Mix

Most of the early free agent speculation for the Vikings centered around the offense. However, it appears two starting defensive players scheduled to hit the free agent market Sunday night are garnering interest from the team.

Another defensive player appears to be attracting the attention of the Vikings—San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Ben Leber, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Leber would likely play the strong side for the Vikings if they signed him, and vice president of player personnel Fran Foley is familiar with him from his tenure with San Diego.

Besides the Foley connection, Leber has ties to the area, growing up in Vermillion, S.D., and his oldest brother Jason was an All-America running back at the University of South Dakota.

In four seasons with the Chargers, Leber has 235 tackles. The 6-foot-3, 244-pounder was a third-round draft choice of San Diego in 2002.

The Vikings are already thought to be interested in Carolina Panthers weakside linebacker Will Witherspoon, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The weakside linebacker is very important in the scheme defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin will run (see Derrick Brooks and Cato June). With lots of available salary cap space, they could make it very hard for the Panthers or any other team to sign Witherspoon.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Cincinnati Bengals – According to a team source, look for the team to make a hard run at signing veteran DT Sam Adams, who was released by the Buffalo Bills recently. Adams played for head coach Marvin Lewis with the Baltimore Ravens when Lewis was defensive coordinator. In an interesting twist, Adams passed up signing with the Bengals prior to the 2003 season and decided to accept less money to sign with the Bills because he thought they were the better team. As it turned out, Lewis became the head man with the Bengals in the 2003 season and they've been on the rise ever since. The source also pointed out that it wouldn't be surprising to see Adams take a little less money to sign with the Bengals if he had to because of his strong relationship with Lewis.

Philadelphia Eagles – The team has been compiling a list of available free agent centers and also has their eye on ones that will be released so it's a virtual lock that one is signed. The No. 1 target on their list to sign at the position is New Orleans C LeCharles Bentley who scout.com reported back at the Super Bowl wouldn't be re-signing with the Saints. According to a published report, Bentley denied a report that he'll be signing with the Eagles on Monday. However, a team source indicated to scout.com that Bentley had to deny any association with the Eagles because of possible tampering charges. The source said to expect Bentley to become a Philadelphia Eagle within the first days of the start of free agency.

As scout.com first reported earlier this week, the team also has interest in New York Jets C Kevin Mawae, who has been told he'll be released.

On the defensive of the ball, look for the team to sign a veteran weakside linebacker to compete for the starting job against second-year LB Matt McCoy. Possibilities are Jamie Sharper, who was recently released by Seattle, Scott Fujita (Dallas Cowboys), and Shawn Barber, who was recently released by Kansas City. Barber played one season for the Eagles back in 2002.

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