While much of the excitement around this time of year centers on new players acquired, it appears the Vikings are willing to let go of many of their own free agents.
After spending time at the NFL Combine, new coach Brad Childress
and vice presidents Fran Foley and Rob Brzezinski returned to the Vikings' Winter Park facility to put the finishing touches on getting ready for free agency. And it might even start this week.
The Vikings have plenty of money to spend ($24 million) and owner Zygi Wilf has made it clear that unlike former owner Red McCombs he isn't looking to place any restrictions on pursuing free agents.
Wilf not only wants to win but he also is trying to get a new stadium and knows that showing a willingness to put a good product on the field could make believers of Minnesota taxpayers.
Look for the Vikings to make an early splash in free agency with at least one big-name signing, if not more. Foley, however, has made it clear that his philosophy is to build through the draft and supplement through free agency.
Here is a review of the Vikings' own players in the free agent market.
CB Brian Williams
(tendered at $4.774M).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
RB Michael Bennett was in and out of starting role in 2005; has been told the Vikings won't attempt to re-sign him.
CB Ralph Brown has been informed he won't be brought back after being used in nickel and dime situations in 2005.
SS Corey Chavous is expected to walk after being unhappy about his salary last season. There is an outside chance that front office changes could alter his opinion.
LB Sam Cowart provided stability in the middle but the soon-to-be 31-year-old isn't thought to be a good fit for the "Tampa 2" defense that new coordinator Mike Tomlin will run.
K Paul Edinger hit three game-winning kicks in his first season with the Vikings, but with plenty of salary-cap room, the organization could take a run at a free-agent kicker.
G Toniu Fonoti has shown potential, but inability to keep his weight down and injury problems might cause Brad Childress to let him move. There continues to be talks between the two sides.
C Melvin Fowler spent much of the season starting in place of the injured Matt Birk. But with Birk expected back, Fowler likely will look for a starting job.
QB Shaun Hill has been told the Vikings will let him walk after spending the past four seasons with the team.
DE Lance Johnstone has proven himself as a valuable pass-rush specialist but could get a better offer elsewhere. He isn't an every-down player.
LB Keith Newman had an excellent 2005, moving into starting role after Napoleon Harris struggled, but might not be suited for the coverage responsibilities in the "Tampa 2" defense.
S Willie Offord got off to good start last season but knee injury knocked him out in late September. He signed a two-year, incentive-laden contract to return and potentially compete for the starting job.
WR Koren Robinson rebounded from off-the-field problems to make Pro Bowl as kick return specialist. He could thrive in West Coast offense under Brad Childress. Although he's considered unrestricted, the Vikings do have an unusual clause in this deal that enables them to match any offer.
LB Raonall Smith only saw spotty playing time under former coach Mike Tice but has the speed to compete for a significant role in the new defensive scheme.
RB Moe Williams had season ended because of knee surgery in November and could retire after 10 seasons.
C Cory Withrow has proven himself as a dependable backup but has been told the Vikings aren't planning to bring him back.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
WR Nate Burleson battled various injuries last season after being expected to be a key replacement for Randy Moss. He still has plenty of upside at only 24 years of age and was tendered a $712,000 offer, which would yield a third-round draft choice if he signed an offer sheet with another team and the Vikings declined to match it.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
OG Adam Goldberg.
G/C Jason Whilttle.
CB Ronyell Whitaker.
FB Joey Goodspeed.