Vikings Eye New Option

Even while the Vikings wait on a decision with their offer sheet to Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson, they are turning their attention back to other positions.

The Vikings have already lost out on some free agent candidates while waiting for a decision on a seven-year, $49 million offer sheet they signed with Seattle transition guard Steve Hutchinson.

The $13 million cap hit that Hutchinson would require in 2006 is a major factor in how aggressive the Vikings have been in the last week and how aggressive they could be in pursuing other positions in the coming weeks.

They weren't willing to dispense a $3 million signing bonus for 35-year-old fullback William Henderson after both sides agreed he would be a good fit for the Vikings. The two sides met on Wednesday, but Friday Henderson re-signed with the Green Bay Packers.

That has the Vikings eyeing up Kansas City fullback Tony Richardson.

The 34-year-old Richardson has played his entire 11-year career in Kansas City.

His first four years in the league didn't yield much action, but in 1999 he became a full-time starter and began to carry the ball more, rushing more than 60 times in each of the next four seasons. However, since 2002, Richardson has been used mainly as a blocker in the Chiefs offense, clearing the way for record-setting running back Priest Holmes and last year Larry Johnson.

Richardson has gained 1,576 yards on 395 carries with 15 touchdowns and 118 first downs. He has started 96 of the 163 games in which he has played.

The 6-foot-1, 238-pounder is also a decent receiver, but has been limited in that role in the last four years. He has 1,298 yards receiving on 177 catches (7.3-yard average), nine touchdowns and 56 first downs in his career.

Richardson would offer a little better rushing threat than Henderson, but Henderson might be the better pass-catcher and is about 25 pounds heavier than Richardson. While Henderson has about twice as many receiving yards in his career, Richardson has more than three times the rushing yards of Henderson.

Either way, the main role for the Vikings fullback is expected to be blocking for running back Chester Taylor and others and protecting the quarterback.

For the first time in years, Vikings will use a fullback in their new offensive scheme and already signed street free agent Joey Goodspeed last month.

  • New England Patriots free agent guard Stephan Neal is visiting with Buffalo today. Neal visited with the Vikings earlier this week and would be of interest to them if Seattle is able to match the offer sheet for Hutchinson.

  • According to a league source, Vikings tackle Mike Rosenthal is close to agreeing to a restructured deal with the team.

  • The Vikings had an interest in unrestricted free agent quarterback Gus Frerrotte, who was released by the Dolphins on Tuesday when they acquired Daunte Culpepper. However, Scott Linehan and the St. Louis Rams beat the Vikings to the punch.

    "Gus will be our backup quarterback," Linehan said. "Having coached him for the past three years, he has great knowledge of our system. He was 12-6 as a starter for me as offensive coordinator, and he'll be a great asset for (starting QB) Marc (Bulger), as well as our team, because of his background and experience.

  • Another backup quarterback went off the market when the New York Jets acquired quarterback Patrick Ramsey from the Washington Redskins in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Ramsey, 6-3, 225 pounds, was a first-round selection by Washington in 2002 out of Tulane University and joins the Jets after spending four seasons with the Redskins. The four-year NFL veteran has completed 480 of 861 pass attempts for 5,649 yards while tossing 34 touchdowns against 29 interceptions and recorded a passer rating of 75.0 in 34 NFL games.

  • Despite speculation prior to free agency that the Vikings would pursue Philadelphia free agent right tackle Jon Runyan, the team has shown no interest in him to date.

  • The Vikings might still need to bolster their depth at cornerback behind Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot, but another solid nickel back option, Pittsburgh's Deshea Townsend, went off the board on Friday. Townsend signed a four-year deal with the Steelers. He had been an unrestricted free agent.

  • The Vikings have also been looking for a strong safety in free agency, but the best left on the market, Lawyer Milloy, signed a three-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons on Friday. Milloy, 6-0 and 190 pounds, is a four-time Pro Bowler who has started 149 of 155 games since being drafted in the second round of the 1996 draft by the New England Patriots. He has been a part of two Super Bowl teams (1996 and 2001) as a member of the New England Patriots, which includes a Super Bowl XXXVI 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams. Milloy reportedly received a three-year, $6 million contract with a $2.5 million signing bonus. He probably commanded more money than the Vikings are willing spend on that position. Different teams place more value on certain positions.

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