Will Work For Food

With training camps counting down the days until all NFL teams are officially back to work by the end of the month, several big-name players and those in the minds of Vikings fans remain on the unemployment line -- waiting for the call to come back to the game.

It truly sucks getting old in the NFL.

Unlike most professions, where knowledge of your chosen field is always a plus, the NFL is a young man's game and the promise of the future many times outweighs more qualified candidates.

With less than a month to go before training camps open around the country, there are still several free agents that, while currently in retirement (forced or unforced), would be likely be willing to step back into a lineup if the phone was to ring. That list includes several former Vikings.

Free agency took a new spin this year, as the Vikings and Seahawks did their best to force the owners and players union to discuss the future of the transition tag. Steve Hutchinson was just the third player since the turn of the century to be slapped with the transition tag and, thanks to some intelligent manipulation of the existing rules, the Vikings made their contract with Hutchinson such a cap-buster for the Seahawks that most teams will likely be unwilling to use the transition designation again. Of the three players franchised in 2006 – the first to hit the market since 1999 – only one (John Abraham) was deemed a true franchise player. He was traded to the Falcons. The other two, Jeff Backus and Nate Clements, remain with their former teams.

As July dawns, several veterans remain on the open market with no place to call home. Need some former Vikings? How about defensive backs Ralph Brown, DeWayne Washington, Denard Walker and Dale Carter, linebackers Chris Claiborne, Artie Ulmer and Nick Rogers, defensive lineman Duane Clemons, offensive linemen Cory Withrow, Adam Haayer and Billy Conaty, kicker Paul Edinger, running back Moe Williams and fullback Harold Morrow.

Not enough? Need a QB? Kerry Collins and Jeff Blake are available. At running back, Stephen Davis, J.R. Redmond and Jonathon Wells can be had. At wide receiver, how about Johnnie Morton, Dez White, Az Hakim or Kevin Johnson? A tight end? Chad Lewis is out there. Defensive line needs? Grady Jackson, Marco Coleman and Travis Hall aren't doing anything. Linebacker? Nate, Wayne, Peter Boulware and Michael Barrow don't have any short-term plans. Need a veteran D-back? Ty Law, Deion Sanders, Lance Shulters, Antuan Edwards, Jerry Azumah, Terrell Buckley, Ahmed Plummer and Terry Fair are all looking for work.

Will the majority of these guys end up filing their retirement paperwork later this year? Most likely. But, when you go to war, sometimes the old dogs come out from under the porch for one last dust-up. When the need comes, you reach for a soldier of fortune. And there are several out there waiting to get the call.

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