Throughout most of January, the Vikings were reported to have about $23 million in cap space to work with heading towards the March 2 start of free agency.
Then, in early February, Scout.com obtained information on each team's cap number, with the Vikings registering at $12.4 million, about half of what they were originally thought to have and about one-third of league leader San Francisco's $37.6 million.
It was under those assumptions that Vikings head coach Brad Childress was asked last week about the team's outlook in free agency versus the richer teams – at the time, four teams were expected to have more than $30 million under the cap and another eight more than $20 million.
"I feel it's just important that you use a discipline (in free agency)," Childress said. "Where you might be able to go get a need you feel you have for your team in free agency, you're going to make a mistake if you're going to get a need in the draft because you tend to push people up a draft board in that case. … (In free agency), you want to take them at the right price."
Earlier this week, VikingUpdate.com was told the team expected to have between $20 million and $25 million before free agency started at 11 p.m. Central on Thursday.
A league source now informs us that the Vikings are projected to be $31.5 million under the league-imposed $109 million salary cap.
It's uncertain if other teams' cap numbers have improved as well, but with at least a handful of teams expected to have more than $30 million below the cap, several of the top veterans in a generally weak free-agent class could reap the benefits of the NFL's increasing wealth.
"It will all be in the eye of the beholder whether (teams) are overpaying or not. Everybody is going to set a price and a value on how high they go, but it is a fact there is a lot of money out there," Childress said. "I may say or we may say that somebody got overpaid, but it's the team that's doing it that doesn't feel that way.
"I guess the thing that's in fashion is to say that Steve Hutchinson was overpaid, but just as the evolution of how things go, somebody is going to go north of there and then your going to look and go, ‘That was reasonable.' At the time it was earth-shattering, but everything is relative as we go."
The Vikings have talked about ceilings where they would cap the value of free agents and have even gone so far as to project their cap position out three years, as well as the cap position of other teams, under the leadership of Rob Brzezinski, the team's vice president of football operations and one of the league's leading cap gurus.
"He has an idea of teams that might be coming up that are in jeopardy or in good shape," Childress said.
Brzezinski, Childress and Rick Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel, will all have a hand in which players the team signs – "I think we'll all be right in the middle of that," Childress said – but they are determined not to be disciplined in their approach, especially in a market loaded with money where the talent may not be equal.
Vikings Now Cap Cash Cows?
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