Defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej has been around the free-agent block enough times to know the procedure: sit, wait, wonder.
While most of the stories at this time of year focus on players that are traveling the country for visits or have signed contracts guaranteeing them millions of dollar, there is another facet to free agency that is often under-publicized—the one that calls for non-superstars to cool their heals and lower their asking price.
That could be the tactic the Vikings are employing as their crawl their way through free agency. Granted, they have signed three players—linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, tight end Visante Shiancoe and wide receiver Bobby Wade—but they haven't signed any players that would be considered blue-chippers.
That probably has as much to do with the quality of the market as anything. The free-agent player pool just isn't very good, and despite teams like the Vikings having $31.5 million under the league-imposed salary cap at the start of free agency, most teams don't want to spend money just because they have cap room. There has to be a player that fits their needs and their systems, and the price has to be right.
While free agency 2007 was expected to be a frenzy of teams paying exorbitant salaries to marginal players, that hasn't been the case too often—although it has happened with some of the top available talent at a position. Still, the majority of free agents remained unsigned.
"There are a ton of guys that aren't signed," said Kolodziej, who is among that cast. "The vibe I've gotten is that no teams are in a hurry to do anything. … There doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency by most clubs."
If anything, the Vikings might be one of the more aggressive teams in free agency this season, even if they haven't signed any superstars. Through Sunday, they had entertained only four free agents and they signed three of them, with wide receiver Kevin Curtis the only holdout.
As of last Thursday, there were 11 teams that didn't even have that many free-agent visits, and none of the other three NFC North division teams have signed as many outside free agents as the Vikings. In fact, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers hadn't signed any outside free agents through the weekend.
Kolodziej said he believes it's proven that, most of the time in free agency, teams are better off spreading out their salary-cap money versus paying out huge contracts to the best player on the market at a position and not being able to afford other needs. He emphasized the "team" aspect of the game, but said the exception might be the quarterback position or a player who is the "pinnacle of his position."
As teams trend toward re-signing their core players before they hit free agency, there aren't many "pinnacle" players out there. This year, the class of offensive guards got its payday, with deals for Eric Steinbach (signed with Cleveland), Chris Dielman (re-signed with San Diego) and Derrick Dockery (signed with Buffalo) each approaching $50 million.
But even with what is generally considered a poor free-agent class, Curtis remains the highest ranked unsigned unrestricted free agent left on Scout.com's 2007 rankings. Curtis ranks 13th overall, and he is expected to sign a contract soon, with either the Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles or New York Giants.
Meanwhile, the Ross Kolodziejs of the NFL world and more than a hundred other free agents like him sit and wait for teams to come calling when they feel their asking prices have been sufficiently driven down.
The Other Side of Free Agency
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