The Vikings' need for a center in the near future will boil down to one critical contract – that of Pro Bowl center Matt Birk. Birk is signed through the 2008 season and, while the team would like to sign him long-term, they still haven't been able to get an extension done to date.
If the Vikings are unable to come to terms with the St. Paul native beyond the 2008 season, they have a number of options.
They could move right tackle Ryan Cook inside to center, the position he played throughout his career at New Mexico before becoming a surprised second-round pick in the 2006 draft. Guard Anthony Herrera has also taken limited practice snaps at center throughout the last couple of years, but it would appear that the long-term future of the position will be one of three options: 1) The Vikings and Birk do eventually agree on a contract that extends beyond the 2008 season; 2) Cook moves inside to center and the team finds another right tackle; 3) The team goes in a completely different direction and makes a move in free agency or the draft in 2008 or 2009.
If they are looking for a veteran backup this season to Birk, there are a number of options expected to be available in free agency. We list the centers scheduled to be unrestricted and restricted free agents in March, including their years of NFL service in parentheses.
Jason Whittle, Buffalo Bills (9)
Alex Stepanovich, Cincinnati Bengals (4)
Lennie Friedman, Cleveland Browns (9)
Tyson Walter, Green Bay Packers (6)
Casey Wiegmann, Kansas City Chiefs (12)
Jonathan Goodwin, New Orleans Saints (6)
Wade Smith, New York Jets (5)
Jeremy Newberry, Oakland Raiders (10)
Andy McCollum, St. Louis Rams (14)
Brett Romerg, St. Louis Rams (4)
Matt Lehr, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7)
Ethan Albright, Washington Redskins (13)
Mike Pucillo, Washington Redskins (6)
Ross Tucker, Washington Redskins (4)
Scott Jackson, Houston Texans (3)
Dan Connolly, New England Patriots (3)
2008 Free Agents: Centers
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