Smith Could Benefit From Early Release

The release of Dwight Smith, while not a shock to many, leaves the Vikings and Smith in a clear position. The Vikings now have a starting job open to offer potential free agents and Smith, unlike after he was released by New Orleans in July of 2006, has the chance to negotiate with every team and work a deal and a situation that is best for him.

The release of Dwight Smith may have been the best thing that could have happened given the circumstances for both he and the Vikings. Smith, a two-year starter released Wednesday, was set to get a base salary of $2.5 million and a roster bonus of another $500,000 – almost half the total of his three-year $6.5 million contract he signed prior to the 2006 season.

By releasing him now, the Vikings open up more salary cap space and can head into free agency and the draft targeting a potential starter for the position. As it currently stands, the Vikings are shorthanded at safety. Aside from Darren Sharper, the other two safeties on the roster were injured veterans Mike Doss and Tank Williams. Doss, who signed a one-year deal last season, is an unrestricted free agent and both he and Williams spent much of the 2007 season injured.

For Smith, the advantage of being released now also comes as a benefit. When he was cut by the Saints in 2006, the team waited until July to make the decision. By that time, many teams had solidified their safety position and Smith's options were minimal. By being cut before free agency, Smith is free to negotiate with any team he chooses and there will likely be a market for his services.

One team that is likely to express an interest is the Steelers. Head coach Mike Tomlin was Smith's position coach in Tampa Bay when the Bucs won the Super Bowl and he was believed to be instrumental in pushing for the Vikings to sign Smith when he became available in 2006.

Neither Smith nor the Vikings would confirm that his release had anything to do with his off-field incidents or a pair of benchings resulting from a run-in with Brad Childress and being late for team meetings. While it seems clear the NFL hasn't seen the last of Smith, the Vikings have.

* The tight end market in free agency underwent some turnover Wednesday. Dallas Clark of the Colts signed a six-year deal that allowed the Colts to remove the franchise tag from him, while Bubba Franks, a former franchise designation of the Packers, was released – allowing him to join the free agent pool.
* The Packers were concerned that they would lose defensive tackle Corey Williams to free agency, so the team slapped him with the franchise designation Wednesday.
* A pair of highly-sought cornerbacks were taken off the free agent market Wednesday, as the Seahawks franchised Marcus Trufant and the Raiders exercised their exclusive franchise tag to Nnamdi Asomugha, meaning he will get no less than $9.8 million from the Raiders this season.
* Word is coming out that the Browns are close to agreeing on a three-year deal with restricted free agent quarterback Derek Anderson. Terms of the deal aren't being discussed, but it is assumed it would be for starting QB money, which could make 2007 first-round pick Brady Quinn potential trade bait.
* There continues to be buzz out of Chicago that the Vikings are one of the primary teams interested in potentially signing recently-released Dolphins wide receiver Marty Booker.

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