Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)

With the hours counting down to the beginning of free agency tonight, the Vikings and the other 31 teams in the NFL have made their lists, checked them twice and are awaiting the gun to sound that marks the beginning of the free-agent feeding frenzy.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Officially, the 2008 NFL calendar begins at midnight Eastern tonight. As if firing a starter's pistol, free agency will begin and there are a lot of media types that are convinced the Vikings are going to be active participants in free agency once it begins.

Names that have surfaced as potential players of interest to the Vikings are a pair of Bengals defenders – quite ironic considering the pathetic state of the Cincy defense. Safety Madieu Williams is believed to be squarely on the Vikings' radar screen and defensive end Justin Smith could get the most interest the Vikings have shown in a DE since signing Aaron Kampman to an offer sheet only to have it matched by the Packers (good move on their part).

Of course, the position of primary interest to fans is at wide receiver, where the crop of candidates is markedly deeper than last year. Bernard Berrian seems to be the flavor of the month, but word out of Chicago is that he turned down a Bears offer of five years, $25 million with $8-10 million of that guaranteed. If that's the case, he may be a little too spendy, but his deep speed makes him tantalizing. However, he is far from alone on the market. D.J. Hackett, Donte Stallworth and Jerry Porter are all likely to cash in over the few days or weeks and could command a lot of attention on the open market.

Will the Vikings be active early? It hasn't seemed to be the M.O. of Brad Childress to jump extremely quickly when it comes to the free-agent period. But the Vikings are $30 million under the cap and if they're convinced there are a couple of players that can make a big impact with the team, don't be stunned to see the Vikings being among the early bites in the free-agent feeding frenzy.

The team needs to maintain its fan base. Adrian Peterson was a great start. Making a splash on the free agent market could only increase that interest, which is something the Vikings desperately need as they continue to try to work on getting a new stadium deal done.

Tick, tock. The clock is ticking. Let's see if the Vikings make the big leap early into the deep end of the free-agent pool.

* Dwight Smith wasn't unemployed long. Smith, who was released by the Vikings last week in a move many felt was motivated by a series of incidents that ranged from being busted by police for indecent conduct while in a stairwell in downtown Minneapolis to being late for meetings to an argument with the coaching staff to being cited for marijuana possession last December, has landed on his feet. Smith signed a two-year deal with the Lions. Terms were not disclosed, but the Lions can take safety off their shopping list for free agency or the draft – there were some who felt the Lions might consider Miami safety Kenny Phillips with the 15th pick in the draft.
* Interesting, Yet Annoying Bit of the Week. The next time you do a Google News Search, type in "Darren McFadden" and "Adrian Peterson." It's almost spooky. It would seem every time a football writer discusses McFadden, the term "…has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson" inevitably follows. If that hype keeps building, look for somebody to trade into a spot to grab him in the top three or four slots.
* Former Vikings quarterback Sean Salisbury is taking the end of his ESPN with some positive spin. In a statement made by Salisbury, he said he "decided to expand my horizons." He also added that his name recognition has "created a brand and it's time to expand into opportunities in TV, radio, Internet, publishing, movies and public speaking, among others." It begs the question "what ‘others' are there?" That pretty much covers everything except handsome cab driver. We anxiously await Sean's next movie project.
* The Rams are expected to announce today that they have released former Vikings QB Gus Frerotte.
* Childress said he had no interest in David Carr when the Texans were dangling him for trade offers last year. The Vikings never bit and made no effort to sign Carr when he was eventually released. He did sign with the Panthers, but the former No. 1 overall pick was released Wednesday.
* Reports are saying that the Patriots might be willing to give Randy Moss a three-year deal that could be worth up to $10 million a season, with $12-15 million in guaranteed money. For an organization that has never spent to that level, the proof will be in the pudding.
* Mike Tice is keeping the band together. Not only have the Jags traded for Troy Williamson, but signed former Vikings Todd Bouman and Richard Angulo to new deals this week.

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