Second Wave of Free Agency Provides Depth

After an initial flurry of free agency that provided three starters in the opening days of the signing period, the Vikings have used the last two weeks to provide depth at certain positions and special teams prowess.

The Vikings continued to be busy in the second wave of free agency, signing defensive linemen Kenderick Allen and Ellis Wyms, linebackers Derrick Pope and Dallas Sartz, safety Michael Boulware and re-signing wide receiver Robert Ferguson.

The versatile Wyms, who spent last season with Seattle, can be used as a pass-rusher off the end and also has the ability to play the nose and the 3-technique spots inside.

Pope will be used behind starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson but is likely to find himself backing up all three positions. The former Miami Dolphin also will strengthen the Vikings' special teams. Sartz, meanwhile, is a street free agent and will provide depth in training camp.

Boulware provides depth at the safety spot and also will be used on special teams. He didn't return to the Houston Texans in part because the team wanted to use him at linebacker and not safety.

Ferguson became the first of the Vikings' nine unrestricted free agents to re-sign when he agreed to a one-year deal that will pay $1 million with a chance to earn another $500,000 or $600,000 in incentives.

TEAM NEEDS

While the additions of Kenderick Allen and Ellis Wyms begin to add depth at defensive end, the Vikings need more help in this area. Starting left end Kenechi Udeze will miss the 2008 season after being diagnosed with leukemia and right end Erasmus James' immediate future is uncertain as he tries to return from knee problems.

That leaves the Vikings with a defensive end corps that includes Ray Edwards, Jayme Mitchell, Brian Robison, Otis Grigsby and Wyms. There remains an outside chance that unrestricted free agent Darrion Scott could return and the team has an interest in free agent James Hall.

1. Defensive end: The Vikings were hoping to lure a free agent such as Justin Smith, Antwan Odom or Jevon Kearse, but all three ended up elsewhere. The addition of the versatile Wyms, who can play inside and outside, should help. However, the Vikings must continue to address this area and likely will do so through the draft.

2. Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson is all but guaranteed the starting job, but if Jackson falters the Vikings could be in big trouble. And they know it. Brooks Bollinger is currently the No. 2 quarterback but doesn't figure to remain in that role. The team continues to explore its options to bring in someone else at this position to at least push Jackson.

3. Offensive line: The Vikings are set with their starters but depth is an issue and needs to be addressed. Center Matt Birk will be entering his 11th season and doesn't have a true backup. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie's recent legal troubles in Miami could mean the NFL will take disciplinary action against him. If McKinnie is suspended his replacement would be Artis Hicks. That's far from an ideal situation.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • S Mike Doss made little impact in first season with the Vikings; likely will be allowed to find work elsewhere.

  • DE Darrion Scott had 2007 season ended early by injury after recording team-high 5.5 sacks the previous year.

  • CB Ronyell Whitaker (not tendered as RFA) was used primarily on special teams.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • LB Heath Farwell (tendered at $1.47M with second-round pick as compensation) is a special teams ace who is almost certain to remain in Minnesota.

    PLAYERS ACQUIRED

  • WR Bernard Berrian: UFA Bears; $42M/6 yrs, $$5M SB/$8M RB; $3M RB ‘09; 2008 cap: $9.538M.

  • S Michael Boulware: UFA Texans; terms unknown.

  • RB Maurice Hicks: UFA 49ers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

  • LB Derrick Pope: UFA Dolphins; terms unknown.

  • FB Thomas Tapeh: UFA Eagles; $6M/5 yrs, $1.2M guaranteed.

  • S Madieu Williams: UFA Bengals; $34M/6 yrs, $13M guaranteed.

  • DL Ellis Wyms: UFA Seahawks; $1.5M/1 yr, $500,000 SB.

    PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

  • WR Robert Ferguson: UFA; $1M/1 yr, SB unknown.

    PLAYERS LOST

  • QB Kelly Holcomb (released).

  • DT Spencer Johnson: UFA Bills; $17.5M/5 yrs, $6M guaranteed.

  • RB Mewelde Moore: UFA Steelers; $4.95M/3 yrs, $1.35M SB; 2008 cap: $1.1M.

  • FB Tony Richardson: UFA Jets; $875,000/1 yr, SB unknown.

  • S Dwight Smith (released).

  • LB Dontarrious Thomas: UFA 49ers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

  • S Tank Williams: UFA Patriots; $645,000/1 yr, $40,000 WO.

  • WR Troy Williamson (traded Jaguars).


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