Notebook: Free Agency, Stadiums & More

The Vikings are one of the leaders in signing free agents to date, but their stadium situation is one of the worst in the league and the financing for a future facility could change. Get those notes and more inside.

Just how aggressive were the Vikings in free agency this year, when then they entered the open-market signing period with more than $36 million under the salary cap? So far, they are tied for signing the second-most unrestricted free agents from other teams.

As of March 31, 113 unrestricted free agents had signed with new teams and only 71 had re-signed with their current team. The Vikings acquired eight of those 113 "new" players with their signings of WR Bernard Berrian, S Michael Boulware, RB Maurice Hicks, LB Derrick Pope, CB Benny Sapp, RB Thomas Tapeh, S Madieu Williams and DT Ellis Wyms.

Only the Dolphins have signed more unrestricted free agents from other teams than the Vikings have added, with Miami having signed nine unrestricted free agents before the start of April. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also signed eight free agents to tie with Minnesota.

The only unrestricted free agent who re-signed with the Vikings was wide receiver Robert Ferguson. Safety Mike Doss, cornerback Ronyell Whitaker and defensive end Darrion Scott – all with the team last year – remain on the market.

Only two restricted free agents in the NFL signed with a new club – CB Kalvin Pearson joined the Lions and TE Ben Utecht became a Bengal. Vikings LB Heath Farwell was one of 19 restricted free agents that re-signed with their old club.


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at the owners meetings that the G-3 program to assist NFL teams in financing a stadium has been "exhausted." That news is relevant to the Vikings, who were approved last week to conduct a $2 million study into the feasibility of a constructing a new stadium where the Metrodome currently stands. That study will be conducted in conjunction with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which runs the Metrodome.

"It does impact on the costs of stadiums and the financing to build those stadiums. G-3 has been exhausted and we are looking at alternatives to the G-3 program that would have to be done in the structure of either a new CBA or new revenue sharing," Goodell said.

The Vikings have been among the league's lowest teams in producing revenue from their stadium, and the revenue sharing that the league institutes has helped their overall financial position.

"We have more revenue sharing than any league in professional sports and I think globally. Our system has proven that it works extremely well and I also believe that our ownership has gone back and revisited it whenever necessary to make improvements to revenue sharing as recently as two years ago," Goodell said. "Prior to that, we made significant improvements to it when we realigned our league. The incentives are in the right place and we've made the right decisions."

However, the league is reportedly carrying $9 billion in debt, much of that tied to financial assistance for constructing stadiums. Despite that, the NFL is expected to find some sort of alternative funding to the G-3 plan that has run its course.


Goodell outlined his challenges for this week's meetings.

"I divided it into three categories," he said. "The first is making sure we keep the game strong. The second is making sure we have a strong economic foundation to make sure that all teams have the ability to be competitive. The third is the changing media environment. It is changing rapidly. I think that's opportunities for us. We still believe strongly that broadening our exposure is the most valuable thing we can do.

"I think the basis of why the NFL has continued to be so popular is because we appeal to a very broad audience. We've been successful on network television and we believe that continuing in that way is important. On the other hand, we need to look at some of these new technologies that can supplement that network coverage."


  • No Viking was among the league's top 25 players in performance-based pay, a system that rewards lower-salaried players for playing time.

  • The Vikings were among the 25 teams that voted for a proposal at the ongoing owners meetings to allow a communication system from a coach to a defensive player during games. Only one defensive player in the game can have a helmet equipped with the communication system, and if that player leaves the game only one other player can be designated to have a backup helmet with the system. If both players leave the game, a third player would not be allowed to have a specially equipped helmet. Green Bay, Oakland, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Washington all voted against the proposal.

  • It's becoming more and more apparent that the Vikings' mass visit before the draft will be held on April 9-10. Defensive end Jason Jones, whose visit to Winter Park we reported on earlier this week, will visit on those days and joins a number of other players scheduled to visit on those days. The team will only confirm that it is having predraft visits, not the dates of the mass visit.

  • While Goodell was asked about another player who could face fines or a suspension, Bryant McKinnie's legal troubles might be reviewed by the commissioner in the coming weeks.

    "There are a few cases that I have waiting for me when I get back from this meeting that I will be looking at," Goodell said. "There are at least three or four that I am going to be reviewing."

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