Wilf Commits Funds to Rookie Free Agents

Zygi Wilf's financial commitment to building his roster didn't stop with the signing of big-name free agent Jared Allen. All the way down to the undrafted rookie free agents, Wilf has shown a willingness to spend to improve every level of the roster and at least two of those rookies are benefitting.

The Vikings floated the notion several times over the last week that it would be harder this year to sign undrafted rookies that would be able to contribute to the team.

The thinking went like this: The rookies and their agents would see the roster and might decide on another team thinking they would have a better chance to make that team; and even if they did sign with the Vikings, the team's roster is in better shape and therefore the coaching staff might not be able to find a contributing role for them.

This isn't the first time that thinking has taken place. A year after Mike Tice took over the team and said the roster was full of holes, he felt he had shored it up enough to declare the same theory now being espoused by the current coaching staff. A changing of schemes and coaching staffs always seems to take a year or two of acquiring "their" players in order to feel that the roster has been sufficiently tightened.

So how did the Vikings come away with at least a handful of quality rookie free agents that were expected to be drafted in the middle to late rounds but went unsigned? The answer, in some cases, is simple: money.

"I know our scouts and our coaches and everybody are anxiously awaiting the end of this draft so we can get going on those free agents because we've had some success here in the past, and even last year going after the top college free agents," vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said within minutes of the Vikings making their final draft pick in the sixth round. "We'll be just as aggressive this year. Zygi, we're allowed to do that this year, right? Zygi and Mark (Wilf) over there, this is their (most fun) time of the draft … the bidding war on free agents."

Some rookie free agents sign a contract with very little or no signing bonus, but the coveted ones can sometimes command thousands of dollars in a signing bonus as teams bid for their services shortly after the draft. In about three hours of work immediately following the draft, the Vikings had agreed to terms with 16 undrafted free agents, and Scout.com has learned that at least two of them – offensive lineman Drew Radovich of USC and defensive end Martail Burnett of Utah – secured signing bonuses of in excess of $20,000 each.

Radovich was the seventh-ranked guard on the predraft list compiled by former NFL scout Tom Marino and rated as a third- or fourth-round value, but Bennett was not among the top 40 defensive ends that Marino ranked.

Others, whose contract details we aren't privy to, were just as highly regarded as Radovich before the draft. Maryland linebacker Erin Henderson was Marino's sixth-ranked middle linebacker and considered a third- or fourth-round value, just like Radovich.

"There are sales pitches that you use and there are many sales pitches that go on during free agency. We're fortunate enough to have ownership where sometimes finances could come into play to go out and get the best available player. We're very fortunate to have that capability, if there is a guy that we really want out there that we can go out and get," Spielman said.

TWO TRYOUT GUYS

The Vikings will be holding a three-day rookie minicamp, starting Friday, and two players who will be taking part in that on a tryout basis are Southern Utah center Matt Roan and Southern Methodist offensive lineman Kenard Burley.

In addition to Roan, the Vikings drafted Notre Dame center John Sullivan in the sixth round and signed Stanford center Tim Mattran to a free-agent contract.

In addition to Henderson, the Vikings agreed to contract terms with Illinois linebacker J. Leman, but his comments to the Chicago Tribune may leave some room for confusion considering the Henderson signing.

"They didn't draft a linebacker and they're not going to sign any other linebackers," Leman told the Chicago Tribune said after speaking to the Vikings.

RACING RANDY

Former Vikings receiver Randy Moss, now with the New England Patriots, announced the formation of Moss Motorsports on Tuesday, saying he wanted to have a NASCAR Craftsman Truck series team in place by the end of the year. However, he doesn't have a driver or sponsors lined up yet.

"I am by nature a very competitive person and this is an outlet for me to compete at another level," Moss was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story. "There are some pretty awesome challenges in building a program like this from the ground up, but I am looking forward to it."

NOTE

  • Former Maryland linebacker William Kershaw, whom the Vikings gave a tryout to last September, was released by the Denver Broncos earlier this week.


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