As a restricted free agent, defensive tackle Fred Evans likely will receive a tender from the Vikings that keeps him in purple for at least another year.
Evans became more of a contributor in 2008 and could be relied on even more in 2009, depending on how the courts rule on the cases of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, who were handed four-game suspensions by the NFL that they appealed. Those cases are still wrapped up in court.
It wasn't the legal maneuverings that caused Evans to make his first NFL start for Pat Williams; instead, Pat was held out of a game for the first time as a Viking against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 21.
The theory was that the Falcons ran right at Evans, but he wasn't so sure it was a cause and effect with Williams out and the Falcons' interior running game.
"You could say, ‘Yeah.' But at the same time you could just say that it was their game plan. Maybe if Pat was in there they wouldn't have tried to run so much up the middle. You never know," Evans said. "I've just been preparing the same way I prepare and be ready either way. I can't really worry about what the other team is going to do, as far as I just have to worry about what I do."
What he's been doing is increasing his value to the Vikings. He played in 11 games in 2007, his first with the Vikings. Last year, he played in all 16, starting two.
"I'm just trying to progress, just learn from it and keep moving on. I feel like I've done a pretty good job progressing in what I've done, just getting better game by game," he said.
Evans finished the season with 17 tackles, one tackle-for-loss and 16 quarterback hurries. His most productive game was during a November outing against the Houston Texans, when he notched five quarterback hurries. He also finished with an appreciation for the opportunity to show his worth as a pending free agent.
"Restricted or (unrestricted) free agent, it don't matter. I just always appreciate the opportunity to play, especially after getting a fresh start, a fresh opportunity to play an extensive amount. It was fun," he said.
With backup defensive tackles Jimmy Kennedy and Ellis Wyms also up for free agency, the Vikings have some decisions to make at the position, especially with an uncertain future for Pat and Kevin Williams to start the season. Frankly, Evans didn't have any idea if the organization would be coming after him in free agency or not.
"I'm not sure. It's a great team and a great organization. I would love to be a part of the Vikings as long as I could," he said.
More than likely, with little risk involved as a restricted free agent, they will grant his wish.
Evans' opportunity came at ideal time
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