Notebook: Additions of interest to FA market?

There could be two new additions to the free-agent market at positions of interest for the Vikings in the next week as roster bonuses are due. Plus, a contract snag in another position of need is interesting, even if unlikely to cause a major stir, and a restricted Viking could be in line for an offer sheet.

St. Louis-based sports writer/broadcaster Howard Balzer had a couple items of interest to Vikings fans in his writings for The Sports XChange.

The one of most interest involves wide receiver Torry Holt and tackle Orlando Pace, two positions of interest for the Vikings this offseason as they look to upgrade their roster.

To this point, the Vikings haven't signed an outside free agent a dozen days into the opening of the free-agent market, but they had an interest in tackles Jordan Gross and Vernon Carey, who were each re-signed by their respective teams before they could get to the open market. The Vikings also brought top free-agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh in for a visit in an effort to sign him before he opted to ink a five-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks.

Pace and Holt are both under contract with the St. Louis Rams, but they are both expected to be released for salary-cap reasons. According to Balzer, neither player was invited to the Rams' offseason conditioning program, which starts on Monday, while other players expected to participate were sent those invitation letters.

"In addition, Holt has had no contact from anyone in the organization since Steve Spagnuolo was hired as head coach," Balzer writes.

The Rams have reportedly been trying to trade each player, but their current contract and age – Holt has 10 years in the league already and Pace 11 – could be leaving the Rams with limited available suitors, if there are any at all.

Holt is due a $1.25 million roster bonus next Tuesday, making his release before then a probability, and he would count more than $10.2 million against the Rams' salary cap in 2009 if nothing is done with his contract, Balzer reported. If he were traded or released, that would save the Rams about $8 million in cap space (his $2.2 million prorated portion of his contract would still count against the cap).

According to Balzer's report, Pace counts $8.975 million against the 2009 cap and he has two years remaining on his deal.

"The issue is whether the Rams want the status of both players settled before the beginning of the offseason program. Each player could report to the program anyway, and the Rams couldn't stop them," Balzer writes. "An injury, no matter how unlikely, could result in the Rams being on the hook for the player's salary."

CONTRACT SNAG

The second item of interest from Balzer regarding the Rams would seem like only a formality, but with former Vikings center Matt Birk signing with Baltimore and vacating his starting spot in Minnesota, a contractual issue for the top free-agent center Jason Brown is interesting nonetheless.

The Rams, who signed Brown in the early stages of free agency while the Vikings were still trying to work out a deal with Birk, will now have to rework Brown's contract after it was disapproved by the NFL.

"The problem with the original contract centers on a $2.3 million buyback in the deal for the final season. The deal voids after four years if certain performance levels and team accomplishments are reached, but the Rams can buy back that final year for $2.3 million," Balzer writes for the Rams site on Scout.com.

"However, new rules in the NFL that are part of the last year with a salary cap mandate that salaries can't increase by more than 30 percent of the first-year total. Brown will be paid $4 million in salary/roster bonus this season, so no increase in future years can be greater than $1.2 million from the previous year."

Brown's final-year compensation could increase $3.5 million (more than the allowed increase from the previous year) if a buyback option were exercised. It's unlikely that the contract snag would put Brown back on the market looking for work, but it's an interested aside for Vikings fans as the free-agent center position is mostly void of starting possibilities.

FULLBACK OPTION

The Bengals hosted Packers restricted free-agent fullback John Kuhn on Tuesday and could be looking to make a decision on whether or not to sign Kuhn or Vikings restricted free-agent fullback Naufahu Tahi to an offer sheet in the near future.

"Coming out of the first week of free agency putting about $15 million on their salary cap, the Bengals look to be taking a timeout before deciding if they can put together an offer that won't get matched for either one," Geoff Hobson wrote for Bengals.com.

If the Bengals sign Tahi to an offer sheet, the Vikings would have one week to match it. If they decline to match it, they wouldn't receive any compensation for Tahi because he was offered the low tender and was not drafted when he entered the league three years ago.


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