Vikings looking to keep the band together

The Vikings haven't signed any big outside free agents, but they appear willing to use their extra cap space to extend the contracts of starters who be free agents in the coming years.

The Vikings might not have been very active in free agency this offseason but it does appear the team is taking a proactive approach to retaining its own players.

Talks are ongoing with veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, who is entering the final season of his contract, and cornerback Cedric Griffin received a five-year, $25 million extension two weeks ago. And that might just be the start.

It's probably a safe assumption that talks of extensions could begin in the coming months with linebacker Chad Greenway (two years left on his contract), running back Chester Taylor (one year) and even Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson (three years).

"Rob (Brzezinski, the Vikings' vice president of football operations) does a great job of all those projection-type things," coach Brad Childress said. "I really wouldn't want to comment on (individual players) but, yeah, you're looking at the guys that are next, next, next where you can go out and do that. Those deals don't just happen. You've got to have them on the radar for them to happen."

The Vikings allowed veteran center Matt Birk (Baltimore) and safety Darren Sharper (New Orleans) to leave as free agents last month but since Childress took over in 2006 they have locked up several of their own.

The list of players who have received contract extensions under Childress includes defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams, linebacker E.J. Henderson, left tackle Bryant McKinnie and punter Chris Kluwe.

Childress said the Vikings' approach with Griffin and Winfield is not necessarily a reflection of the team having extra money because it elected to tread lightly into the free-agent market.

"Yes and no," he said. "Sometimes you get presented with, ‘You can have this guy or this guy,' or, ‘You don't do this guy, you can do these guys.' We go with the philosophy that you identify the guys that you want to keep and then you try to keep them.

"... Everybody can say, the constituency can say, ‘I wish they would have been more active in free agency.' Well, you get spoiled by signing three good players last year. (The Vikings signed or traded for defensive end Jared Allen, wide receiver Bernard Berrian and safety Madieu Williams.) But those players weren't out this year, quite honestly. It was kind of a watered-down group. And you know what, only to get more watered down next year."

NOTES

  • DE Kenechi Udeze, who missed last season after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in February 2008, won't be at the start of the Vikings' offseason program on Monday. However, that's not a cause for concern. Coach Brad Childress said Udeze continues to work out and attend classes at his alma mater, Southern Cal. Udeze is expected to get his degree in sociology in mid-May. Udeze expressed confidence in late January that he would be able to take part in the Vikings' workouts and Childress said that remains the plan. "There are a few other things that he's got to clear," Childress said of Udeze. "But he won't be here physically, simply for the fact that he's finishing his semester there."

  • Childress said he did not know if restricted free-agent and backup defensive tackle Fred Evans has signed the second-round tender ($1.545 million) he received but is confident that will happen. "I think he'll be taking part in the (offseason) program," Childress said.

  • DE Ray Edwards is among those who are not a fan of the recent NFL rule change that will make it illegal for defensive players to hit a quarterback once they are knocked to the ground, if the play is still in progress. "We all wake up in this game knowing what this game brings," he said. "Nobody told us, ‘Well you know, you have to play quarterback today. I don't care what you say.' You chose to play quarterback, you could have played wide receiver, you could have played defensive line, you could have played anything. Nobody tells you to play this game. If you chose to play this game you suffer the consequences."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "There was no regret in saying that. It's just like Jared (Allen) said in the paper, ‘Everybody sets their goals as high as they can.' I was just the one bold enough to say it. That's the reason you play this game. You don't want to play this game just to be somebody who played. You want to be known as somebody who made a statement in the game." — DE Ray Edwards when asked if he regretted saying that his goal for 2008 was to break Michael Strahan's NFL single-season record of 22.5 sacks. Edwards finished with five sacks.


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