How Far Under Cap Are Vikings?

Since last summer the word on the Vikings and the salary cap has been growing and the numbers between the guesses narrowing. As free agency approaches at the end of the month, VU has the final toteboard number.

When you hear numbers shuffled around about the 2003 salary cap, they can be misleading. At first the number was guesstimated at $20 million. Then it soared to $30 million. Ultimately, it has come to rest somewhere in between.

The Vikings would have been about $25.4 million under the cap if a couple of players had hit performance incentives in their 2002 contracts. Seeing as they didn't, that number is up to $26 million of available cap room.

That number may grow to more than $27 million in the coming days. The Vikings can cut WR Derrick Alexander any time after Thursday. If they do, they will save an additional $1.2 million -- pushing their cap underage to more than $27.2 million.

TUESDAY NOTES
* Mike Tice and some of his top coaches and scouts are off to Indianapolis, where the NFL Combine starts today. The performance aspects don't start until Thursday, but, due to concerns from owners about the character of some players, the Combine has been extended two days for teams to get more time for physical examinations and one-on-one interviews.
* With some key Vikings personnel out of town, it may be more difficult to get an agreement hammered out with TE Jim Kleinsasser before Thursday's deadline to assign franchise or transition free-agent tags on players. Kleinsasser is expected to get a transition tag put on him.
* OT Orlando Brown, out of the NFL since being hit in the eye by a referee's flag that permanently impaired his vision, is looking at a comeback and VU is being told the Vikings are one of the top teams on his list.
* Former Vikings offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis has been retained by new Lions coach Steve Mariucci to stay on the staff. The two were both on the same Packers coaching squad under Mike Holmgren that included Jon Gruden and Mike Sherman.

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