Vikings will be restricted in free agency

The Vikings won't be able to sign free agents freely this year, but, because of another rule regarding the lack of a long-term CBA, the unrestricted free-agent market isn't expected to be as good this year either.

The Vikings have not been afraid to be aggressive in unrestricted free agency since Zygi Wilf took over as owner in 2005.

Running back Chester Taylor, kicker Ryan Longwell, linebacker Ben Leber, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, safety Madieu Williams and wide receiver Bernard Berrian all were signed as unrestricted free agents. Last March, the Vikings made an aggressive bid to get T.J. Houshmandzadeh but lost out to Seattle.

This year, however, there almost certainly will be no such big pursuits. That's because as one of the four teams that made the conference championship game, the Vikings will be subject to a rule that will go into effect if there is no new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place by March 5.

The main focus of the lack of a new CBA has been the fact that 2010 would be played without a salary cap and that there could be a work stoppage in 2011. But among the many other details that have been somewhat below the radar is that the final eight teams in the playoffs all will have restrictions on their pursuit of UFAs and the final four teams will be especially impacted.

The Vikings, Saints, Colts and Jets all will not be able to sign unrestricted free agents until they lose one. And even then they can't pay a player more than what the guy they lost got from his new team. While this might be restrictive, it's also not necessarily a huge deal to all of these clubs.

That's because the free-agent market isn't exactly filled with marquee players. In fact, the lack of a new CBA will mean players will need six years of experience to hit the UFA market instead of four. Players with four or five years of experience and expiring contracts will be restricted free agents. The final four teams can make offers to those players – the threat a losing a high draft pick might stop them from pursuing some of these guys – and also pursue players who were cut by their teams.

For instance, nothing would preclude the Vikings from making offers to veteran running backs LaDainian Tomlinson or Brian Westbrook, who were recently let go by San Diego and Philadelphia, respectively.

"I think the whole UFA market in general is not going to be as strong," Spielman said. "If you look at the class, all of the core guys that would normally get the money are usually those guys coming out of their rookie deals that are four- or five-year guys. All of those guys are restricted. What you anticipate is, because there is no cap, that those guys are going to get tendered the higher amount (as restricted free agents). A first- or second-round tender."


  • Head coach Brad Childress and the agent for veteran nose tackle Pat Williams confirmed Williams will be back for the 2010 season. Williams had said after the Vikings' loss to the Saints in the NFC title game last month that it was 50-50 whether he would return for a 14th NFL season. Childress said Williams has been at Winter Park often lately.

  • Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman made it clear he finds it annoying when players elect not to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I can understand that a lot of it is you have to look at the circumstance, too," Spielman said. "But when someone from the West Coast tells you that he's not going to run because of the time change, to me he's hiding that he can't run."

  • Spielman said the Vikings have decided what type of tenders (or non-tenders) they will give their seven potential restricted free agents. He said the players have not yet been informed of the team's intentions.

  • The Vikings had about 60 representatives at the combine, including coaches, scouts, executives, medical personnel and two officials who handle psychological testing. The team planned to interview 60 prospects at the event. They get 15 minutes with each player during the formal interviews and also can talk to players informally during the week.

  • Childress was Westbrook's offensive coordinator for four seasons in Philadelphia and given that Westbrook is an excellent receiver and blocker he could be a good fit in the third-down role if Taylor departs.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We would love to have the guy back. My gut feeling is that he is going to come back. I think a respectable timetable would be to let us know as early as possible." — Linebacker Ben Leber on the fact he wants quarterback Brett Favre to return for a 20th NFL season but also would like to know sooner rather than later for the sake of the team.

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