‘Typical protocol' for Hicks

Offensive lineman Artis Hicks is ready to test the free-agent market. He talked about the process and the uncertainty facing free agents and teams this year.

Vikings offensive lineman Artis Hicks is stuck in a holding pattern from his home in Tennessee.

He and the Vikings both seem willing to see what the free-agent market bears before getting too serious in their contract proposals.

"That's typical protocol," said Hicks, who is an unrestricted free agent. "You've got to see what's out there and they've got to see what out there so they can make a counter-offer. That's the cat and mouse game. There's a bunch of anxiety, but it's necessary I guess."

Head coach Brad Childress and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman both seemed uncertain last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis how free agency would play out in the first NFL season without a salary cap since the early 1990s. Free agency is further complicated with 212 players that would normally be unrestricted free agents becoming restricted because of the new rules of free agency in an uncapped season.

"I don't know if you have a level of confidence because you don't know," Spielman said.

Spielman and Childress weren't alone in their uncertainty. Nearly every head coach or general manager that spoke at the Combine had no idea how free agency would play out this year. Hicks believes them.

"That wasn't just a bunch of baloney. I think that's genuinely true," he said. "The uncertainty that's out there for next year, that's kind of unchartered territory for everybody. They're just seeing what the market is going to show before they start making offers and counter-offers. That's the smart thing to do anyway."

But players and teams alike should have a better idea for the market in the next few days. Free agency kicks off at 11:01 p.m. Central Thursday and that's when the representatives for free agents can begin talking contract negotiations with other teams and scheduling visits.

"Things will get really busy about that time," Hicks said.

"Sometimes when you get this close to the market, guys are curious just to see," Spielman said. "Player A may go out and look at it just for a week and realize, I see where my market is, and want to come back and see if they can get a deal done with their team or they overestimate what their market was."

Hicks expects to field a bunch of offers from other teams. Some of them will be for a similar role that he filled with the Vikings, where he was a backup at every position along the offensive line except center. The eight-year veteran of the league has played in almost 100 hundred games and last year he played in all 16 regular-season games for the Vikings, starting three of them (one at right tackle and two at right guard).

"It's just a matter of the best offer and the best situation for me and we'll take it from there," he said.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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