However, that rule doesn't apply to "street" free agents, or those players who were released before their contract was set to expire.
With no extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and therefore no salary cap in 2010, teams can release players without the penalty of their remaining signing-bonus money accelerating on the salary cap. That's what kept some expensive free agents on teams in the past.
Now, however, without any cap ramifications, teams began releasing some interesting veteran names around the league. It's a long list of players, some of which might be able to help the Vikings. At safety, Arizona's Antrel Rolle was released, but he is reportedly seeking $8 million per season and, given the Vikings' defensive system, that salary at safety would seem to be a stretch. A more affordable option might be Browns safety Brodney Poole, who was also released on Thursday.
CB Lito Sheppard, who started nine games for the New York Jets last year and played previously with the Philadelphia Eagles (a scouting report shouldn't be hard to come by for Brad Childress), could be one option.
There were also big-name players who could be reaching the end of their NFL careers who were shown the door on Thursday. Former Vikings CB Fred Smoot (Washington) and RB Michael Bennett (San Diego) were both released, as were DTs Jamal Williams (San Diego), Cornelius Griffin (Washington) and Damione Lewis (Carolina).
While the Vikings are limited with unrestricted free agents, they face no such restrictions on players with fewer than six accrued seasons who were scheduled to be restricted free agents and didn't receive a qualifying offer. There were 89 players that fit that category when free agency started at 11:01 p.m. Thursday night, but not many names of intrigue. However, according to the Star Tribune, the Vikings are showing interest in former Colts first-round CB Marlin Jackson, who suffered knee injuries in the last two years but who played under Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in Indianapolis.
The Vikings also aren't under any additional restrictions in pursuing restricted free agents. In the defensive backfield, the biggest name with strong value is Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who was franchised last year, but this year the team just gave him a right-of-first-refusal tender in order to gauge his interest around the league in an attempt to sign him to a long-term deal. The danger, of course, is that another team could outbid the Rams and not owe them any compensation if St. Louis declined to match the offer. Atogwe is recovering from shoulder surgery, according to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
Another intriguing name in the defensive backfield is restricted free-agent cornerback Richard Marshall of the Carolina Panthers, who was tendered at a second-round level. Given the depth of the cornerback position in the draft, the Vikings might not be willing to part with a second-round pick for that level of player.
Restricted free agents that received lower tenders that would fit needs for the Vikings would be Detroit guard Daniel Loper (right of first refusal, no draft-pick compensation), New Orleans NT Remi Ayodele (first refusal) and RB Mike Bell (first refusal) and Philadelphia guard Max Jean-Gilles (fourth round).
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Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.