Hicks signs with Redskins

The Vikings lost their second unrestricted free agent in as many days Saturday, as offensive lineman Artis Hicks signed a three-year deal to join the Washington Redskins to return to the NFC East.

If the Vikings want to start spending in free agency, they can begin any time now. Late Saturday afternoon, the Vikings lost their second unrestricted free agent in two days, as offensive lineman Artis Hicks agreed to a three-year deal with the Washington Redskins that is reported to be worth as much as $9 million.

Hicks, who was acquired from the Eagles on draft weekend 2006, was one of the first signees new head coach Brad Childress brought in when he came over from the Eagles coaching staff. Hicks was a valuable swingman for the Vikings offensive line, filling in at both the guard and tackle positions and was the starter at left tackle for the first four games of the 2008 season when Bryant McKinnie was sitting out a suspension from the league.

The Redskins have an opening at left tackle. On Friday, veteran Chris Samuels announced his retirement. The Redskins were busy on Saturday, also attempting to sign OT Tony Pashos, who was a 2009 starter with the 49ers and also started for both the Jaguars and Ravens. Word Saturday afternoon was the deal was close to being completed, but Pashos ended up leaving for at least one other free agent visit with the Browns.

Hicks said he would have the opportunity to compete for a starting job at guard and tackle, depending on how his offseason practices go.

"I felt like I had an opportunity to go out and compete for a starting spot, as opposed to automatically being penciled in as the sixth guy. That makes a huge difference for me," he said. "After you've been out there and had a taste of it, there's nothing like it. You always want to give yourself a chance to get back there in that position again."

The West Coast offense and zone blocking schemes that new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan runs are also familiar to Hicks from his days with the Vikings and Eagles.

"I like the system that they're implementing. They've got a plan that fit and I just felt like it was a good fit for me, so I jumped on board," said Hicks, who added that he gave the Vikings an opportunity to match the deal.

Hicks had nothing but good things to say about the Vikings, his old coaching staff and teammates, but ultimately a better opportunity came calling.

As most fans know by now, the Vikings were hamstrung in free agency out of the gate because they were one of the final eight teams in the playoffs. Under league rules, the Vikings couldn't sign an unrestricted free agent until they lost one of their own and, even then, could only sign a player to an equal or lesser contract to that of the player they lost. On Friday, the team lost running back Chester Taylor, who signed a four-year, $12.5 million deal with the Bears that included $7 million in guaranteed money to be expended in the first year of the contract.

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