Fans start to feel effects of labor unrest

The opening weekend of free agency brought some interesting signings, but the market chilled quickly and the Vikings have been in the deep freeze. Is this one of the first effects we're seeing of labor uncertainty?

If there has ever been a reason for the NFL and the players union to get together and hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement, it has been the lack of tangible activity in the free-agent market.

It isn't to say that the offseason hasn't had seen significant signings and trades, but the typical free-agent market provides a few head-scratching type of signings, because teams are often going after players that have completed four or five years in the NFL and, for the most part, are looking for that one defining contract that sets them up for life. The Vikings' history in free agency and the trade market in the Childress Era has been to go after young players to give long-term contracts (see Jared Allen, Bernard Berrian and Madieu Williams). With the collective bargaining agreement no longer in force, fourth- and fifth-year players are restricted free agents and, to this point, it would seem that owners and coaches have decided not to give up draft picks to sign those players to offer sheets. Had Ray Edwards been an unrestricted free agent, he would have a long-term deal in place for a surprisingly high dollar amount – most likely not with the Vikings. As it is, he was essentially forced to stay, barring a move in the coming weeks for a team to sign him.

Aside from re-signing Jimmy Kennedy, Benny Sapp and Greg Lewis, the Vikings' only acquisition in the free-agent period has been kicker Rhys Lloyd. That isn't exactly going to ramp up season ticket sales.

The Vikings aren't alone. Without the benefit of young free agents in the primes of their careers, one of the offseason showcase events that has kept the NFL in the news during its offseason has been taken away from the fans. There are rumors that those players who would have been unrestricted free agents may find a way to rebel – walking out of offseason workout programs, etc. – but the bottom line is that, while a potential work stoppage is still more than a year away, the first ripples of discontent are starting to be felt and it's unfortunate that it seems nothing is being done at this point to stop the potential tsunami to come.


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