Free-Agent Frenzy Starts Today

News and quotes on Neil O'Donnell, Orlando Brown and a free-agent safety, as the Vikings ramp up for today's start to free agency 2003.

League sources close to the Tennessee Titans expect quarterback Neil O'Donnell to sign a contract next week with the Minnesota Vikings. According to the source, "Tennessee was a good experience for O'Donnell, but the player was extremely impressed with head coach Mike Tice and his commitment to building the Vikings into a winning organization. The Vikings were honest with O'Donnell, telling him that they would like to add his experience and leadership abilities."

Talk on the Orlando Brown front is not nearly as promising, in comparison to those regarding O'Donnell. A source close to Brown indicates to this column that Brown, out of the league since being hit in the eye with a referee's beanbag would like to play close to home, if he returns to the league. Brown lives in the Washington D.C. area and would like the opportunity to play with the Redskins, Ravens, and recently the New England Patriots have come into the picture. While playing for the Cleveland Browns, prior to their exit to Baltimore following the 1995 season, Brown played for then Cleveland head coach and present New England head coach Bill Belichick.

"Orlando (Brown) seriously wants to play football again. He has a fire and desire inside of him to compete. This is really what his life is, family and football," the source said. "He would like to play close to home or for someone that he is familiar with, but believe me, he would welcome the opportunity to see what Minnesota has to offer. All said, he wants to play and will go where he will get that opportunity."

While the anticipation level grows as free agency approaches, the Vikings have mapped out their strategy for the opening days of the signing period.

A team source indicated to this column at the combine event this past week in Indianapolis that the Vikings intend on being active, expressing their interest in a few key players immediately to help solidify areas on the roster.

"The plan will be to express what we are attempting to achieve as a team, within a timeframe that is acceptable for the organization and that would be enticing to a free-agent player," the source said. "We (Minnesota) are going to be competitive in our negotiations, but we will let the players know that we discuss numbers with ‘this is where the team is and what we are looking for in a player.' Our focus is to get players in here that want to play in Minnesota and not a player that solely bases a signing decision on money and contract."

Indications at the combine were that the Vikings are going to quickly be in contact with defensive back Sammy Knight of the New Orleans Saints. The feeling from Vikes personnel was that Knight is an immediate upgrade in the backfield and they are in dire need of such a player. The team would rather obtain this type of player in free agency, as a rookie coming into the league may have struggles and/or not materialize into the player expected.

The Vikings are looking for almost a sure thing.

If the Vikings would acquire a safety of Knight's caliber and not be able to find their "almost sure thing" at cornerback, they would consider moving Corey Chavous back to cornerback.

* The Vikings have discussed an incentive laden deal with wide receiver Derrick Alexander. If this doesn't happen, he will certainly be released.

* Minnesota would like to re-sign restricted free agent Cory Withrow, as they see him as an important piece of the chemistry along the offensive line. Withrow wants to be compensated as a starter with the opportunity to start. Starting isn't likely in Minnesota without an injury at center or guard.

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