Tice May Be Right To Be Slow

Mike Tice has preached cautious aggression in the first stage of free agency. While some frustrated fans may be asking why, Tice may have a valid point.

During the first week of free agency, we've seen several big-name players join new teams. Some have been by outrageous signing numbers, while others have been acquired through trades.

Ominously silent during all of this has been the Vikings. With the exception of little-known Billy Lyon, the Vikings – the team with the most money to spend – have been sitting on the sidelines. The interesting thing about this is that it may be the best option to employ at this point.

The Vikings' influence and interest in players has already had a ripple effect. As a cornerback with the Rams, Dre' Bly was often used as a nickel back – not the guy you put on a team's top receiver to shut him down. As a result, his numbers may have been a little skewed. But that didn't stop the Detroit Lions from backing up the truck to dump money on him. Some in the Vikings organization think the reason the Lions spent a ton of money on wide receiver Az Hakim was because they feared the Vikings or Packers would snap him up. Neither did – nor would they for the kind of money the Lions were willing to spend.

The same message is being sent out on Bly. Apparently the Lions kept increasing their offers as last weekend wore on. Why? Bly was scheduled to visit the Vikings this week and they didn't want a division rival to take him away. The result? He was given a deal worth almost $5 million a year and, like Hakim, his deal isn't heavily back-loaded like the insane long-term extensions giving baby boomers like Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. Both Hakim and Bly are going to count heavily against the Lions' cap – starting immediately. As an interesting sidelight, Rams CB Dexter McCleon -- seen by some as every bit as good as Bly -- signed with the Chiefs. The difference? Bly was paid $24.5 million for five years, while McCleon was paid $11.1 million.

While the Vikings watch other teams break their collective banks bringing in high-priced players like Bly, David Boston and Jake Plummer, they are biding their time. They're looking at filling out the bottom half of their 53-man roster with solid backups and special teams players while playing the field with the big-time players.

It's unlikely you'll see the Vikings go after a player like Hugh Douglas, but, by not going insane and letting teams like Detroit and Denver skew the value of the free agent market, the Vikings may be taking the best path of all. By waiting for the opening frenzy to die down, they may be able to add twice as many quality players for the same amount of money as teams like Washington that jumped out like old women at a blue light special.

Mike Tice has used the term "patiently aggressive" to define free agency. For the Vikings, it will have three phases – now to late-March, after the draft and after June 1. Teams that have taken that route in the recent past like the Patriots and Eagles have seen the fruits of their labor. Whether fans like it not may not be the biggest factor. If it works, it will have its own rewards – with the players, coaches, fans and season ticket holders.

THURSDAY NOTES
* The Vikings didn't offer a contract to Gus Frerotte but said he had a good visit with the team. He remains their No. 2 choice for a backup to Daunte Culpepper, and apparently the team won't give up just yet on the chance of O'Donnell signing.
* Vikings fullback Harold Morrow is in Baltimore and will meet with former coach Brian Billick today. Billick envisions Morrow as a special teams player -- something he has pillaged in past free agent periods from his former team.
* Offensive lineman Jerry Wunsch, late of the Bucs and Seahawks, is scheduled for a visit next Monday.
* The Vikings have opened contract talks with CB Tory James of the Raiders. But, James is fulfilling an agreed-on visit with the Bengals today.
* Jim Kleinsasser signed his one-year tendered offer of $3.05 million. That takes away the chance for another team to sign him to offer sheet that the Vikings could match. Considering that any team looking to sign Kleinsasser would have to give up two first round picks, the signing was seen as a formality.

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