Shackles come off Vikings in free agency

The restrictions in free agency that limited the "Final Four" teams in last year's playoffs are over, meaning the Vikings are now on a level playing field in free agency ... except that the market has been largely picked over.

For much of the offseason, the Vikings have been hamstrung in what they can do in free agency because of the lack of a salary cap. Under the rules, the Vikings, Saints, Colts and Jets were severely limited in what they could do in free agency. They were only able to sign free agents after losing free agents of their own. In the case of the Vikings, it was only after losing Chester Taylor and Artis Hicks that they were able to do anything in free agency.

As a result, the only veteran players the Vikings made a run after were LaDainian Tomlinson, Lito Sheppard and Rhys Lloyd – three players that were released and not subject to the standard free agency rules. Neither of them was subject to the Final Four rules. So it came as something of a surprise to some that the Jets got in the bidding for free agent wide receiver Terrell Owens, who was an unrestricted free agent.

Why? Because the Final Four rule expired on Sunday. When the Dallas Cowboys opened training camp on Sunday – the first team to do so – the rules that limited the final four teams ran out. As a result, if there were any remaining unrestricted free agents on the market, the Vikings, Colts, Saints and Jets are now on the same playing field.

While the Vikings likely aren't going to make a splash with any 11th hour signings of big-name veterans like T.O., if they do want to make such a run, they can. The shackles of the offseason have finally been removed officially.

WEDNESDAY NOTES

  • With the signing of DE Everson Griffen, the Vikings have four rookies signed and four remaining – second-rounders Chris Cook and Toby Gerhart, fifth-rounder Chris DeGeare and sixth-rounder Joe Webb remain unsigned with two days to go until the first practice of training camp.

  • Gerhart's father appeared on KFAN Radio Tuesday and said he expects the Vikings to sign the running back as early as today, while similar positive buzz is coming out of the Cook camp that a deal will be finalized before camp begins Friday.

  • Brett Favre continued to keep people guessing about his future, quipping that, not only might he be back in 2010, but could play longer, joking with USA Today, "If you do enough patchwork (surgeries), eventually you get a new (body). You quit sometime. Then again, maybe I will be doing this until I'm 50 years old. Who knows?"

  • Former Viking Matt Birk opened training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list by the Ravens with a neck injury. It can't be a good sign that the Ravens open camp with seven players on the PUP list, including Birk, safety Ed Reed and CBs Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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