Vikings Done With Free Agency?

Minnesota Vikings

The signing of LB Chris Claiborne could be among the last if not the last free agent signing until after the draft, as the Vikings now look to rookies to improve their team.

Amid questions that Red McCombs was intentionally low-balling offers in an effort to sell his team, the Vikings have silenced many of their harshest critics and, as we near the one-month window before the NFL draft, the Vikings may well be done in the free agent market ... for now.

Claiborne became the sixth free agent signed in the offseason and was a player that few outside of VU thought the Vikings had a shot at getting. He signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal, but expects to be a Viking much longer than that.

"This seems like a good place for me," Claiborne told VU. "The (two-year) contract just got my foot in the door. I'm going to prove myself and want to be with the Vikings for a long time."

The initial plan is to have Claiborne start as the strongside linebacker and eventually replace Greg Biekert at middle linebacker.

Since free agency began, the Vikings have retained their top three potential free agent losses -- Jim Kleinsasser, Moe Williams and Lance Johnstone -- and added six new players. Claiborne joins CBs Denard Walker and Ken Irvin, DT Billy Lyon, OT Mike Rosenthal and QB Gus Frerotte. Of those players, as many as four (Claiborne, Walker, Irvin and Rosenthal) are expected to be starters.

For that reason, there is a growing belief that the Vikings may be done on the free agent market for now and might begin hunkering in for the draft preparation stage of the off-season. After making a slow start, the Vikings have earned a lot of bang for their buck and done as much to help themselves while sustaining no major losses than any team in the league.

Still armed with an estimated $15 million left in available cap money, the Vikings can potentially remain active participants in the free agent game. Whether it happens now or waits until May or June is yet to be determined.

WEDNESDAY NOTES
* The Vikings are still interested in signing WR Oronde Gadsden, but he is still balking at the size of the contract and the Vikes are starting to say he would be used as the No. 3 receiver. Neither of those should be perceived as a good sign and perhaps more gamesmanship in the negotiation process than fact. If signed, Gadsden would open the season as a starter.
* Derrick Alexander has agreed to take a pay cut from $1.7 million to $750,000 (the veteran minimum) to stay with the Vikings. That could be a good sign for his chances of winning back a starting spot.
* Don't be surprised to see the Vikings target a wide receiver in the second round of the draft this year. They had Josh Reed in their sights last year before Buffalo snapped him up right in front of the Vikings.
* As expected the NFL owners approved a one-year extension to the G-3 proposal, which gives low-interest loans to owners to help build new stadiums. In the case of the Vikings, G-3 would represent $51 million toward a stadium effort. The vote to extend G-3 funding was 29-3. A stipulation was added that said no team in litigation with the league would be eligible -- that means you, Al Davis.
* NFL Europe will go on as planned. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made the announcement, claiming the NFL "is a business" just like any other U.S. business with offices overseas. While his speech seemed to lack the obvious human component -- the product is human beings, not goods or services -- it was clear the owners overwhelmingly approved sending others overseas.
* Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary will be at Arizona State today to watch the workout of DE Terrell Suggs, who almost assuredly will be gone before the Vikings pick at No. 7. Then again, the same was said about Bryant McKinnie last year.

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