Vikings further clarify Rice situation

The Vikings would like to have receiver Sidney Rice back, but the terms of free agency will dictate how likely that is. For now, the team is operating as if he will be a restricted free agent and will likely resume contract negotiations for a long-term deal when the lockout is over.

Receiver Sidney Rice may not have a choice – he could be a restricted free agent, depending on how the league handles free agency whenever it starts – but Rice would likely look at his free-agent options if he can, according to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.

Frazier said in late February, before the lockout was in effect, that the Vikings offered Rice a contract extension. When he and the Vikings couldn't come to terms on that before the start of free agency, the Vikings offered him a restricted free-agent tender in case he is classified as "restricted" under the 2011 rules of free agency. Rice has four years of NFL experience, which would make him a restricted free agent under the 2010 rules of free agency and an unrestricted free agent if the 2009 rules were applied this season.

On Tuesday, Frazier said he talked with Rice during the one-day respite from the lockout in late April. The result, it would seem, is a bit of a mixed message.

"I talked to him in that brief window we had, on draft weekend, and he was enthusiastic about maybe signing back with the Vikings, but he still wants to explore opportunities and you can't begrudge him for that, being a free agent," Frazier said. "You just have to kind of wait and see what happens, but we'd obviously love to have him back in Minnesota."

Frazier was the second Vikings official to say in the last week that the team wants Rice back. Last week, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman told Viking Update that contract talks with Rice's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, back in February put the "groundwork in place" for an extension, but Spielman also admitted that it was a wait-and-see situation when it came to how NFL teams would be able to proceed with free agency when the lockout of players is over.

Frazier has been hesitant to say which positions the Vikings would like to address when free agency begins.

"We think we addressed some needs through the draft and we feel like we have a good handle," Frazier said.

But without any minicamps or organized team activities – coaches and employees are even prohibited from having any contact with players during the lockout – it's impossible for the coaching staff to see how new players react in their offensive and defensive systems.

"The hard part is in the past you would have had this spring and summer to kind of evaluate things before you get to training camp. Well, we're not getting that right now, so everything is just on paper and part of that is looking back at last season," Frazier said. "We think we addressed some of our issues – creating better competition and an influx of young talent at certain positions. I think we've addressed a lot of it, but without getting your hands on the guys and working with them, you can't fully say that you have. But on paper we've addressed some issues."

  • Vikings coaches will begin their three- or four-week vacations on Saturday, but those could be interrupted if the lockout ends soon. Frazier informed coaches that they are "on call" if teams can begin signing players or conducting practices.

  • Brett Favre told the Associated Press he is definitely done with football, but wasn't sure what his next move would be. Even before the Vikings drafted quarterback Christian Ponder in the first round, Frazier has maintained that Favre wouldn't be returning to the Vikings.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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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