Sidney Rice (Andy King/AP)
The Vikings have a free-agent plan in place. They can start by signing their own free agents Tuesday, but can also negotiate with free agents from other teams. See what Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman had to say about the possibilities.
The frenzy of free agency is ready to start for the Vikings.
With a labor agreement reached Monday between the NFL and its players association, the league calendar has been set.
Starting at 9 a.m. Central Tuesday, players can report to team facilities, trading begins and teams can sign their own free agents and start negotiating with free agents from other teams, although clubs won’t officially be able to sign the outside veteran free agents until Friday.
For the Vikings, they will have decisions to make about restricted free agents like safety Husain Abdullah and linebacker Erin Henderson. The bigger question will be unrestricted free agents, including a number of starters from last year.
Wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Ray Edwards will likely get the most action in free agency. Coaches were busy calling players as soon as they could on Monday, but head coach Leslie Frazier had yet to talk to Rice as of 5 p.m. on Monday.
“Haven’t spoke to him directly, but I do anticipate speaking to him hopefully before this day is over,” Frazier said. “Hopefully things will work out the way they should.”
In total, the Vikings have 16 unrestricted free agents, and they will be competing with other teams during the negotiation process from 9 a.m. Tuesday until 5 p.m. Friday, when unrestricted free agents can start signing with other teams.
Beyond Rice and Edwards, other big names include linebacker Ben Leber and defensive tackle Pat Williams on defense.
“We’re going to try to do the right things by all of our players – past players, current players,” Frazier said when asked about having three defensive starters as unrestricted free agents. “The one thing that you don’t know is what the market is going to bear for certain guys. We have some guys that are free agents and are going to get on the market and test the market. That could affect our roster and could affect who we go after and we don’t go after. We’ll have to kind of see what happens over the next few days.”
The Vikings are also reportedly about $5 million over the salary cap, but they don’t have to be in compliance with that until the start of the league year, which is expected to be on Aug. 4 or whenever the players union officially ratifies the CBA. The Vikings could look to restructure some contracts in order to get under the $120 million salary cap.
“We know where we're at from a cap standpoint and we know where we have to be at from a cap
standpoint,” vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said. “We've got a game plan in place on how we need to get there, so we'll start executing a lot of that. We have to be in compliance by Aug. 4. But you also know you have to do some things in free agency or sign your own free agents, so there's a lot of different ways we can look at things. We want to be under the cap on Aug. 4, but you also have to have room to do some things if you want to do it.”
Also on the team’s unrestricted free-agent list are kicker Ryan Longwell, quarterbacks Brett Favre, Tarvaris Jackson and Patrick Ramsey, receivers Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett, guard Ryan Cook, defensive tackle Fred Evans, defensive backs Eric Frampton, Lito Sheppard and Frank Walker, and fullback Naufahu Tahi.
We've got a lot of unrestricted guys, and we'd love to have all those guys back,” Spielman said. “But you've also got to be realistic, too, on going forward. We've prioritized the guys we'd like to keep. Some of it will depend on what happens in the market out there. And then we'll have to adjust from there.”
Without offseason practices, there could be more of an emphasis put on re-signing players who are familiar with the system. That holds true especially on defense.
“We’ve thought about that and we’ve talked about it. We’re going to do from a roster standpoint what’s best for our football team and our organization long-term, not in the short term,” Frazier said. “We’re just going to try to make decisions that in the long term are going to be best for our football team and not get caught up in some of the scenarios that you just mentioned. We’re just going to try to do the best for our team long term.”
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.