Bye, Bye Burleson

The Vikings have postponed the inevitable for a week, but tonight it becomes official -- Nate Burleson becomes a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

For whatever reason -- it couldn't be suspense -- the Vikings have delayed making an official decision on the offer sheet signed by Nate Burleson with the Seahawks.

A source with knowledge of the situation said the Vikings won't inform the Seahawks of their decision tonight, just as the Seahawks didn't inform the Vikings when they declined to match the offer sheet signed by guard Steve Hutchinson. According to the source, teams are only required to notify the NFL, not the other team or the player, when they make a decision on an offer sheet. The team plans to wait until the 11 p.m. Central deadline Friday before notifying the NFL, and a Vikings spokesman said late Friday afternoon that no decision had been made.

Their hand will be forced at midnight Eastern time -- the deadline for matching the offer. Barring an 11th-hour appeal to another special master, Burleson will become a Seahawk. The Vikings really have little in the way of an argument concerning losing Burleson. Most people assumed that the Vikings would tender Burleson -- a fourth-year restricted free agent -- with a first-round offer. Instead the team low-balled a third-round pick as compensation, almost daring a team like the Seahawks to make an offer.

There is growing speculation that the Vikings might be looking to get the third-round pick obtained from the Seahawks and package that with their other picks on the first day of the draft to move up and try to get their hands on one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. However, with Vince Young's stock back on the rise, they may have to trade well into the top 10 picks to get a chance at any of the top three quarterbacks -- a move that would come with a price.

The loss of Burleson won't be a back-breaker for the Vikings, but it will be one that leaves a mark. Head coach Brad Childress has gone on about having "high-character" players. Burleson was one of those guys. You never saw an ugly quote from him, he tried to handle the pressure of "replacing" Randy Moss as the go-to receiver as best he could and he always came to practice with a smile on his face and ready to work.

Much like the Seahawks and their situation with Steve Hutchinson, if the Vikings had simply offered Burleson a tendered offer worth $600,000 more for 2006, they wouldn't be losing him now. It's unlikely Seattle -- or any team for that matter -- would match the offer if it meant surrendering a first-round pick. But, when you tempt, if not dare, other teams to grab him for merely a third-round pick as compensation, it makes sense why he is headed west.

The Vikings will miss Burleson. Although not blessed with the greatest speed, he is one of the league's best in yards after the catch -- a stat that should be acutely aware to Childress and other proponents of the West Coast Offense. He was a player that would have been an asset in 2006 -- even if he left via unrestricted free agency after the season.

The Vikes obviously knew what they were doing when they gave him the third-round tender. Hopefully that pick will yield something positive -- either as part of a trade to move up in the first round or a solid player with that selection. One thing is certain, however. The Seahawks are going to get a very solid player for a very reasonable price -- at least what they gave up to get him.

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