Berrian Coming Off the Board?

Bernard Berrian (Win McNamee)

The Vikings would like nothing better than to bolster their own passing game by taking wide receiver Bernard Berrian away from the Chicago Bears in free agency -- helping themselves while hurting a division rival. However, word out of Chicago is that the Bears might slap the franchise tag on Berrian next month to make snatching him away much more spendy.

The Vikings' need to improve at the wide receiver position may have taken a turn Thursday with whispers coming out of Chicago that the Bears aren't likely going to allow Bernard Berrian to leave via free agency.

Berrian, an unrestricted free agent, along with Seahawks WR D.J. Hackett, are viewed as the top two wide receivers available on this year's free agent market – providing the best combination of youth and big-play ability on the board. Given his history with a receiver diva like Terrell Owens, it's unlikely Brad Childress would have too much interest in Randy Moss – and there's no telling whether Moss would be willing to leave the Patriots for a mega-buck contract from another team.

Berrian has been rumored to be on the free-agent wish list of at least a couple teams – the Raiders being one that has surfaced in numerous reports. But it now looks as though the Bears might be willing to slap the franchise tag on Berrian. If that happens, it would take two first-round picks to get him away from the Bears and there isn't a team in the league that would pay that kind of bounty despite Berrian's ability to greatly improve an offense.

While the Bears don't have to make any immediate decisions regarding Berrian – teams have from Feb. 7-21 to slap the franchise or transition tag on players – unless they can reach a long-term contract agreement, it appears that one of the top wide receivers that the Vikings might be targeting will be out of reach to them.

FRIDAY NOTES
* Another player rumored to be in the Vikings sights is Browns quarterback Derek Anderson. But, following a strong 2007 season in which he brought the Browns from near-extinction to within one win of the playoffs, word coming out of Browns Country is that the team has begun negotiations to offer him a three-year contract. While he is a restricted free agent that, while not tied to the Browns in 2008, would likely cost anyone potential suitor a first- and third-round draft pick if they attempted to sign him to an offer sheet. That price tag would be deemed too steep by many teams and, even if they did sign Anderson to an offer sheet, the Browns would have the chance to match it. If Cleveland does end up signing Anderson to an extension, Brady Quinn might be the quarterback that gets shopped around in the offseason.
* Leslie Frazier hasn't been contacted by the Redskins for the lone remaining head coaching opening. The Redskins have interviewed in-house assistant Gregg Williams four times, and former Giants coach Jim Fassel remains the front-runner after a pair of marathon interviews with owner Daniel Snyder this week. The team has also interviewed Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks and Titans DC Jim Schwartz for the job.
* The 2008 draft will take much clearer shape, especially at the top of the draft, at the annual NFL Combine next month at Indianapolis. It is during the Combine that there will be a three-way coin flip conducted between the Raiders, Falcons and Chiefs to determine who gets the third, fourth and fifth picks in this year's draft.
* Former Vikings tight end and longtime Steelers assistant coach Mike Mullarkey is viewed as one of the frontrunners for the Falcons offensive coordinator position. Mullarkey played with the Vikings from 1983-88 and served under Steelers head coach Bill Cowher from 1996-2003.
* The annual Brett Watch is underway with the Packers again, as Brett Favre contemplates whether to return for an 18th season. But Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that a decision from the Favre camp should come by next weekend, and most insiders are of the belief that Favre is going to come back for yet another season.

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