Vikings miss out on tackle

Vernon Carey

The Vikings likely would have attempted to sign Vernon Carey if he made it to free agency, but the Dolphins re-signed the offensive tackle before the Vikings ever had a chance.

The Vikings aren't in the habit of telling the media their plans – whether it concerns the draft, free agency, injuries or the lunch menu at Winter Park. While there wasn't any public comment Saturday, there had to be a sense of disappointment when word came out of Miami that the Dolphins had re-signed right tackle Vernon Carey.

To many casual fans, the re-signing of Carey draws one word – who? Carey was a first-round pick of the Dolphins in 2004. That year, the Vikings made a trade with the Dolphins in the first round, literally flip-flopping picks, with the Vikings getting an additional pick in the fourth round for their trouble. The Paul Harvey "Rest of the Story" version of that trade would focus on who the Vikings got in the fourth round – running back Mewelde Moore. But for the purpose of this tale, we stick to the picks in the first round.

The Vikings were interested in DE Kenechi Udeze, whose battle with leukemia is the cover story of this month's issue of Viking Update magazine. The Dolphins were interested in Carey. Word had surfaced that Miami wasn't alone in coveting the offensive tackle. The Dolphins wanted to be sure they got the man they coveted and, once he got just one team away, Miami G.M. Rick Spielman pulled the trigger. Always one to give the media plenty of access to his thought process, then-Vikings head coach Mike Tice and president of football operation Rob Brzezinski (formerly a front office guy with the Dolphins) made Spielman promise he wasn't going to take Udeze with the pick. Spielman had no intention of taking Udeze. He wanted Carey.

Initially, Spielman was blasted in the local Miami media because, in his first season, Carey looked overwhelmed by the competition in the NFL and was briefly moved to guard because he couldn't handle the tackle position. Clearly, that changed over time. Last year in an interview with VU, Spielman cited the drafting of Carey as one of his greatest achievements, much in the same way Tice was able to brag up taking Kevin Williams instead of Terrell Suggs on a 2003 draft-day pick in which he was vilified by the fans at the annual draft party because many of them had never heard of Big Kev. Time proved the Vikings right in that instance and Spielman felt vindicated for making the Carey pick.

Late last week, when it was learned that Carey had not been franchised, it seemed as though the chances of Spielman and Carey being linked together again looked very possible. The Vikings almost assuredly had Carey rated at or near the top of the free-agent wish list because, just a year earlier, Spielman had described Carey as a "dominant player in this league" and his personal admiration of Carey clearly would have affected his perception of Carey's talent on the open market.

That all became a moot point Friday when Carey signed a six-year, $42 million deal to stay in Miami. There likely won't be a lot written about it, but the Vikings likely had to amend their free agent wish list as a result. There are no guarantees that the Vikings would have signed Carey, but, given the history and the level of respect Spielman has for Carey, you can bet the they would have been one of his strongest suitors in free agency.

Spielman has made a history of moving up when a player he covets remains on the board longer than he believes he should. When he targets a player he wants, he is willing to make such a move. Only time will tell if he will admit at some point that he wanted the Vikings to pursue Carey, but that chance was taken away with his re-signing in Miami. All the pieces seemed to be in place – up until Miami rained on the parade.

SUNDAY NOTES

  • Several Minnesota newspapers carried the Michael Vick blurb that made its run on Associated Press that both the 49ers and Vikings haven't dismissed the possibility of making a run at Vick when he is released from jail. Apparently the author has no concept of the Vikings culture of accountability. The team has parted ways with players whose personalities have clashed with the coaching staff and/or the law – much less a player who is serving time in federal prison for charges related to dog fighting.

  • The first round of the draft may be altered greatly by the news that wide receiver Michael Crabtree has a stress fracture in his foot that might require surgery. Does that sound familiar? It sounds very similar to the injury concerns over Adrian Peterson two years ago that allowed his stock to drop from being taken as high as No. 2 in the draft to allow him to fall to the Vikings at No. 7. His injury may be enough for Seattle to back off at No. 4, but don't expect Crabtree to make it past No. 7 this year. He could have a broken leg and Al Davis and the Raiders would still likely grab him with the seventh pick.

  • At his press conference Saturday, Bears coach Lovie Smith left no question that, even if Chicago dabbles in the QB market during free agency, Kyle Orton is the unquestioned starter in 2009. Vikings fans might also secretly wish that the Bears would re-sign Rex Grossman to maintain the status quo.

  • ESPN announced Saturday that is has dumped Emmitt Smith from its Monday night crew. Smith, a great player but a shaky analyst, consistently had trouble converting his knowledge of the NFL game into an analyst who could give fans insight into the game, often stumbling and stammering over words when posed questions by the other members of the Monday Countdown crew.

  • Former Viking and current Giants DT Fred Robbins underwent surgery on his right knee late this week, having a scope to clean out previous damage. He is expected to be ready for the summer OTA/minicamp season.

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