Vikings holding hope for their own

Chester Taylor (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

The Vikings are hoping they can re-sign their own unrestricted free agents, but if they don't it would at least give them options on the open market.

The Vikings will be extremely limited in free agency this offseason. Because they reached the NFC title game, if there isn't a new collective bargaining agreement reached by March 5, they — as one of the "final four" teams left in the Super Bowl hunt — won't be able to sign an unrestricted free agent unless they lose one of their own.

Vikings' vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman made it clear recently while addressing fans at the team's Arctic Blast snowmobiling event in northern Minnesota that the team is hoping it can hold onto its unrestricted free agents.

That list will include running back Chester Taylor, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, cornerback Benny Sapp, wide receiver Greg Lewis and offensive lineman Artis Hicks.

Taylor and Sapp are probably the highest priorities. Taylor is a backup to Adrian Peterson but is extremely valuable as a blocker and receiver on third down. Sapp got extended playing time at left corner after Antoine Winfield suffered a broken foot in October. Winfield missed six games but was hampered for the remainder of the season.

"What our goal is and our intention is going into this offseason is to sign Chester Taylor back, to sign Benny Sapp back, to sign Greg Lewis," Spielman said. "He made a couple of big plays for us this year. If we can keep our own guys and try to get those guys back and then have another good draft then I think we'll be where we want to be."

The Vikings are expected to open talks with agents for their free agents at the NFL Scouting Combine next week in Indianapolis. Many NFL agents attend that event.

Spielman made it clear that even though Taylor isn't a starter, he is held in very high regard by the Vikings.

"Chester Taylor brings so much to this football team," Spielman said. "He's like the unsung hero of the offense. You hear about Sidney Rice and Shank (Visanthe Shiancoe) and Percy Harvin and Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson. But what Chester Taylor does for this football team — not only on the field, but off the field — he may be, as we look and we evaluate all the free agents out there, one of the top free-agent backs coming out. Especially in that role he played in third down. It's so valuable for us."


  • Two days after the Vikings lost to New Orleans in the NFC title game, coach Brad Childress made it clear that quarterback Brett Favre had not been given any deadline by which to make a decision about whether he would return in 2010.

    That remains the case. Spielman made that clear.

    "I think you go ahead and let Brett decide what he wants to do," Spielman said. "I know the organization, from our ownership, from our coaches and I think from our fans out there we'd love to have Brett Favre back for another year and see if we can make another run at this."

    The Vikings' approach is a smart one considering how well Favre played this season after deciding to come back for a 19th NFL season last August.

    Favre retired last February after one season with the New York Jets and retired in March 2008 after 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Both times the retirement was short-lived.

    By allowing Favre time to make his own decision, it likely will increase the odds that he will decide to come back from a 20th season during which he will turn 41 years old.

    So far the Favre camp has made no real comments about his intentions. Favre did post a message on his website in which he thanked his fans and spoke highly of Minnesota but gave no indication of what he might do.

    NOTES

  • DE Ray Edwards is among a group of more than 200 players who will be restricted free agents instead of unrestricted if there is no new collective bargaining agreement. That's because players will now need six years of service instead of four to become unrestricted. This doesn't sit well with Edwards, especially since he found out Commissioner Roger Goodell made more than $9 million in 2008. "I don't see him out there getting hit or nothing like that," Edwards said. "The commissioner makes $9 million, so you tell me where the balance is? He doesn't put his life on the line, he pushes a pen."

  • After spending time last week reviewing the list of unrestricted free agents, the Vikings' front office brass has been meeting with its scouts to work on draft preparations. Vikings officials will be in Indianapolis next week for the NFL Scouting Combine.

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