Fans start to feel effects of labor unrest

Julius Peppers (Jim Prisching/AP)

The opening weekend of free agency brought some interesting signings, but the market chilled quickly and the Vikings have been in the deep freeze. Is this one of the first effects we're seeing of labor uncertainty?

If there has ever been a reason for the NFL and the players union to get together and hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement, it has been the lack of tangible activity in the free-agent market.

It isn't to say that the offseason hasn't had seen significant signings and trades, but the typical free-agent market provides a few head-scratching type of signings, because teams are often going after players that have completed four or five years in the NFL and, for the most part, are looking for that one defining contract that sets them up for life. The Vikings' history in free agency and the trade market in the Childress Era has been to go after young players to give long-term contracts (see Jared Allen, Bernard Berrian and Madieu Williams). With the collective bargaining agreement no longer in force, fourth- and fifth-year players are restricted free agents and, to this point, it would seem that owners and coaches have decided not to give up draft picks to sign those players to offer sheets. Had Ray Edwards been an unrestricted free agent, he would have a long-term deal in place for a surprisingly high dollar amount – most likely not with the Vikings. As it is, he was essentially forced to stay, barring a move in the coming weeks for a team to sign him.

Aside from re-signing Jimmy Kennedy, Benny Sapp and Greg Lewis, the Vikings' only acquisition in the free-agent period has been kicker Rhys Lloyd. That isn't exactly going to ramp up season ticket sales.

The Vikings aren't alone. Without the benefit of young free agents in the primes of their careers, one of the offseason showcase events that has kept the NFL in the news during its offseason has been taken away from the fans. There are rumors that those players who would have been unrestricted free agents may find a way to rebel – walking out of offseason workout programs, etc. – but the bottom line is that, while a potential work stoppage is still more than a year away, the first ripples of discontent are starting to be felt and it's unfortunate that it seems nothing is being done at this point to stop the potential tsunami to come.

SUNDAY NOTES

  • Adrian Peterson is one of four NFL players currently touring South Africa. The four players from the University of Oklahoma – Peterson, Chicago's Tommie Harris, Cincinnati's Roy Williams and Baltimore's Mark Clayton – are part of a delegation of Americans touring South Africa prior to the World Cup soccer championships June 11-July 11.

  • Eight players have confirmed that they will be attending the 2010 NFL Draft Thursday, April 22. Five of them are defensive linemen – DTs Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska, Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma, Dan Williams of Tennessee, Jared Odrick of Penn State and DE Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech. The others are safety Eric Berry and offensive tackles Russell Okung and Trent Williams. Surprisingly absent from this early list of confirmations are quarterbacks Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, expected to be the top pick in the draft, and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen.

  • From the Questionable Investment Department comes this: Word out of Dallas is that the Cowboys (translation: Jerry Jones) are considering pulling Marion Barber out of the starting lineup for third-year man Felix Jones. If so, Jones will be the starter in the third year of a five-year, $10.3 million deal. Barber will be a backup in the third year of seven-year, $45 million deal. Things change quickly for running backs in the NFL.

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