Mike Tice has built a reputation for being a guy who you have to impress. It goes both ways -- several free agents have commented to VU about how welcome they have felt and how sincere the Vikings have been in their efforts. These have been players Tice has tried to impress.
He may have found one of his guys. After a couple of weeks of futility in which players who have visited and been targeted by the team have signed elsewhere, they may have their guy.
VU was told Monday that, after making his latest free agent stop, CB Denard Walker has told his agent not to negotiate with another team until he tries to work out a deal with the Vikings.
This stance is rare, since agents prefer to have teams in a bidding war for the services of a client. But Walker has made his point loud and clear to the Vikings -- he wants to play here and wants to get a deal struck.
By giving the exlusive negotiating rights to the Vikings, a deal will either be made or broken relatively quickly -- reality dictates there will likely only be about two more weeks of realistic free agency until after the draft. By the beginning of April, teams will be focused on rookie talent evaluations more than guys they didn't sign.
In the last week-plus, Walker has visited four teams -- the Vikings, Bengals, Rams and Jaguars. With the Bengals signing CB Tory James Sunday to a four-year, $14.4 million contract, they took themselves realistically out of the bidding. However, finalizing a deal won't be a snap -- thanks to the Bengals.
VU has been told that Walker's people will likely be seeking a deal equal to or more than James. Walker, who turns 30 in August, will likely command a similar package -- which in James' case includes $6 million this season between a signing bonus of $4 million and a base salary of $2 million.
It's still unclear if Red McCombs has opened up the checking account fully to Tice. Walker, who VU rated as the top cover corner availalble in free agency after he was cut by Denver, wants to come here and the team can get him for about $10 million less than the Lions threw away on Dre Blay. If McCombs isn't holding back on the cash, the Vikings may not have a chance again in free agency to get a knowledgeable veteran player who can make an immediate impact on the Vikings woeful defense. If Red wants the Vikings to compete for the playoffs, here's a chance for he and Tice to prove it.
* The welcome mat is again being rolled out as the Vikings have visitors coming in all week. Linebacker Barry Gardner of the Eagles is scheduled in today. Even if Walker signs, the team may look for another corner. Green Bay's Tyrone Williams is in today and Packer teammate Tod McBride is coming Thursday. Also planned for Wednesday visits are CBs Alex Molden of the Chargers and Kevin Mathis of Atlanta.
* Also scheduled to visit this week are offensive tackles Mike Rosenthal of the Giants and Jerry Wunsch -- late of the Bucs and Seahawks.
* As reported last weekend, Jason Sehorn (cut by the Giants) is a possibility to visit within the next week, but VU continues to be told it will be more likely to come in as a safety instead of a cornerback.
* If the quarterback situation isn't rectified, the Vikings may resort to a backup plan of asking Todd Bouman to restructure his contract to add years to his current deal. As it stands, between an April 15 signing bonus of $1 million and a $850,000 base salary, Bouman would be paid $1.85 million and could still become an unrestricted free agent next season. That, in the terms it's been laid out to VU by team officials, is too steep a price. However, if Bouman would agree to a two-year extension, the team would likely be willing to give him his $1 million signing bonus.
* The Vikings are rumored to be considering bringing in OT Solomon Page of the Cowboys and DL Vonnie Holliday of the Packers. However, a VU source with the Packers who has spoken to Holliday said that, as of last weekend, the Vikings had made no contact with Holliday or his agent.
* The up side of free agency from the Vikings standpoint to date reared its head Monday. With Baltimore and Philadelphia both readying themselves to make a pitch for restricted free agent Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, the Packers needed to prepare themselves to offer him a contract they hoped was still a year off. To clear up an additional $2.5 million under the cap (to give the Pack $5 million in available cap money), the team restructured the deal of Darren Sharper to pile on more of a hit next year and, to the surprise of many, cut LB Nate Wayne. VU was told by a Packers source that Wayne was stunned by the news, but apparently composed himself quickly -- he took off to visit the Eagles Monday afternoon. If he isn't signed quickly, the Vikings are sure to be interested.
* Tice attended the University of Iowa's Pro Day Monday. The Hawkeye seniors -- from first-round locks like guard Eric Steinbach to guys hoping to sign as street free agents -- worked out for coaches and scouts.