Phil Loadholt has experienced the highs (2009) and lows (2011) of the Vikings in his four years, but…
Vikings progressing in free agent process
Last week, general manager Rick Spielman, others from the scouting department, and coaches met to evaluate the team's pending free agents. Players were discussed and priorities set, but even the Vikings don't know yet how much those priority free agents of their own will cost.
"We've kind of started that process and going through our steps, and now we'll add the financial piece to it and what we can and can't do," Spielman said this week after attending a Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala. "We've still got to add in the UFAs (unrestricted free agents across the league) and I've got to find out once we get through those meetings before we go to the combine the strengths and weaknesses of the draft."
The Vikings have 10 unrestricted free agents, one restricted free agent (CB A.J. Jefferson), and three exclusive rights free agents (CB Marcus Sherels, T Troy Kropog and S Andrew Sendejo). The restricted and exclusive rights players should be no problem for the Vikings to keep if they want. The unrestricted free agents could be a bit trickier because of the number of players and the higher salaries some of them will command.
The list of pending unrestricted free agents the Vikings have includes starting fullback Jerome Felton, starting right tackle Phil Loadholt, starting linebackers Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley, starting safety Jamarca Sanford and wide receiver Jerome Simpson. The remaining four were reserves to differing levels. Guard Geoff Schwartz rotated playing time for much of the season with starting guard Brandon Fusco, and Devin Aromashodu played in most of the games as a reserve receiver. Linebacker Marvin Mitchell was used mostly on special teams coverage units and interior offensive lineman Joe Berger was used sparingly.
Spielman said the Vikings "would love" to have all of their unrestricted free agents back, but of course financial parameters from both parties – the team and the players/agents – will determine how realistic that is on a case-by-case basis. Discussions on contract figures with their pending free agents haven't started yet, but representatives for most of the pending free agents will be approached at the NFL Scouting Combine, which starts Feb. 21 in Indianapolis. Some of those contract discussions could start earlier, Spielman said.
"It's a process and I know we'll talk to all our guys. That process usually starts down at the combine, but some guys we may open up some discussions earlier," Spielman said. "You know you have until March 12 to try to get things done."
Free agency starts at 3 p.m. Central on March 12 and the feeling from others in the organization is that some of the unrestricted free agents will want to test the open market. In some instances, that could help the Vikings' ability to sign them, as their asking price could decrease if they don't get viable offers from other teams.
The Vikings' biggest needs are considered wide receiver, linebacker (if either Henderson or Brinkley don't re-sign) and defensive tackle. But part of Spielman's process is to consider the positions of strength in the draft alongside the strengths of free agency. That level of evaluation is still in process.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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