MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings, like many other NFL teams over the last few days, have been busy working on contracts with their own free agents to keep from being outbid.
So what's left when the market actually opens Tuesday?
Maybe not much activity at all. Or perhaps they're not done with the big spending. That's the flexibility — and the mystery — that ample salary-cap space provides.
"Everybody sees that Maserati, and they want to go buy it, and you know you probably shouldn't. You should probably buy a Ford F-150, like I've got," new coach Mike Zimmer said last week. "Because if you get the F-150, you can keep building the pieces you need. So I think we have to be smart about it."
First with quarterback Matt Cassel, and then with defensive end Everson Griffen, the Vikings crossed two priorities off their offseason to-do list by agreeing to terms on new deals with each of them. They've also re-signed cornerback/punt returner Marcus Sherels and backup linebacker Larry Dean, a valuable special teams player, and agreed on a contract with middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who will return to the team to compete for the starting job after one year with Arizona.
Cassel's two-year deal for as much as $10 million will either make him a rich backup or an underpaid starter, depending on how the quarterback the Vikings draft this spring develops. But that took care of the team's biggest need on offense. After splurging on wide receiver Greg Jennings last year, the Vikings are on track to use more modest contracts for free agents and some of their draft picks to address the other positions of need on offense. Their biggest holes are still on defense, a group that allowed a league-most 30 points per game.
"We have to look at all the areas on defense because of the schematic change a little bit," general manager Rick Spielman said recently. He added: "I think we have a lot of good young pieces in areas, but we just got to add to what we have."
With Cassel and Griffen removed from the pool, excluding players they've released in recent weeks with time still remaining on their contracts, the Vikings have 13 unrestricted free agents left. Defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams are the headliners, and Allen won't be back. Williams probably won't either.
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