INDIANAPOLIS -- The Vikings should get a better feel for whether they will be able to retain Chester Taylor after team officials meet with the running back's agent, Ken Sarnoff, this week at the NFL Scouting Combine.
If the Vikings feel they are going to be unable to keep Taylor, who stands to become an unrestricted free agent next week, it would not be surprising for them to turn their attention to veteran running back Brian Westbrook. Westbrook was informed by the Eagles this week that he would be released on March 5 when the league's new year begins. He already has been given permission to begin talks with other teams.
Westbrook told a Philadelphia radio station on Wednesday that three or four teams already had been in contact with his agent, Todd France. Could the Vikings be on that list? France has not returned messages but considering Vikings coach Brad Childress was Westbrook's offensive coordinator for four seasons in Philadelphia (2002-2005) it would not be surprising if Minnesota has placed a call.
Rick Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel, declined to discuss whether the Vikings had talked to representatives for either Westbrook or LaDainian Tomlinson, who was released by San Diego. “I will say that we look at everybody," Spielman said. "We evaluate and then we move on but we’re early in this process. We plan on talking to Chester’s guy and seeing where he’s at and then we’ll just go on from there.”
Asked if Childress had expressed a comfort level in Westbrook, Spielman said: “No," before adding, "I’ll just keep all our internal discussions internal.”
Westbrook seems like a much better fit than Tomlinson because, like Taylor, Westbrook is a good receiver and has turned himself into an excellent blocker. That would mean he could potentially take over Taylor's role as the Vikings third-down back behind Adrian Peterson.
Spielman and Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski are scheduled to meet with all the agents for the Vikings' pending unrestricted and restricted free agents. The list of potential unrestricted free agents includes Taylor; defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy; cornerback Benny Sapp; wide receiver Greg Lewis; and offensive lineman Artis Hicks. The potential restricted free agents will be safety Eric Frampton; offensive lineman Ryan Cook; defensive end Ray Edwards; defensive tackle Fred Evans; quarterback Tarvaris Jackson; fullback Naufahu Tahi; and cornerback Karl Paymah.
Spielman reiterated he is hopeful the Vikings can keep their free agents but would not say he is confident.
“I don’t know if you have a level of confidence because you don’t know," Spielman said. "I think when we sit down here with these agents we kind of get a feel for where they think the market is going to go. We kind of express how we feel about them as players and frankly we’ve always tried to keep our guys back on the football team if we can get them back. But sometimes, whether it’s a financial situation or something, it’s not always possible and sometimes it works out. I think all our guys that are unrestricted free agents were guys that helped us win ballgames last year, and I think everybody in the organization feels strongly about at least trying to get these guys back.”
Asked what he thought the market might be for Taylor, Spielman said: “I don’t know where the market is going because it’s a whole new deal this year and I don’t know what other teams are going to do. If there’s going to be lavish spending, if there’s not. Like I said, it’s an unknown. But I know Chester is one of those guys that we would definitely want to try to sign back if we can. Just like Greg Lewis, just like Jimmy Kennedy, just like Benny Sapp. All those guys I think are a huge part of our success last year.”
Spielman was referencing the fact that with no new CBA agreed upon that 2010 stands to be played without a salary cap, meaning teams will be able to spend (or not spend) more than usual.