Vikings officials made it clear last week at the NFL scouting combine that they would continue to do business as usual, operating under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement in effect until 11 p.m. Thursday.
They did just that on Wednesday by placing tenders on most of their potential restricted free agents, even though that group could include some unrestricted free agents under the terms of the yet-to-be negotiated CBA.
The list included wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Ray Edwards, both of whom received first-round tenders. That means if the Vikings decline to match an offer from another team, they would receive a first-round pick as compensation. Rice stands to make $3.442 million on a one-year deal, while Edwards would make about $3.5 million.
It's unclear if Rice and Edwards will become restricted or unrestricted free agents in a new CBA. Before 2010, four years in the NFL qualified a player for unrestricted free agency. In the uncapped season of 2010 that took six years, and players with four and five seasons were restricted. It's unknown what the new rules will be in the next CBA.
Edwards has five accrued seasons, so it seems likely he will become unrestricted, which would make his tender invalid. Rice, however, has four years of service and could remain a restricted free agent under a new deal.
Rice's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, reportedly said his client would test free agency. There was some thought that the Vikings would place a first- and third-rounder tender on Rice, the highest tender available. The Vikings instead opted to give him the first-round tender.
Safety Husain Abdullah, offensive lineman Ryan Cook and defensive end Brian Robison received second-round tenders. Safety Eric Frampton, a contributor on special teams, is expected to get a right-of-first-refusal tender. That would mean the Vikings would get a fifth-round pick back if another team signs Frampton and Minnesota fails to match.
Those who are uncertain whether they will be restricted or unrestricted include Robison (four seasons), Cook (five), receiver Hank Baskett (five), defensive tackle Fred Evans (five), quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (five) and fullback Naufahu Tahi (five).
Under the expiring CBA, players can be tendered contracts at different levels. This includes the ability for a team to match any offer a player gets upon signing an offer sheet with a new club or compensation of a draft pick in the round the player was taken goes to the team losing that player.
Ordinarily, free agency would be set to commence Thursday, but if there is no labor agreement that won't happen.Leber attends negotiations
Linebacker Ben Leber was among a group of NFL players in attendance Wednesday at a meeting with owners during a four-hour negotiating session at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service office of George Cohen in Washington D.C.
Leber, who stands to become a free agent when a new CBA is done, is one of the Vikings' assistant player representatives.
"You have pictures in your mind about what kind of happens in the mediation process, but you never really know," Leber said. "It was a different experience than I thought. I was just, I guess, in awe of how the players that were there and then our legal counsel how well-versed and how smart, how well-prepared they are with this whole situation.
"I really came just to get a better perspective of what's going on, and there's a chance I might not make the [NFLPA] meetings because my wife is due to be having our second child around there."