Vikings will blitz their way back into business

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 21, 2011 - 7:26 AM

Once the NFL lockout is over, the Vikings will have only days to settle salary cap and roster questions that usually take teams months to decide.

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Vikings coach Leslie Frazier

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Leslie Frazier was scheduled to return from vacation Wednesday. That might be the last bit of rest and relaxation the Vikings coach gets for several months.

The NFL lockout that began on March 11 could end as early as Thursday.

Players and owners are in a position to vote on the proposed collective bargaining agreement. Ratification from both sides would create an unprecedented frenzy of activity for the Vikings and other teams. The Vikings want to open training camp Aug. 1 in Mankato (if possible) but first would need to deal with numerous issues over a period of days that ordinarily would have been handled over months.

Here are five key issues:

Managing the salary cap

After a year's absence, the salary cap will return at a reported $120 million in 2011. ESPN reports that the Vikings are $5.1 million over that. That means vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and VP of football operations Rob Brzezinski, who manages the cap, are going to have to do some quick work to clear space.

Receiver Bernard Berrian ($6.258 million cap hit) and safety Madieu Williams ($5.5 million) could be jettisoned to create space. But would the Vikings want to let go of Berrian without knowing whether free agent Sidney Rice will return?

Another move would be to attempt to work a long-term extension with Adrian Peterson. The Pro Bowl running back is entering the last season of his contract and is due a base salary of $10.720 million but will have an eye-popping cap number of $12.775 million. Peterson is going to want an extension and the Vikings would create cap relief by giving him one. Linebacker Chad Greenway, who received the franchise tag before the lockout began, would have a cap number of around $10 million for 2011. A long-term deal for Greenway also would make sense.

Sidney Rice: Should he stay or should he go?

Rice had a Pro Bowl season in 2009, but that marked the only time the 2007 second-round pick has played a full season. Last year, Rice had hip surgery in August and did not play until late November.

Rice is a No. 1 receiver if he's healthy, but his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is likely going to want plenty of guaranteed money. The Vikings are expected to have a 72-hour window in which they will have exclusive negotiating rights with Rice and their other free agents, but once that's over he will hit the market. A team such as Seattle, which is reportedly $39 million under the cap, could pounce on Rice.

Decisions, decisions

Starting left end Ray Edwards almost certainly will sign elsewhere (Atlanta?) when free agency commences. Edwards had 16.5 sacks the past two season, but he has made it clear he wants to leave. Brian Robison will take over at left end. The Vikings also are going to have to decide whether to try to retain veteran nose tackle Pat Williams (38), kicker Ryan Longwell (36) and linebacker Ben Leber (32), among others.

Quarterback shopping

The Vikings made Christian Ponder the 12th pick in the April draft and would like to put him on the fast track to become the starting quarterback. But given that he has missed the entire offseason program, having Ponder start the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at San Diego might do more damage than good.

The Vikings also have Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar under contract, but odds appear strong they will look to add a veteran who can start the season and serve as a mentor.

Washington's Donovan McNabb (34), who could be released or moved in a trade, has been mentioned by the national media, as has free agent Matt Hasselbeck (35). But would the Vikings want to sign a veteran who sees himself as a potential long-term solution? Free-agent possibilities could include Marc Bulger or Bruce Gradkowski.

Address other needs

The Vikings long ago went through multiple free-agency scenarios, but will have to be prepared to act quickly next week if and when more than 400 free agents hit the market. The top-notch free agents -- it's expected that players with four accrued seasons will be unrestricted -- will be gone in the blink of an eye.

But there will be plenty of other quality guys available, meaning having cap space will be key.

The one thing about this coming period that should be less hectic than usual for the Vikings will be signing their 10 draft picks. A rookie wage system is expected to be in place in the new CBA, making reaching agreements with first-round picks much easier.

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
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Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
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Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
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Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
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