Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


As free agency frenzy nears, rumor and reality will collide

Posted by: under Vikings, Percy Harvin Updated: March 7, 2013 - 9:50 AM

Last month, when pressed to provide a little more clarity to the altogether iffy status of receiver Percy Harvin, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman skillfully shuffled around a definitive explanation on the matter and instead advised a room of reporters to sift through all the rumor and conjecture that has circulated with great caution.

“I would just say don’t believe all the half-truths or the rumors or the no-truths that are out there,” Spielman warned. “Because there is so much stuff that flies around. … It’s great reading.”

Yep, rumor and half-truth often does make for great reading. And this is the world sites such as ProFootballTalk.com thrives and preys on.

Thing is, Spielman’s advice doesn’t only apply to the future of Harvin with the Vikings. It applies to pretty much all things NFL. And it’s especially important to remember as the league machine tries to suck you into its upcoming free agency frenzy this weekend.

Here’s your quick summary of the timeline:

  • At midnight Eastern on Friday, a new league policy opens the door for NFL teams to begin discussions with agents of outside free agents.
  • No deals can be struck or contracts finalized until after 4 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.
  • That leaves an 88-hour window for discussions and preliminary negotiations. But for the record, teams will be unable to have players in for visits or medical evaluations until Tuesday. And, by the letter of the law, rule-abiding teams won’t even be allowed to speak with the free agent players themselves. So the action this weekend will be somewhat confusing. And the coverage of the confusion will be downright chaotic.

Here’s our shout-out to Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, who has provided the perfect synopsis for what’s about to go down in league circles over the weekend. Do yourself a favor and read the entire piece.

But as Bedard puts it:

Agents with top-of-the-market players about to cash in … are under a lot of pressure, not only to boost their own commission, but to deliver that huge contract they’ve been promising their client. There is a desperation involved, especially if the market isn’t hot to start. So if an agent thinks that lying to a media member will boost his client’s contract, you better believe he’s going to do that.

So prepare yourself for breathless reports about how such and such team is in the lead but three other teams are expected to get into the bidding. And it will go on all the way until Tuesday.

And it’s exactly what the NFL wants — not the teams, the league office. This negotiation period is purely artificial, to boost the spotlight on the league during a slow period in the sports calendar. The NFL thinks this will cause more media to write or talk about the league and it desires that attention. And you better believe those outlets that measure success purely by clicks will be beating the drums right along with the league.

Over the weekend and into next week, it will be very important to keep your filter operating and the knob on your “B.S. Detector” turned to high.

Don’t get us wrong. Big things will happen. Notable players like Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Cliff Avril and Jake Long will sign new contracts, probably with new teams.

And there will be significant news to report and dissect and analyze. But with that will a flood of nonsense and incessant noise will break through the dam. Agents will leak half-truths. Teams won’t respond. Fact and fiction will frolic together and scrap like Harry and Mary in “Dumb and Dumber.”

If you enjoy that kind of silliness, we’d suggest spending the entire weekend glued to Twitter, the NFL Network and ESPN. Speculation will be everywhere. Just remember to process it as just that. The take a deep breath, allow deals to be finalized and realize that the first regular season game of 2013 is still half-a-year away.

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2014 preseason     
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