Hartman: Vikings have room to work with under salary cap

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2014 - 11:17 PM
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Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel handed off to running back Matt Asiata during the 2013 season finale against Detroit at the Metrodome. They are two of the 16 free agents from last season that the Vikings will need to address in the coming weeks.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

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The Vikings have 54 players under contract for the 2014 NFL season. The combined salaries of those players sits at $103 million. ESPN.com reported this past week that that total means the Vikings will have the fourth-most cap space of any club next season.

The salary cap is expected to be somewhere near $126 million next year so the Vikings at present would have about $23 million under the cap to spend in free agency.

So the club is in good shape financially to sign the free agents it wants back.

General Manager Rick Spielman has made it apparent that the team wants to re-sign a number of its free agents. Those free agents are cornerback Chris Cook; quarterback Matt Cassel; defensive linemen Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Everson Griffen and Fred Evans; running backs Toby Gerhart and Matt Asiata; wide receivers Joe Webb and Jerome Simpson; linebackers Larry Dean and Marvin Mitchell; offensive linemen Joe Berger and J’Marcus Webb; and linebacker Desmond Bishop. Quarterback Josh Freeman is also a free agent, but it’s fairly certain he will not be retained.

This year, NFL free agency begins with a three-day window when teams may sign their own free agents and also negotiate with unrestricted free agents from other clubs. That will begin March 8. Regular free agency will open March 11.

Spielman said at his news conference last week that the team not only will try to sign free agents from other clubs, but it will keep an eye on what players get cut because of salary-cap limitations.

“Guys that are potentially going to be out there that may have a high cap number or may be potentially on the trading block because he may have a high cap number, they might try to cut him, they might restructure his deal,” Spielman said. “So we go through every team’s contract with each player and see if they are performing to that level, of where that contract comes into play, are they playing to that contract or not, and if they are not, we will put him on that list.”

Gophers aim for Badgers

I get the same question many times when the Gophers face Wisconsin, especially in basketball and football. Gophers fans can’t understand why the Badgers are so successful when it comes to competing against the Gophers in the two sports.

The Gophers’ 78-70 loss at Wisconsin on Thursday was not a big surprise, as the Badgers were 9½-point favorites and had beaten the Gophers 11 out of the past 12 games dating to 2000 at the Kohl Center, and 15 out of 16 overall in Madison.

But you can’t look at the Badgers’ overall success in football and basketball without imagining that the Gophers athletic department is hoping to reach Wisconsin’s heights soon.

Since Bo Ryan arrived in 2001, Wisconsin men’s basketball is 311-118 with three Big Ten regular-season titles and two tournament titles. The Badgers have reached the NCAA tournament every year, the Sweet 16 five times and the Elite Eight once.

The Gophers have a chance of reaching the NCAA tournament again this year, but they haven’t made a deep run in the tournament since their 1997 Big Ten championship and Final Four season under Clem Haskins, which was later vacated.

In football, the Badgers have reached six Rose Bowls since 1993, including three in a row from 2011 to ’13. The Gophers, as has often been noted, haven’t won the Big Ten since 1967.

Some of this can be tied to sports revenue. According to USA Today, the Badgers brought in $103 million in revenue in 2012 while the Gophers brought in $83 million.

Fregosi was saved

I don’t recall the year, but sometime in the 1960s when Bill Rigney managed the California Angels, I got a call from him regarding a foot injury Jim Fregosi had. It was serious enough that it was going to end the career of the great shortstop.

Rigney said Fregosi had contacted many doctors in the Los Angeles area, and none of them had any idea how to fix the problem. Rigney said he was going to fly Fregosi into the Twin Cities and asked if I would drive him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in hopes that the one of the doctors there would have a solution.

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