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.


A look at the Vikings UFAs

Posted by: under Quarterbacks, Vikings, NFC, Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier, Ben Leber, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Leslie Frazier, Pat Williams, Ray Edwards, Ryan Longwell, Sidney Rice Updated: March 7, 2011 - 4:16 PM

As the Vikings wait for a collective bargaining agreement to get done -- don't hold your breath -- and prepare for free agency, the team still doesn't know if guys like Ray Edwards and Sidney Rice will be unrestricted free agents.

What the Vikings do know is they have eight players who are certain to hit unrestricted free agency. The list includes quarterbacks Brett Favre and Patrick Ramsey; nose tackle Pat Williams; linebacker Ben Leber; wide receiver Greg Lewis; kicker Ryan Longwell; and cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Frank Walker.

Not all of these decisions figure to be all that difficult. A quick look at what the Vikings might do once the free agency period begins.

Favre: Has announced he will retire after 20 seasons. Even if he did want to play again, the Vikings aren't interested in keeping him.

Williams: This one could be interesting. Many expect the 38-year-old to sign elsewhere, but there is a chance the Vikings could push to keep him. Considered a leader in the locker room, coach Leslie Frazier might see the value in having Williams remain on the roster. Meanwhile, Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel, could want to get younger at the nose tackle spot. Keep in mind, it's expected that Frazier and Spielman will be able to make these decisions together with both of them having equal authority.

Leber: This is another interesting one because, again, Frazier likely sees Leber as a valuable member of the defense. The issue here might come down to salary for the nine-year veteran. Strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway will make around $10 million on a one-year deal after signing his franchise tag, and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson is due to make $4.7 million in base salary next season in the final year of his contract. It's very possible another team could offer Leber a deal that the Vikings would not be willing to match.

Lewis: Brought in by former coach Brad Childress, there appears almost no way that Lewis will return. He always will be remembered for his outstanding last-second, game-winning catch of a Brett Favre pass in the back of the end zone in 2009 against San Francisco, but replacing him won't be difficult.

Longwell: His kickoffs might not have been the deepest, but he has been Mr. Reliable when it comes to field goals and extra points. It had gotten to the point where the organization and its fans could take for granted that Longwell would deliver. Last season, he was 17 of 18 on field-goal attempts and 30 of 31 on extra points. The Vikings might be tempted to go cheaper at this position -- Longwell made $1.5 million in base salary last season -- but the first time Longwell's younger and cheaper replacement misses a key kick, many will question why the veteran wasn't brought back.

Ramsey: Signed near the end of last season to provide another quarterback on the roster, Ramsey won't return.

Sheppard: Signed to a one-year deal for a base salary of $1.3 million in 2010, it seems unlikely that the Vikings will put much of a priority on keeping Sheppard. He never seemed satisfied with his role and yet when given an opportunity he struggled at times. If Sheppard goes to another team in 2011, it will be his third team in as many seasons.

Walker: Signed off the street last season, Walker could be brought back for depth purposes. The Vikings certainly learned last season that a team can never have enough depth at cornerback -- that Benny Sapp trade didn't end up looking so good when injuries hit -- and Walker knows the system. His base salary was only $755,000, so keeping him would not be a big investment and he would simply battle for a spot in training camp.

 

 

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