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.
The NFL and NFLPA have an agreement. The lockout is over. So now let the fun, and free agency, begin.
Teams can begin reaching agreements with all free agents on Tuesday, meaning defensive end Ray Edwards can finally hit the open market. There already was a report today in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Edwards likely would land in Philadelphia and not with the Falcons, as some had speculated.
“I have no idea what’s going on," Edwards said when asked about him possibly signing with Philadelphia. "My agent called me. I really don’t know. We’ll see. That’s the expectation, I guess.”
Edwards, the Vikings' starting left end who was second on the team last season with eight sacks, had made it clear this offseason that he would not be returning to Minnesota. He seemed to soften that stance a bit on Monday.
“I have no idea," he said when asked if he still did not expect to be back. "I’m waiting to see from whoever is out there and weigh my options.”
Asked if the Vikings come in with a solid offer if he would be open to coming back, he said: "I don’t see them [doing that]. They have a lot of guys on offense they have to look at.”
Leslie Frazier will begin his first full season as the Vikings coach when players return and Fred Pagac has been promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. But Edwards sounded less than enthused when it was mentioned the power structure at Winter Park has been altered.
“I don’t think too much of the power structure has changed," he said. "Like I said, I’ll weigh my options and see what they come with, if they even come. That’s pretty much how I look at it on that end.”
The Vikings and other NFL teams are going to be in for a wild week when it comes to free agency. Things will move fast and a guy like Edwards could be off the market in quick fashion. Teams can't begin filing transactions until Friday evening but agreements will be reached long before that.
“My expectation is just get the best deal out there for me and go to whoever signs me and continue to produce for them as I’ve been producing for the Vikings," he said.
As for Edwards' boxing career, that appears to be on hold for a while. Edwards boxed once this spring, beating Duluth's T.J. Gibson at Grand Casino Hinckley, but his second fight was called off and now he's returning to football.
“Pretty much it's more than likely on hold," he said. "I don’t think anybody is going to let me box during the season. I'll continue to train and continue to work hard like I always do.”
So did a second fight almost take place? 'It was coming close but it was hard to find an opponent to help me move up the ranks in boxing," Edwards said. "We just didn’t get it done in a timely fashion.”
Wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Ray Edwards of the Vikings would be unrestricted free agents under the proposed new collective bargaining agreement that was discussed at the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday in Rosemont, Ill.
The Vikings were represented by owner Zygi Wilf and team president Mark Wilf as clubs were given details of an agreement that could end the lockout. ESPN reported that a vote on a new CBA would not be taken Tuesday.
Rice, who has been in the NFL for four seasons, and Edwards, a five-year veteran, would have been restricted free agents under the terms of the final year of the old CBA. That agreement expired after the season. It does not come as a surprise that players with four or more years of service would qualify for unrestricted free agency because that was the service time needed to hit the open market before 2010.
The most important thing in ending the lockout will be how the revenue would be split up. According to ESPN, players would receive a 48 percent share of "all revenue," without the $1-billion-plus credit off the top that had been a point of contention in earlier negotiations. Players would receive 48 percent of all revenue and will never dip below a 46.5 percent take of the money, sources told the all-sports network.
Once a deal does get done, a free agency period would start shortly thereafter. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier likely would try to hold some type of minicamp before the team headed to Mankato to start training camp, assuming an agreement is reached in early July.
ESPN reported the new CBA would include a rookie wage scale that is still being worked on and certain types of tags would be retained but are still being discussed. That is important because the Vikings put the franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway before the lockout began and likely would be able to retain him on a one-year deal worth about $10 million.
The Vikings would then have time to work on a long-term deal for Greenway during the 2011 season.
Update: Negotiations between players and owners will resume on Wednesday and Thursday in a suburb outside Boston, according to multiple reports. It will be the fourth set of meetings between owners and players in the past month.
Ray Edwards' fight on June 24 has been postponed.
Edwards (1-0), the Vikings defensive end, was set to fight Larry Butler (1-0) at Grand Casino Hinckley but Butler has backed out of the fight, according to a press release issued by the Midwest Sports Council on Saturday morning.
A new opponent and date for the fight are currently being pursued. The event will still be held at Grand Casino Hinckley – most likely in later July or early August.
That will depend, of course, on whether the NFL lockout is over by that point because Edwards could be back playing football by that time. It remains to be seen if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will make Edwards a restricted or unrestricted free agent.
He has made it clear he doesn't want to return to the Vikings, but if he's a restricted free agent there is a good chance Minnesota will retain Edwards' rights.
Edwards won his professional boxing debut on May 20 at Grand Casino Hinckley when he won in a unanimous decision over T.J. Gibson and had two knockdowns in the process. Butler also was on the card that night and won his bout.
The Vikings will have a long list of free agents to deal with when the NFL lockout finally does end, but vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said team officials have "a pretty good idea" of the players they want to keep. That such decisions have been made comes as no surprise given the amount of time the Vikings have had to analyze any situation that might happen when the work stoppage is done.
"Our history has been to keep our young guys, especially trying to come out of their first contracts [as well as] get those guys," Spielman said Wednesday while playing in the team's charity golf tournament that benefits the Vikings Children's Fund at Rush Creek in Maple Grove. "I think that’s the top priority and then we’ll kind of see where everything else falls in place. That also depends a lot on what type of [salary] cap number you’re working with, if you’re working with a cap number, and the years. You don’t know anything [about what the rules will be].”
Indeed that is a major issue facing the Vikings and other NFL teams. When the salary cap was in place, players were eligible to become unrestricted free agents after four years of service. Last year, with the salary cap gone and the collective bargaining agreement entering its last year, a player had to have six years of service to become unrestricted.
It remains unclear what the requirement will be for unrestricted free agency under a new CBA, but many expect it will go back to four years.
That would mean the following list of Vikings could hit the open market during what would be a wild free agency period: Nose tackle Pat Williams (14 years of service); kicker Ryan Longwell (14); linebacker Ben Leber (nine); quarterback Patrick Ramsey (nine) cornerback Lito Sheppard (nine); wide receiver Greg Lewis (eight); cornerback Frank Walker (eight); wide receiver Hank Baskett (five); defensive end Ray Edwards (five); defensive tackle Fred Evans (five); offensive lineman Ryan Cook (five); quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (five); fullback Naufahu Tahi (five); safety Eric Frampton (four); and wide receiver Sidney Rice (four).
Linebacker Chad Greenway, a veteran of five seasons, also could join the above list but that will only happen if there is no franchise tag included as part of a new CBA. The Vikings put the franchise designation on Greenway after the 2010 season, meaning he would make about $10 million in 2011.
Going by what Spielman said about keeping younger players, the two names that jump out are Rice and Edwards. Rice had a brilliant 2009 season but he is coming off hip surgery last year and there is a chance that given the Vikings situation at receiver they might be willing to pay him more than some other teams that might be worried about the hip.
As for Edwards, that's an interesting situation. The starting left end for the Vikings has had 16.5 sacks the past two seasons in 30 starts. Edwards, though, has made it clear he does not want to return to the Vikings, going so far as to refer to himself as a "former Viking" in the press releases that have come out while he has been boxing during the lockout.
“I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and players are going to get frustrated and the business side is always going to be frustrating for them," Spielman said when asked about Edwards' situation. "We’ll just see. We don’t know if he’s restricted, unrestricted, what’s going on in that area and if we can sign him or not sign him to a long-term deal."
Leslie Frazier's first offseason as Vikings head coach has been anything but ordinary. The lockout has postponed free agency, wiped out OTAs and minicamps and cost his coaching staff valuable time in installing its new systems.
Frazier said his staff has spent the extra time getting more familiar with their NFC North opponents.
"We’re definitely taking a real hard look at our division, but also looking at some of our upcoming opponents," he said. "The good news is we have our 2011 schedule so we’ve been able to look at some of our opponents and work on some projects regarding them along with being able to look back at our season from a year ago and look at red-zone, third-down, offensive efficiency and so on."
Frazier said he's also spent a lot of time going over different free agency scenarios with vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and director of player personnel George Paton. Nobody knows what the rules for free agency will be until the labor situation gets settled so teams must consider several contingency plans.
"Just sitting down with Rick and George Paton, they’ve taken me through a ton of different scenarios about if it’s going to be free agency under the old rules, the 2010 rules [or] if it’s going to be free agency under the 2009 rules," Frazier said. "Or if we come up with a new collective bargaining agreement, they say, these are the rules we're working under. We’ve gone through all those scenarios and we have a list and a way we’re going to attack things based on which scenario we’re working under."
It starts with their own free agents, including Sidney Rice and Ray Edwards. Rice's agent Drew Rosenhaus said Rice will test the market if he is unrestricted. Edwards has made it clear in a number of interviews recently that he's upset with his contract situation and doesn't want to play for the team even if he is restricted.
Frazier was asked Friday about Edwards' public comments.
"That’s something that once we find out what the rules are, we’ll discuss that with Ray and his agent," Frazier said. "But right now, nobody knows what’s what so there’s nothing we can say."
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