INDIANAPOLIS -- Vikings offensive lineman Artis Hicks appears set to hit the free-agent market next week.

Vikings officials and Hicks' representative met at the NFL Scouting Combine and it's believed the team would like to keep the veteran. Hicks, who was acquired from the Eagles in 2006 shortly after Brad Childress left Philadelphia to become the Vikings coach, has been an extremely valuable backup in recent seasons.

He has been considered the Vikings top backup at every position on the line except center and last season started once in place of an injured Phil Loadholt at right tackle and twice in place of Anthony Herrera (concussion) at right guard. In 2008, Hicks started six games, including the first four at left tackle when Bryant McKinnie was suspended.

Hicks has shown enough that, according to an NFL source, there is interest in him from a handful of teams and there might be an opportunity for him to compete for a starting job. That isn't likely to happen with the Vikings, where the starting tackle and guard spots are filled.

Hicks was the starting right guard for much of the 2006 season and the first four games of 2007 before being replaced by Anthony Herrera. The reality is that right guard might be Hicks' weakest spot and he is definitely more suited to play on the left side of the line.

Meanwhile, the Vikings also have met with the agent for cornerback Benny Sapp. Sapp got some valuable playing time last season in place of the injured Antoine Winfield and will be an unrestricted free agent as of 11:01 p.m. (central) next Thursday. Agent Andy Simms also represents VIkings' fullback Naufahu Tahi as well as Sapp. Tahi will be a restricted free agent.

"There is interest in bringing both back but certainly there are details that need to be worked out if that's going to happen," Simms said. "It was our first meeting and we've agreed to continuing talking."

The Vikings other pending unrestricted free agents are defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy; wide receiver Greg Lewis; and running back Chester Taylor.


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