The NFL’s calendar gets flipped to the new league year at 3 p.m. Tuesday and free agency officially starts. But many of the biggest names in free agency already are ticketed for new teams.
Ndamukong Suh is headed to Miami. Byron Maxwell to Philadelphia. Mike Iupati to Arizona. Jeremy Maclin to Kansas City. The list goes on and on.
There has been so much activity — much of it against the rules — since Saturday’s negotiating window opened that the NFL had to send a memo to all 32 teams scolding them for entering into deals with free agents before they were allowed to do so.
The league probably could have saved its energy and some digital ink by not bothering to send that memo to the Vikings, who said they planned to be patient in free agency this year and so far have stuck to their word.
That’s not to say the Vikings haven’t been burning up the phone lines since Saturday, when they could start to formally express interest in free agents. But they have been content to let other teams outbid each other for the top-tier free agents and instead have focused on lower-level players.
Among the free agents the Vikings have contacted, according to league sources, are guard Clint Boling, quarterback Shaun Hill, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, linebacker Andrew Gachkar, safety Taylor Mays and cornerbacks Davon House and Brice McCain. They have managed to keep countless other calls private so far.
The team’s interest in Boling and Hill seems logical.
After releasing starting left guard Charlie Johnson two weeks ago, the Vikings must find his replacement. Boling is considered to be the top guard remaining on the market.
While Boling doesn’t have the accolades of Iupati, the three-time Pro Bowl guard who reportedly will sign with Arizona, Boling is 25, has started 47 games in his young career and has Cincinnati Bengals ties to coach Mike Zimmer.
As for Hill, the Vikings have been in contact with his agent since Saturday about the possibility of bringing him back to Minnesota. The 35-year-old started his career with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2002. He also played for offensive coordinator Norv Turner in San Francisco.
The Vikings are looking for a backup quarterback after agreeing to trade Matt Cassel to the Buffalo Bills — that move should be final Tuesday — and Hill is comfortable in that role. The Vikings, though, reportedly are one of several teams interested in Hill.
Beyond those two positions, the Vikings have been focusing on defensive backs and defensive line depth. Their needs also include wide receiver and linebacker.
The veteran talent pool is shallower than expected, though, after the past three frenzied days. Not only did players such as Suh, Maxwell and Iupati find rich deals in new locales, but other marquee free agents such as New England’s Devin McCourty, Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes and Green Bay’s Randall Cobb re-signed with their teams.
The Vikings have not had to worry about securing the services of any of their top players this year. Their most notable unrestricted free agents were backup defensive tackle Tom Johnson, starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and do-it-all offensive lineman Joe Berger.
The Vikings agreed to new deals with Johnson and long snapper Cullen Loeffler on Sunday. And on Monday, they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with running back Matt Asiata, who was a restricted free agent.
It appears that the rest of the Vikings’ unrestricted free agents will be allowed to officially reach free agency. The Vikings have kept in touch with the agents for Brinkley and Berger since the NFL scouting combine two weeks ago, but they haven’t yet found middle ground.
When free agency opens, the Vikings, who have more than $20 million in salary cap space, finally could strike a deal with a free agent from another team.
Well, that’s assuming there are any of them left by the time the NFL officially kicks off the new league year on Tuesday afternoon.