Vikings, Sage Rosenfels agree to 2-year contract
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP)
The Minnesota Vikings have plenty of space under the salary cap to use for signing free agents this year. That doesn't mean they'll use it all.
The Vikings are in full rebuilding mode, and the 10 picks they have in next month's draft - including the third overall selection - are the top priority for improving a team that finished a franchise-worst 3-13 last season. So when the market opens Tuesday afternoon, signaling the start of the 2012 league year, the Vikings aren't going to be aggressively pursuing high-priced veteran players as they have in the recent past.
But they will be participants, because they have a lot of holes to fill on the roster. With roughly $23 million of room under the NFL's cap figure of slightly more than $120 million, they have flexibility, too.
''Whether we make a big splash or not, if there's someone out there we think can help us we're willing to spend a lot of money on we'll definitely look at those options,'' general manager Rick Spielman said recently.
Spielman, though, has already counted contract extensions given to running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Chad Greenway, center John Sullivan and long snapper Cullen Loeffler as money spent on unrestricted free agency. All four of them would've been eligible this year.
''We feel very strongly about keeping our core players or our key players here,'' Spielman said.
The Vikings crossed another one of their own free agents off the list Monday by agreeing in principle to a two-year contract with quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who will enter his 12th season in the league as a backup to Christian Ponder and Joe Webb.
Rick Smith, the agent for Rosenfels, confirmed the deal was in place. It was first reported by FoxSports.com. Rosenfels was acquired by the Vikings in 2009 from the Texans for a fourth-round draft pick, but he never saw the field behind Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson and was traded to the Giants the following year. Rosenfels joined the Dolphins last season and was waived in November before the Vikings claimed him.
''There was mutual interest,'' Smith said in a brief phone interview. ''He's seen a number of different places in his career, so he wanted to stay put. He's comfortable there.''
Rosenfels, who grew up in Iowa and played in college at Iowa State, has been with five NFL teams.
The Vikings have 15 other unrestricted free agents, but tight end Jim Kleinsasser has retired and only four of them were starters last year - linebacker E.J. Henderson, linebacker Erin Henderson, safety Husain Abdullah and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Abdullah could be back, but he finished last season with a concussion. Erin Henderson showed some potential during his first year as a regular, making him the strongest candidate to return.
But there will be plenty of turnover on the roster, given the need to get younger. The players the Vikings do pursue in free agency are likely to be fresh off their first NFL contract rather than pushing - or over - the age of 30. Wide receivers and cornerbacks are the most glaring needs, and it'll take both free agency and the draft to start the shoring-up process there. Cornerback Brandon Carr of the Kansas City Chiefs and wide receiver Robert Meachem of the New Orleans Saints are two possible fits.
And Spielman will be running the show for the first time, having ascended to GM two months ago after sharing authority over the roster with the head coach.
''I know that a lot of things are going to happen that's going to be on my watch, so I'm very excited to see some of the moves we're going to make and how they pan out,'' he said.
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