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Published: Friday, March 2, 2001

Vikings probably won't be big player on free-agent market

Pioneer Press

---------------------------------------------------------------------- -- BILL WILLIAMSON STAFF WRITER ---------------------------------------------------------------------- -- Now that the Vikings have made their way under the salary cap, they likely will begin waving good-bye to several free agents. Today marks the start of free agency, and several players, including Corbin Lacina, Dwayne Rudd, Tony Williams and Matthew Hatchette, probably will be on their way out. The Vikings chopped more than $19 million off their salary cap number in the past month just to get under the $67.4 million cap. They barely made it and, thus, probably won't be signing any free agents. In addition to losing several key players, the Vikings won't have the money available to replace them. Although the Vikings might try to add a couple of free agents for the league minimum, most of their reinforcements will come in the draft or perhaps through trade. ``We will not have the salary cap room to do much,'' vice president Mike Kelly said Thursday. ``We will not have discretionary income to spend.'' Thus, there's little chance the Vikings will be able to re-sign their unrestricted free agents. Lacina appears to be their top priority. If left tackle Todd Steussie is released by March 15, as expected, the Vikings might try to mortgage the future and re-sign Lacina just to keep an experienced player on the left side of the line. Chris Liwienski is in line to replace Lacina, and Brad Badger would take over for Steussie. But the Vikings' hand might be forced if Lacina gets an offer from another team worth $1.5 million to $2 million, a strong possibility, league sources say. Arizona will go after Lacina and sources said he could go there for a visit as soon as Monday. While the Cardinals, who badly need a left guard, are expect to be Lacina's most eager pursuer, the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos also are interested. In addition to Lacina, among the free agents the Vikings might try to re-sign include receiver Chris Walsh, tight ends Johnny McWilliams and John Davis and defensive linemen Fernando Smith and Bryce Paup. Vikings coach Dennis Green said last week he would consider signing a restricted free agent or making a trade, giving up the team's No. 27 overall draft pick, to find an impact defensive player. It's believed the Vikings are seeking a cornerback and a pass-rushing defensive end as their top priority. Among the restricted free agents who could interest the Vikings include Tennessee's Samari Rolle, Tampa Bay's Brian Kelly, both cornerbacks, and defensive ends Lorenzo Bromell of Miami and Greg Spires of New England. Unrestricted players who could be signed for a bargain include defensive backs Eric Davis, Ryan McNeil, Dale Carter, James Hasty, linebacker Chris Slade and defensive lineman C

-- Mark (Karch, March 02, 2001

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