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Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Vikings Report

Vikings hope hires come more cheaply

Pioneer Press

---------------------------------------------------------------------- -- BILL WILLIAMSON STAFF WRITER ---------------------------------------------------------------------- -- With the big-money free agency nearing a climax, the Vikings are preparing to go bargain shopping. After watching other teams, including divisional foes Tampa Bay and Detroit, spend big money in the opening 10 days of free agency, the Vikings are prepping for the second tier. The Vikings are expected to re-evaluate the market in the next week and design their plan to acquire inexpensive help, particularly on defense. The expected release of Todd Steussie this week would clear about $2 million in salary cap. That money would be spent on adding to the team. The Vikings are about $2 million under the cap, but that money is set to pay the team's draft picks. It appears one avenue the Vikings might take is restricted free agency. Several defensive linemen are available, including ends Brandon Whiting (Philadelphia) and Greg Spires (New England) and tackles Larry Chester (Indianapolis) and James Cannida (Tampa Bay). To sign a restricted free agent, the Vikings would have to give up a draft pick, and the player's team would have a week to match the offer. Among the unrestricted free agents the Vikings could pursue are defensive linemen Chester McGlockton, Christian Peter, Bernand Whittington and Rich Owens, linebackers Chris Slade, Cornell Brown and James Darling and defensive backs Eric Davis, Eric Warfield, Terrell Buckley and James Hasty. McGlockton went to Clemson with Vikings linebacker Ed McDaniel and the two remain close friends. It's believed McDaniel has tried to sell the Vikings on McGlockton, who also is talking to Denver. Some teams may be hesitant to sign McGlockton because he played with a slight fracture in his neck last season.

Talks to resume with Birk: The agent for center Matt Birk said he expects to resume talks about a long-term contract with the team this week. The restricted free agent signed a one-year, $1.13 million tender last week. Joe Linta said the two sides likely will talk through the offseason and try to come to an accord. Birk is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. The Steussie situation could affect the Birk talks. If Steussie is released, the Vikings might be more inclined to get Birk, who made the Pro Bowl in his first season as a starter secured for the long term. There was no progress on the Steussie front Monday. Steussie is expected to be cut by Wednesday. He is due a $1 million roster bonus Thursday, and if he doesn't agree to a substantial pay cut, he will likely be released. Baltimore was expected to be interested in Steussie, but the Ravens signed tackle Leon Searcy on Monday. San Francisco, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Cincinnati and Cleveland could make a run at Steussie.

Briefly: Receiver Matthew Hatchette apparently is third on Miami's free-agent wish list behind James McKnight and Dedric Ward. . . . Fred von Appen is a prime candidate to become the New York Giants' special-teams coach. He was fired as the Vikings' defensive line coach in January after one season. . . . The Vikings might have an interest in re-signing defensive lineman John Burrough at a reduced price if he can't find a new home. He wa

-- Mark (Karch, March 13, 2001

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