Labor proposal would make Rice, Edwards, 15 other Vikings unrestricted
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Among numerous developments to come from five hours of meetings between NFL owners on Tuesday was a revelation the next labor agreement would reestablish four years as the minimum service for players to be eligible for unrestricted free agency.
That's the way players want it and the way it was under the expired collective-bargaining agreement. Most NFL personnel people were expecting it, too, although teams covered their bases by issuing tenders to players who would have been restricted under the rules of the Final League Year in 2010.
Barring a surprise change, 17 players who finished last season on the Minnesota Vikings' 53-man roster or injured reserve would become unrestricted whenever the league year begins, with Rice and Edwards the highest-profile.
Several league sources have said they expect Rice, a four-year veteran, to receive incentive- and escalator-laden offers because his injury history makes guaranteed money a risk. Coach Leslie Frazier recently said Rice is "enthusiastic" about the possibility of re-signing, although he plans to test the market, and it is expected the Vikings will compete to retain him unless the guarantees get out of control.
Edwards, a five-year veteran, has made clear he plans to follow the money and that probably means he'll land elsewhere, especially after the Vikings gave backup Brian Robison a three-year, $14.1 million contract in February.
The Vikings gave first-round tenders to Rice and Edwards and lower-round tenders to five other players in March. But only players with three years' service or less are expected to be bound by the tenders once the labor situation is straightened out.
Also no surprise: franchise tags are expected to be included in the next labor agreement, meaning the roughly $10 million offer sheet linebacker Chad Greenway signed in February would hold up while the Vikings try to negotiate a multiyear extension.
Here's an updated breakdown of the Vikings' 19 unsigned players, under the assumption four years' service will be the minimum for unrestricted free agency:
• Players with six or more accrued seasons: quarterback Brett Favre (20), place-kicker Ryan Longwell (14), nose tackle Pat Williams (14) cornerback Lito Sheppard (nine), linebacker Ben Leber (nine), cornerback Frank Walker (eight), quarterback Patrick Ramsey (eight) and receiver Greg Lewis (eight). These players would be eligible for unrestricted free agency.
• Tendered players with four or five accrued seasons: Edwards (five), offensive lineman Ryan Cook (five), safety Eric Frampton (four) and Rice (four). These players would have been restricted in the Final League Year of 2010 but would be unrestricted with a new labor agreement.
• Non-tendered players with fewer than six accrued seasons: receiver Hank Baskett (five), defensive tackle Fred Evans (five), quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (five), fullback Naufahu Tahi (five) and halfback Albert Young (two). By not tendering qualifying contract offers, the Vikings relinquished their bargaining rights, making these players free to sign with any team.
• Tendered players with three accrued seasons: safety Husain Abdullah and linebacker Erin Henderson. These players' restricted tenders are expected to hold up under the next labor agreement, as they would have under the old CBA.
Negotiations between players and owners reportedly will resume on Wednesday and Thursday outside Boston.