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Bleacher Report – Vikings

For Vikings, familiarity is a free agency preference

By Andrew Krammer

Free agency begins next week, though followers of the Vikings have learned not to perk up by the opening bell.

The Vikings’ methodical approach under general manager Rick Spielman doesn’t involve getting into many bidding wars for big names on the open market. And a young roster coming off a division title doesn’t suggest this year’s free agency dabbles will be any different. Though when the Vikings do reach out to selected players, familiarity will continue to be a top priority as they’ve shown recently with some former Cincinnati Bengals following head coach Mike Zimmer to Minnesota.

“When you’re messing around in free agency, I think the more you know a player the better chance you have of being correct,” Zimmer said. “So for me, a lot of it has been familiarity. Not only me knowing them, but them knowing me and how I am. I think that’s an important part of the process as well.”

This offseason, Cincinnati’s George Iloka is a popular connection and reportedly expected to hear from the Vikings once the legal negotiating window opens March 7. Should Iloka hit free agency, he appears to be a sound fit for the Vikings’ needs and way of doing business. He fits a preferred mold as an experienced player, with 47 starts at strong safety, coming off his rookie contract and entering his age 26 season. He also knows Zimmer and the system, having been drafted in the fifth round when Zimmer was Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator in 2012. And the Vikings are still searching for a long-term answer at strong safety next to Harrison Smith. Other Bengals who could hit the market next week include safety Reggie Nelson and linebacker Vincent Rey.

“If we can continue to add players that have our vision and where we can see them fitting in, then I think that’s great,” Zimmer said.

Since hiring Zimmer, the Vikings have funneled a couple former Bengals through the defense. Veteran cornerback Terence Newman joined on a one-year deal last offseason and led the defense with three interceptions in 17 starts. Safety Taylor Mays came over for a cup of coffee last spring. They were also in on defensive end Michael Johnson in 2014, before he chose Tampa Bay. They discussed another possible reunion again last offseason, before he returned to Cincinnati.

Overall, the Vikings have embraced a know-your-investment approach led by their draft and develop philosophy. Spending habits match the rhetoric, as the Vikings have invested north of $70 million guaranteed in contract extensions and restructures signed since the end of the 2013 season. That’s compared to just roughly $20 million guaranteed for outside free agents in the last two years, according to, which doesn’t include the trade for Mike Wallace and his $9.9 million salary last year.

“If you draft them right, those are the guys that you should know,” Spielman said. “If you know them the best, it’s the safest investment.”

The Vikings are currently estimated to have about $25 million in cap room, with flexibility on some big contracts to increase that figure.

“Not saying we won’t dabble in the free agent market, but I don’t have a big history of that,” Spielman said. “If there is a guy or two out there we think are significant players that can come in and help us win, we’ve already looked at doing something if it presents itself.”

The post For Vikings, familiarity is a free agency preference appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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