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QB could still be on Vikings’ radar

By Judd Zulgad

McClatchy Newspapers

The Vikings aren’t going to be significant players in the free-agent market, but that doesn’t mean they won’t attempt to upgrade their roster at various positions. And that includes quarterback.

Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman refused to entertain questions Friday about whether the team expressed interest in Denver’s Jay Cutler, but he did nothing to end talk of the organization pursuing another quarterback.

"I don’t think you ever paint yourself into that we’re set at (quarterback)," Spielman said. "What if a great pass rusher comes available? We have Jared Allen, would we not go get a Jared Allen-type talent?"

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Spielman spoke a week after the Vikings acquired Sage Rosenfels from Houston and planned to have him compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. The Denver Post later reported the Vikings were one of the teams to inquire about Cutler, whom the Broncos have said they won’t deal. The Vikings also are keeping a close eye on the Donovan McNabb situation in Philadelphia.

Acquiring a top-line quarterback would help create excitement for a franchise that one week into free agency hasn’t signed a player from outside the organization and lost center Matt Birk to Baltimore. The Vikings’ moves have included acquiring Rosenfels and re-signing tight end Jim Kleinsasser and linebacker Heath Farwell.

The lack of activity comes one year after the Vikings agreed to contracts totaling $81 million with wide receiver Bernard Berrian, safety Madieu Williams and fullback Thomas Tapeh in the opening weekend of free agency.

"Every year is different. It’s like the draft," said Spielman, who admitted before free agency began that he wasn’t impressed with the market. "You don’t draft the same position every year, it’s not the same players every year in the draft. ... Everybody wants to see, ’What’s new? What’s new?’ Well, sometimes you don’t want to force anything that’s not there, just to do it to do it because to me I think sometimes it ends up being a waste of money."

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is one player the Vikings felt would have been a solid investment. They had one of owner Zygi Wilf’s private jets pick up the receiver in Seattle last Saturday and made a strong pitch to get him. However, Houshmandzadeh elected to sign a $40 million, five-year contract with the Seahawks.

"We just felt he was still a very good football player," Spielman said. "Possibly add another potential guy in our passing game. That by no means doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of faith in (receivers) Aundrae Allison and Sidney Rice continuing to improve. I think we’re excited about our young guys. But if there is a guy out there who we feel can come in and potentially help us win ballgames, and we feel that strongly, we’ll go ahead and make a run at it."

Spielman would not get into specifics of the Vikings’ offer to Houshmandzadeh — the team had about $32 million in salary-cap room entering free agency — but it’s believed the first proposal was for three years. Spielman did reiterate that team executives have been given no mandate by ownership to watch their spending despite the economic climate.

"They’re very supportive ownership, and the Wilf family is very supportive of what we’re trying to do," Spielman said. "But you have to be realistic, too. You don’t want to pay Ferrari money, for not getting a Ferrari, either."

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As for Birk’s departure, Spielman declined to say whether he had any regrets about not beginning contract talks last summer or during the season. Birk, who had been with the Vikings since 1998, did not get an offer until last month. The Vikings have given in-season extensions before, but in this case it did not seem to be an option.

Asked why Birk wasn’t approached a year ago, Spielman said: "Matt was an extremely, extremely good football player for us. A decision was made, and we’ll move on from that decision. Matt will always be a Viking here. I won’t be surprised if a couple years from now, he’ll be in the Ring of Honor when he’s all done playing."

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