Houshmandzadeh visits Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have addressed their quarterback situation, though they haven't settled on a starter. Now they're busy figuring out who will be snapping him the ball -- and trying to give him another topflight target to throw to.
Free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was scheduled for a Saturday visit with Vikings officials in Minnesota, fresh off a trip to Seattle to check out the Seahawks. The Bengals have an offer on the table to keep him in Cincinnati.
In a relatively weak market for receivers, Houshmandzadeh is the prize at his position. His statistics fell last season, to 904 yards and four touchdowns receiving, but the year before Houshmandzadeh had career highs with 1,143 yards and 12 TDs.
The Vikings gave big bucks to receiver Bernard Berrian last year, but their passing game still needs an upgrade. Quarterback Sage Rosenfels was acquired from the Houston Texans in a trade this week, creating a training-camp competition for the job with inconsistent incumbent Tarvaris Jackson.
The Vikings have plenty of salary cap space available, even after last year's spending spree brought Berrian, safety Madieu Williams and defensive end Jared Allen. But it's unclear, at least outside of their front office, how far they'll be willing to go in order to sign Houshmandzadeh -- who has been with the Bengals for eight seasons -- and put him at the top of a group that includes Berrian, Bobby Wade (a 2007 free agent signee) and Sidney Rice (a 2007 second-round draft pick).
Also Saturday, the Vikings finished a three-year contract for tight end Jim Kleinsasser that's worth up to $9 million with $3.5 million guaranteed. The deal keeps the North Dakota native in line to finish his career with his favorite childhood team. Kleinsasser was a second-round draft pick in 1999 and has become one of the league's most rugged blockers.
Over 10 seasons, Kleinsasser has only 1,466 yards and six touchdowns receiving, but he's a vital part of the Vikings' rushing attack with his ability to seal the edge.
"We're excited to have Jim back," coach Brad Childress said. "We wanted him back, and we're glad he took time out from ice fishing to come in and sign his contract. Jim's an important part of our offense and the kind of guy you want in your locker room."
Since Kleinsasser joined the team, the Vikings have enjoyed five of the franchise's top six single-season rushing totals -- two by Adrian Peterson the last two years and one each by Chester Taylor (2006), Michael Bennett (2002) and Robert Smith (2000). Smith posted the sixth, in 1997.
Another big reason for that rushing success is six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, who became a free agent but wants to return. His agent, Joe Linta, said Saturday that negotiations with the Vikings were continuing. However, his client is in line to take a visit or two to other teams next week.
"We are considering other situations and working assiduously with the Vikings," Linta said. "We're hoping by the end of the week he'll make a decision and be done with this."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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