Where will Culpepper's future lie?
Will smoke lead to fire in consecutive years for the Vikings?
Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
Last update: January 24, 2006 10:31 AM
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Daunte Culpepper waits in the tunnel prior to the start of a game against the Carolina Panthers in October 2005. Carolina won the game 38-13. JIM GEHRZ, STAR TRIBUNE

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Will smoke lead to fire in consecutive years for the Vikings?
Last year at this time, the NFL was ablaze with trade rumors concerning receiver Randy Moss. Despite vigorous denials from the Vikings, Moss was traded to Oakland in mid-February.

These days, the possibility of another major departure -- this time, quarterback Daunte Culpepper -- has become the talk of the league. While team officials say they have not even hired the person who would play a significant role in the decision, Culpepper's name already has surfaced in Baltimore and Oakland, while some believe St. Louis and Arizona could have interest as well.

Although no trade could officially be consummated until March 3, the Vikings could entertain offers and agree in principal at any time. Although owner Zygi Wilf said last week that Culpepper and backup Brad Johnson would remain on the roster, Culpepper caused ripples in the organization earlier this month by twice seeking a raise on his 2006 contract.

Culpepper is scheduled to get $6 million in bonuses March 14 and, in addition, has a $2 million base salary for the season.

Some of the heaviest speculation has centered around Baltimore, where incumbent Kyle Boller has not been guaranteed the starting job in 2006. On Monday, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome told the Baltimore Sun that he had not spoken with the Vikings about Culpepper but did not rule out the possibility.

"Just like in free agency, we've got to utilize every possibility we can to get better," Newsome told the Sun.

Meanwhile, Moss said Monday on Sporting News Radio that he would welcome Culpepper in Oakland despite the pair's differences during their final year together in 2004.

"One thing I have come to figure out," Moss said, "is that this game that we play has gotten me and Daunte kind of distant. But, I think about reuniting us, or something like that, and taking it to another level. I'm not saying he is going to become a Raider, but if there was any interest in bringing him to Oakland, I've got my arms open to anybody who wants to come out here and win a Super Bowl. That's what I'm working for."

The Vikings don't figure to finalize their strategy until after hiring the third part of their decision-making triangle. As of Monday afternoon, the Vikings were not believed to have asked permission to interview Denver director of pro personnel Rick Smith -- the last of their known candidates who has yet to either interview or decline an opportunity to speak about their personnel director job.

Whether or not Smith interviews, the Vikings hope to have a decision made by the end of the week.

Etc.

Rumors continued to circulate that Culpepper planned to fire agent Mason Ashe. As of Monday, however, Culpepper had not filed dismissal papers with the NFL Players Association. If that occurs, union rules would require Culpepper to wait five business days until hiring a new agent, according to an NFLPA spokesman.