It's all but official.
The Minnesota Vikings will be franchise free agents later this winter.
As you've probably heard by now, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has canceled plans for a pre-Thanksgiving special session of the state legislature to affirm a new Vikings stadium. According to Dayton, there isn't enough legislative support to merit the effort. Barring a reversal in that sentiment, the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome will expire before the process resumes in the 2012 state legislature.
The Vikings issued a sternly-worded statement acknowledging they are "concerned" and "very disappointed" by the turn of events. The organization gave no indication about its next step, but it would be within its right to seek and/or respond to stadium proposals in markets outside the state early next year.
I think it's important not to be alarmist when you're watching what amounts to a billion-dollar negotiation from afar. A high-stake poker game is underway. Let's just say it's too early to start speculating on who would replace the Vikings in the NFC North after they move to Los Angeles.
At the very least, however, we can say that state leaders have surrendered the exclusive negotiating window they would have had this month, positioning themselves to spend more than they otherwise needed to on a stadium if they eventually approve one. They have also exposed themselves to the possibility of relocation.
And away we go ...