Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the looming contract issues surrounding the Vikings roster. Fans tend to get nervous when their team has numerous big-name players sitting there with only one year left on their contract, which is where the Vikings are currently positioned.
This regime has shown a commitment to keeping “the core” together and that is reassuring, but there is one giant elephant sitting in this room which has yet to be addressed by anybody, and I will get to that after we take a quick look at some of the most pressing contract situations needing to be addressed by the Vikings front office.
I list Rice first because I personally feel like his contract extension should be the highest priority. Rice is entering the final season of his rookie contract but is working as hard as ever (while keeping his mouth shut) in an effort to put together consecutive Pro Bowl performances.
Rice now has three seasons under his belt, and at only age 23 can already be proclaimed a veteran presence with postseason credentials. There is no reason to expect that Rice can’t play another seven to nine productive seasons in the NFL and the Vikings should be aiming to lock him up for the long term.
Greenway recently conjured a small amount of buzz given that he decided to keep quiet his reasons for not fully participating in team drills at minicamp. Greenway has denied that it has anything to do with the fact that he is also entering the final year of his rookie contract, but one does have to wonder.
Regardless, the Vikings cannot afford to lose their best young outside linebacker as Ben Leber is also in the final year of his contract. Greenway has been spectacular at points, but has not shown the consistency that will net him top dollar… yet.
The Vikings should also be aiming to lock up Greenway as soon as possible, because if he gets over that “hump” and plays at a Pro Bowl level this season then his price tag will increase significantly.
Ray Edwards / Brian Robison
Individually, losing one of these guys would be a bummer but not the end of the world. However, they are both in a contract year and, even if Everson Griffen develops nicely, losing them both in one shot could be a significant blow to our depth on the defensive line.
In my eyes, both of these players are starter material and the Vikings will probably have to choose which one they want to commit to in the long term. In making this decision, I do not see any real harm in waiting to see how the 2010 season plays out.
This is another one that can wait until next offseason most likely. However, consider for a second that Joe Webb beats out Sage Rosenfels for a roster spot in 2010, and then in 2011 Brett Favre retires for good and Tarvaris Jackson is allowed to walk in free agency. Under that scenario, Joe Webb and RJ Archer are probably the only two quarterbacks on the Vikings roster. Does that give you the warm and fuzzies?
The fact that Adrian Peterson stayed away from minicamp, supposedly because of the fourth annual “Adrian Peterson Day” in Texas, has led many people to believe that Peterson wants a new and improved contract.
It makes sense for him to want it, but doesn’t make sense for the Vikings to want it, and therein lies the problem. Peterson has two years left on his contract and would be 27 years old when his rookie contract expires. These days a running back is lucky to make their career last beyond 30 years old, especially one that runs as violently as Peterson. This reason alone should cause any front office to shy away from dishing out a giant contract with long term commitment and piles of guaranteed cash.
Given that the Vikings could easily use the franchise tag on him in 2012, Peterson may not be eligible for free agency (or long term security) until he is 28 years old.
Peterson will have to wait. If he isn’t willing to wait and decides to hold out, the Vikings have made it clear they are willing to play without him by drafting Toby Gerhart and signing Ryan Moats.
He’ll play. And his payday will wait.
The good part in all this is that the Vikings have one guy that nobody else in the league has: Rob Brzezinski.
While other teams are finding ways around the lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (and salary cap) the Vikings seem to be waiting. I personally trust that Brzezinski is on top of this situation and is making the decisions in the best interest of the club.
Not long ago, the NFL issued a warning to all NFL teams to proceed with big money contracts with extreme caution because when/if a salary cap is reintroduced, the terms of the agreement are not yet known and could vary greatly.
Brzezinski is a genius capologist as evidenced by the “poison pill” creation that landed us Steve Hutchinson and the extension of Antoine Winfield’s contract which allows for him to finish his career as a Viking without being in major danger of being a cap casualty if he were to start falling behind on the depth chart due to age.
Brzezinski and the front office have also shown patience when it comes to these things and that approach has mostly worked out very well for them. The Vikings have used mid-season contract extensions to both reward and motivate players in the past, and I suspect we may see a similar approach this season.
Now is the time I bring up a point that has not yet really been approached by anybody, and it is a subject I hate to even think about.
What if the Vikings have no intention of extending any of these guys until/unless they get their new stadium?
Think about if you were thinking that you might have to sell your house. You might update the carpet, re-do the tile, and install a few new appliances in an effort to make your house more attractive to a buyer without driving up the cost too much.
However, what you won’t do is install a brand new HD TV with surround sound, hang a slew of very expensive art on the wall, and buy a sports car to include in the sale. You wouldn’t be able to sell the house because the price would be way to high in order for your to regain the expenses spent on items that perhaps not everybody will like.
The Vikings find themselves in a similar situation.
The sad facts are that they are not sure how much longer Minnesota will be their home and thus one has to wonder how confident they are that the Vikings will be in their ownership beyond 2011.
History has shown us, that owners that have given up on their club will proceed by investing as little money as possible to increase their profits and also make it a more attractive purchase to those that might be interested.
I seriously hope that we are witnessing simple caution on the part of the front office, and not an effort to keep the house looking nice without major investment. However, each day that goes by without one of these guys receiving a contract extension is one more day’s worth of doubt that begins to make me worry.