Last season, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was more “fish in a barrel” than pocket passer — according to Football Outsiders, Minnesota’s offensive line gave up 51 sacks over the course of the year, making them the 6th-worst unit in all of football.
With an Adjusted Sack Rate (sacks — plus intentional grounding penalties — per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent) of 9.1 percent, there is only room for improvement in 2015. Pro Football Focus also downgraded the Vikings’ offensive unit, ranking them 25th in pass protection after a down year for almost every player along the line.
On Tuesday, Rick Spielman rewarded the line’s most consistent player, center John Sullivan, with a contract extension and pay raise. As first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates, Sullivan will remain with the Vikings through 2017:
Source: the Vikings have signed C John Sullivan to 1-year extension through 2017. New base salaries over next 3 years: $7M, $5.5M, $5.5M.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 7, 2015
Since 2009, Sullivan has started all but three games for the Vikings, and signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the team in 2011. The Vikings’ sixth-round pick (187th overall) in 2008 will turn 30 in August, but can still provide value in the middle of an offensive line that desperately needs to improve if Minnesota wants to contend for the playoffs next season.
Before signing the extension, Sullivan had two years remaining on his old contract — the new deal will keep him in Minnesota through the 2017 season and comes with a healthy pay raise. According to Over The Cap, Sullivan’s base salaries over the next 3 years will be $5.9 million, $5.4 million, and $5.4 million.
Sullivan’s 2015 salary cap hit was set to be $5.75 million, but that will now increase to $7 million. The spike leaves the Vikings with $12.4 million in total cap room. Per ESPN, Sullivan will receive a guaranteed $1 million signing bonus and has $500,000 in playing time incentives for 2015 and 2016 if he plays 90 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
The new contract makes Sullivan the 3rd-highest paid center among 62 centers in the NFL — a steep price, but justifiable given the Vikings’ needs heading into 2015. He was the 12th-best center in the league per Pro Football Focus, and will help make Teddy Bridgewater’s job easier as the young quarterback enters his second season in the league.