Friday, January 30, 2015
Blog Page 168

When the Vikings signed veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield to a contract extension in 2009 the unique triggers in the deal, which de-escalated his salary if he were relegated to the nickel position primarily, should have been all the motivation the team’s front office needed to greatly upgrade the position and ensure Winfield stays put with a manageable salary.

Instead, the Vikings did little to add real firepower to the cornerback position and Winfield’s 2012 playing time meant his salary would be $7.25 million in 2013, which is obviously a lot to pay your average 36 year old corner.

The thing is, however, Antoine Winfield is not your average anything.

Ever since signing with the Vikings nine seasons ago, Winfield has been an example to every Vikings player to ever pass through the locker room, showing them how an NFL player ought to act off the field and how a great one ought to play on it.  He has defied logic by being the greatest tackling cornerback the NFL has ever seen despite his small stature.  He has played through emotional and physical pain.  He has neutralized some of the best running backs, wide outs, and even quarterbacks the Vikings ever played.  He has delivered speeches that resonated with his entire defense.  He has been an on-field coach and an off-field angel in the Twin Cities.  He has, almost single handedly, won some very memorable football games for us Vikings to remember and cherish forever.

His release sparked an outrage within the Viking fan community.  I tried to take emotion out of it when explaining the financial reasons for myself being upset, but still concluded that the Vikings front office was to blame.  After details of how the departure was orchestrated, however, I think the front office deserves blame for a lot more than simply the fact that Winfield was released.

Dan Wiederer of Access Vikings was the first to release details of how Winfield was informed of Rick Spielman’s decision.  Wiederer says that Winfield was at Winter Park working out on Tuesday morning when he was asked to go see Spielman in his office upstairs.  The release was described as “awkward” and “cold,” which is not terribly unusual in the business of the NFL, but it seems that this would be a situation that might warrant some extra tact.

Wiederer described Winfield as being confused and disappointed with how things played out.  Despite previous reports that indicated Winfield refused to take a pay cut to stay with the team, the report says that Winfield was never formally approached about restructuring or reducing his salary, which is why he and his agent were so taken by surprise with the move.  The report said Winfield felt like he deserved better, and all of us would likely agree with him.

Tuesday was a day full of re-signings for the Minnesota Vikings and one big release in Antoine Winfield.  With a bunch of cap space and plenty of holes in the roster, Wednesday was sure to see some fireworks, right?

Well, not exactly.

The biggest real news to come out on Wednesday was some contract details regarding some of the players that have re-signed.  We have already talked about Phil Loadholt’s $25 million deal (click here) and Jerome Felton’s three year deal (click here), but local beat writers have learned details about the other contracts given out on Tuesday:

JAMARCA SANFORD, S:  The Vikings special teams ace, who has a knack for causing fumbles, got a nice pay bump when he signed a two year deal worth up to $5 million.  The deal included a half million dollar signing bonus and a half million dollar roster bonus.  His cap hit is expected to be $2.25 million this season and $2.75 in 2014.  The money suggests that the Vikings will once again rely on Mistral Raymond to battle Sanford for the starting gig across from Harrison Smith, but it isn’t enough to rule out an upgrade if one presents itself at the right level of value during free agency or the Draft.

ERIN HENDERSON, LB:  Henderson had spent his whole career with the Vikings and when he became a free agent last offseason the front office let him dangle on the open market for an extended period of time.  This year they took care of business a lot quicker by signing him to a two year deal, worth $4 million, on the first day of free agency.  The contract includes half million dollar bonuses nearly identical to Sanford’s, but has $250,000 incentives built into each year of the deal.  The Vikings still need linebacker help, with starter Jasper Brinkley visiting with the Giants and Cardinals, but Henderson coming back provides them with versatility and depth.  Henderson is only 26 years old.

JOE BERGER, C:  The backup lineman signed a veteran minimum one year deal, so he will earn a salary just south of $1 million.  Berger is 30 years old and brings with him the most experience of any current backup along the offensive line.  Fellow lineman Geoff Schwartz, who played quite well in place of Brandon Fusco at times last season, is not expected to return.

There are still unknown contract details and cap adjustments, but it is believed that the Vikings currently have $11-$13 million in salary cap space.  Their 11 draft picks will chew up some of that, but the Vikings still have plenty of cap room to play with, should they decide to do so.

I mentioned that newly re-signed right tackle Phil Loadholt had some very kind and gracious words about Minnesota shortly after his new deal was announced.  Now we know he had plenty of reasons to say such nice things.

Loadholt’s deal is reportedly good for up to $25 million over the next four seasons.  Tom Pelissero says it included a $7 million signing bonus and that Loadholt will now count $4.75 million against the 2013 salary cap.  The cap hit will increase by $1 million through every season of the contract.

That means Loadholt’s new contract will see him paid an average of $6.25 million per year, which is very high end money for a right tackle.  Those numbers are particularly impressive considering that there are a number of other right tackle options, such as Sebastian Vollmer and Andre Smith, still on the open market.

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Percy Harvin seems very happy to be a millionaire in a new location that, incidentally enough, has no income tax and just legalized marijuana (yup, had to go there).

Despite all of the drama that led up to his eventual trade to Seattle, Harvin had nothing but nice things to say about the Minnesota Vikings and their fans.

“I have nothing but love for that whole Vikings organization,” Harvin told NFL Network. “And from the texts I’ve been getting today and yesterday, they have nothing but love for me.”

“It’s absolutely false. Me and Coach Frazier have a great relationship,” he said when asked about reports that he was, at least at times, at odds with coach Leslie Frazier. “He has the utmost respect for me, and I have the utmost respect for him.”

Then Harvin laid some of the blame for the drama at the feet of the media.

“We were talking almost every day (and) texting each other,: he said.  “We both understood what the situation was. I think this whole thing was blown up (by media). We did have our ups and downs.”

Harvin was briefly pressed about his opinion of quarterback Christian Ponder.  While he was plenty willing to rave about his new quarterback Russell Wilson, and plenty willing to say he had love for the Minnesota Vikings, he opted for a “no comment” on the Ponder question.

Psst.  Rick Spielman.  Psst.  You know, Rick, you can actually sign players that didn’t wear a Vikings jersey last year.  Psst.  You know that, right?

The Vikings are continuing to use the first day of free agency to dip into the free agency pool and sign players they could have signs yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last… well, you get the point.

Adam Schefter has reported via Twitter that the Vikings have now re-signed weakside linebacker Erin Henderson to a two year deal.

Financial details are not yet known.

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