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Vikings: Berger and Asiata's contracts, and the virtue of patience

3/11/2015

MINNEAPOLIS -- Before we get started, we'll take a moment to acknowledge the obvious: Yes, the Minnesota Vikings have stayed in the shallow end of the free-agent pool during the first 24 hours of the new league year, and yes, we know that approach can make some of you in the fanbase feel like you're sitting on the side while everybody else is having all the fun.

But this kind of strategy is precisely the one general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer outlined when they talked about free agency in the past month, and it's helpful today to remember last year's big winner in free agency: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who gave lucrative contracts to Alterraun Verner and Michael Johnson shortly after the market opened, and are preparing to make the top pick in the draft next month. Major free-agent spending sprees seem to fail more often than they work, and the Vikings' patience can be traced somewhat to the foundation they've built through seven first-round picks in the past three years. They'll eventually have to pay to keep those players, with a lucrative contract extension for Harrison Smith likely to be among the first orders of business with the Vikings' recent picks. At some point, the Vikings will make some moves, but even if their March machinations aren't headline-grabbers, it's worth remembering that the best teams are usually the ones who succeed at the draft-and-develop game the Vikings are playing.

With that said, we'll spend a couple minutes taking a look at the contracts of two players the Vikings decided to retain this week: offensive lineman Joe Berger and running back Matt Asiata. Berger, who agreed to a two-year deal just as the market opened on Tuesday, will make $2.15 million over the next two seasons, with the only guaranteed money coming in the form of a $130,000 roster bonus due to him next week. He has a $970,000 base salary and a $20,000 workout bonus this year. Berger can earn a $985,000 base and $50,000 workout bonus in 2016, and he's eligible for up to $400,000 of not-likely-to-be-earned incentives each year, which won't count against the cap unless he reaches them, probably by starting a majority of the Vikings' games.

Asiata, a restricted free agent who agreed to a one-year deal on Monday night, will get $725,000 this year, as well as a $75,000 workout bonus. He has $100,000 of his base salary guaranteed, and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the season. Considering Asiata led the team with 882 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns last season, and proved to be a valuable blocking back -- all while making $570,000 -- he's a sensible (and affordable) investment.

Perhaps we'll be examining some more lucrative contracts in the coming hours, days or weeks. But until then, it's probably worth remembering there's often a weak relationship between springtime moves and autumn success.