Itemizing a few contract clashes
Based on your concerns as expressed regularly in the mailbag, it's appropriate to re-visit the brewing contract situations in the NFC North.
The timeframe for resolving these issues is multi-faceted. Chicago and Minnesota have concluded their offseason workouts and might not resume serious business until the middle of July. (Yes, even NFL coaches and contract negotiators take vacation.) Green Bay and Detroit, meanwhile, will hold mandatory minicamps next week before breaking for the summer.
The Lions, of course, have already signed No. 1 overall draft pick Matthew Stafford and have no major contract concerns that I'm aware of. But let's take a spin through the other situations, in order of urgency:
Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield
Contract status: Entering the final season of a six-year deal originally signed in 2004. Current deal calls for a $6 million base salary in 2009. Would be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2010. Nearly 32, Winfield is an unlikely target for the franchise tag.
The rub: Winfield would like to parlay his 2008 Pro Bowl performance into a market-level deal for a No. 1 cornerback. Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha set the bar this offseason with an unprecedented three-year, $45.3 million deal. Winfield won't fetch close to that number, but it has given him a ceiling that has made it difficult to find common ground. The Vikings have concerns about paying a rich deal to a player who will be 33 in its first year. Another factor not to be discounted: The Vikings are conserving salary-cap space in the event they sign retired quarterback Brett Favre.
The future: Winfield is serious enough about these negotiations that he skipped organized team activities after negotiations broke down. Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said Wednesday the team will do whatever it can to retain him. But the sides have a lot of work remaining before a deal could be completed. There have been no indications that Winfield would hold out of training camp.
Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings
Contract status: Entering the final year of the rookie deal he signed in 2006. Base salary is $530,000 this season. Would be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2010. If the NFL fails to extend its collective bargaining agreement, he would be a restricted free agent.
The rub: The Packers have been working on his deal for much of the offseason. Jennings' participation in offseason workouts suggests he is satisfied with the progress of talks. One contract to keep in mind is the deal Minnesota gave Bernard Berrian last year: Six years and $43.4 million, including $16 million guaranteed. Jennings produced significantly higher statistics than Berrian in his first three seasons. So does that push his targeted guarantees toward the $20 million mark? And what about the average annual pay? Should it approach $9 million?
The future: Jennings has developed into the Packers' No. 1 receiver and has appeared to be the top priority on a long list of near-future free agents on their roster. That list means Green Bay must be prudent with Jennings' deal, but there is every reason to believe an agreement could occur long before free agency begins in 2010.
Green Bay safety Nick Collins
Contract status: Entering the final year of the rookie deal he signed in 2005. Base salary is $3.045 million this season. Would be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2010. But he would be a restricted free agent if the NFL fails to extend its collective bargaining agreement before then.
The rub: Collins would like his deal extended after making the Pro Bowl last season, but it's clear the Packers have prioritized at least one player (Jennings) ahead of him. That delay is at least one factor in Collins' decision to skip most of the Packers' offseason program. His absence has been especially noteworthy as the Packers shift to a new defensive scheme. The NFC's other Pro Bowl safety, Arizona's Adrian Wilson, recently signed a new deal that will play him $15.5 million over the next two years.
The future: It will be interesting to see how Collins plays the situation next week at the Packers' mandatory minicamp. There is no reason to believe he won't attend. But to what extent will he participate? And has his starting job been compromised by the offseason absence? You can only assume that some of his teammates are further along in the schematic adjustment. Beyond that, it's clear the Packers don't feel the urgency to extend his deal on an accelerated timetable.
Chicago defensive end Adewale Ogunleye
Contract status: Entering the final season of a six-year, $33.4 million deal he signed in 2004. Agent Drew Rosenhaus has approached the Bears about an extension. Without one, Ogunleye would be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2010
The rub: Ogunleye will turn 32 in August and managed only five sacks last season. He hasn't had a double-digit sack year since 2005 and would seem to be approaching the final stage of his career. What's an appropriate figure for a player in that profile? Based on last year's numbers, not much. General manager Jerry Angelo recently suggested that some veteran players will have to take care of their business on the field this season in order to get the type of deal they are looking for.
The future: Ogunleye has told reporters that he understands this is a prove-it season and has no expectations of a new deal until next winter. His stance all but ensures harmony during the 2009 season.