The writing has been on the proverbial wall since February, when the Minnesota Vikings signed reserve defensive end Brian Robison to an eye-popping contract worth $14 million, of which $6.5 million was guaranteed.
Backups don't generally receive that type of money. But if it wasn't before, it's now clear: The Vikings view Robison as the successor to free-agent left end Ray Edwards.
Edwards agreed to terms Friday with the Atlanta Falcons on a five-year contract that ESPN's Adam Schefter reports is worth $30 million, including $11 million guaranteed. To my knowledge, the Vikings never offered Edwards a long-term deal. And to be clear, he did not want to return after a series of events in February when the Vikings issued him a restricted free-agent tender but went ahead and gave Robison his lucrative deal.
So why did the Vikings choose Robison, with 13.5 career sacks, over Edwards, who had 16.5 sacks over the past two seasons? Coach Leslie Frazier has alluded to remaking a defensive line that had been aging, and the Vikings have now let Edwards walk and seem to have swapped nose tackle Pat Williams for free agent Remi Ayodele.
They are clearly confident about Robison's future, and I think they also have high hopes for second-year player Everson Griffen. And frankly, I think the Vikings drew a line at the amount of salary-cap space and cash they were willing to devote to one position. Between the two of them, defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams are scheduled to earn nearly $16 million in base salaries this season. Combined, they will count about $19 million toward the $120 million salary cap.
Edwards brought a consistent pass rush that isn't easily replaced. But in the end, I'm guessing the Vikings couldn't justify another big financial commitment to make up for whatever drop-off they might realize.
Recent Vikings posts: Receiver Michael Jenkins might be a fit for the Vikings. Ayodele could be the Vikings' new nose tackle. The best way to view the acquisition of McNabb is as (expensive) insurance for Ponder. Rice wanted a fresh start. The Vikings made the right call to bring back place-kicker Ryan Longwell. Receiver Percy Harvin plans to play at about 10 pounds lighter this season. Adrian Peterson was surprised to see Rice leave. The Vikings have a tough decision on Peterson's contract.