THE NATION'S TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM -- In the minutes before I board a flight to Kansas City, here are a few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' agreement on a five-year contract extension with center John Sullivan:
I've been critical of the Vikings' offensive line as a whole this year, and I stand by it. But of the five starters, Sullivan is the best candidate at the moment to anchor a rebuilding process. You can't replace all five starters at once, and Sullivan makes the center position perhaps the least pressing long-term need. He has had a nice season after rebounding from a season-long calf injury in 2010.
The deal, as reported by Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, is for a total of $25 million, including $10 million guaranteed. That sounds like a lot of money, but it's nowhere close to top dollar for the center position. That title belongs to Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil, whose six-year contract is worth $49 million and includes $28 million guaranteed. Sullivan could end up playing with Kalil's brother, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, whom the Vikings could draft in April.
I keep getting questions from Vikings fans about the financial plans of owner Zygi Wilf, who is enmeshed in a stadium battle and could sell the team if he is ultimately turned away. It wasn't long ago that former owner Red McCombs stripped down the team to its bare bones during a multiyear sale process. But Wilf has rarely restricted football spending during his tenure, and I'm aware of no plans to do so now.