Monday, September 5, 2011
Presuming a cap savings on Greenway deal
By Kevin Seifert
The Minnesota Vikings had a busy Labor Day. They completed contract negotiations with linebacker Chad Greenway, settled the debate (for now) on their No. 2 quarterback and named a starting strong safety in advance of Sunday's regular season opener at the San Diego Chargers. Let's hit those items one at a time.
Greenway: Tagged as the team's franchise player in February, Greenway was set to earn $10.091 million in base salary and count the same amount against the salary cap. For that reason, the Vikings have been working all summer on an extension that would lessen the cap hit and ensure his long-term status with the team.
Heading into the weekend, the Vikings were less than $400,000 below the salary cap. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the five-year deal is worth $40 million, but we don't yet know its first-year cap number to help us calculate the cap savings. Look for an update on that in the coming days.
It remains to be seen if the Vikings will shift their focus to tailback Adrian Peterson, who is set to earn a $10.72 million base this season, or if they will table talks with him until after the season.
Greenway, 28, has never made a Pro Bowl but has been the Vikings' leading tackler for the past two seasons and hasn't missed a game since losing his rookie season in 2006 to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
No. 2 quarterback: Coach Leslie Frazier told reporters that rookie Christian Ponder will be the backup Sunday to starter Donovan McNabb but didn't necessarily commit to that arrangement for the entire season. In truth, the decision is not as critical as it would have been in recent seasons. The elimination of the third quarterback rule means that either Ponder or Joe Webb will be eligible to replace McNabb at any point in a game.
As long as Ponder is ready, it makes sense to install him in the No. 2 role so that Webb can maximize his cross-training time at receiver, Wildcat quarterback and any other hybrid roles the Vikings might have in mind for him. Ponder played into the third quarter of the Vikings' preseason finale last week and, while playing with and against second-teamers, demonstrated enough progress to make this decision palatable for all involved.
Safety: The Vikings have been flip-flopping between Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford at strong safety for a good part of the past two seasons, and it appears they still haven't resolved the competition. Frazier said Sanford would start Sunday but that Johnson would rotate in at some point.
When a two-year battle still hasn't been resolved, you can safely assume the Vikings don't feel great about either option. Stay tuned.