While beating the Packers at Lambeau ranks among the leading on-field accomplishments for the Vikings, off the field there is nothing like having the Packers lose one of their star players to another team. Except when that star player leaves the Packers for the Vikings.
At 4pm on Thursday, the question regarding who will fill the hole as the Vikings' strong safety in 2005 may have met its answer. As the deadline struck for the Green Bay Packers to either release safety Darren Sharper or pay him a hefty roster bonus, the cap-strapped Packers were forced to release their long-standing defensive stalwart. And that could be great news for the Vikings.
Sharper, who played through injuries last year and still hauled in more INTs than any member of the Vikings' 2004 secondary, is in Minnesota today to discuss possible contract terms. Still well under the league salary floor, the Vikings should have no trouble reaching terms with Sharper (assuming Sharper is willing to defer his signing bonus). Sharper, scheduled to receive $8 million from the Packers this season, including a $2 million plus roster bonus, will likely be willing to sign for just over half that given the paucity of teams with cap space still in search of a safety.
The only question appears to be whether the Vikings truly are interested in Sharper, who has some lingering maladies from last season's injuries, or are merely using Sharper to gain leverage in their trade negotiations with the Jaguars for Darius.
Or perhaps the Vikings are interested in both. Although Sharper appears to be a logical fit at strong safety, he has shown adeptness at the free safety position and could take the place of Corey Chavous, who had a fairly forgettable 2004. That would leave the strong safety open for Darius.
Get It Right
Vikings' cap wiz Rob Brzezinski was at his butt-smooching best again this week when he praised Vikings' owner Red McCombs for "making it possible" for the Vikings to sign their newest stable of free agents. What a crock.
Even after the Vikings signed Fred Smoot and Jermaine Wiggins, they were so far under the NFL-mandated salary floor that a mad dash through the remainder of the free agency period might not get the Vikings where they need to be. Whether Red wants to or not the Vikings must spend money in free agency. That is the only chance they have to spend enough money to reach the salary floor. Unless, by some perverse logic, they prefer to give existing players upwardly re-structured contracts.
And if the fact that the Vikings remain well below the salary floor despite their recent free-agent signings is not enough to convince one that it is not upon Red--but league rules--that Vikings' fans ought to heap any measure of gratitude they might have for doing what other teams do in the course of a regular off-season, there is more. The Vikings have requested that every free agent with whom they have negotiated contract terms in 2005 defer their right to a signing bonus until after the presumed date of sale of the Vikings. Jermaine Wiggins even deferred part of his signing bonus until March 2006. All, of course, at Red's behest.
Notwithstanding the team's free-agent activity, the Vikings still have several glaring holes--most notably at linebacker, safety, wide receiver, and placekicker. If Red truly were enabling the Vikings to move forward, at least one of those holes already would have been filled. But when Red asked Antonio Pierce to defer his salary bonus, the middle-linebacker moved on.
That's the Red we know. Not the one the one about whom Brzezinski, unabashedly--and embarrassingly, continues to sing the praises. Ultimately, Vikings' fans don't expect Red to spend any more money than he is required to spend (thank you NFL for the salary floor). What we do expect, however, is for the Vikings' PR "machine" to cease with the adulatory canards.
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