On Thursday, the Minnesota Vikings agreed to terms with defensive tackle Pat Williams to extend Williams' contract through the 2010 season. A run-stuffing plug, Williams would have been eligible for free agency this coming off-season had the Vikings not signed him to the extension.
The Vikings' signing of Williams underscores the difficulty that teams have in finding someone of Williams' ability and health to man the middle of the defensive line. With a contract purported to include $9.5 million in guaranteed money, the Vikings' signing of Williams relieves the team of at least one primary concern heading into the 2007-2008 off-season.
Williams' signing does raise two other interesting issues, however. While team owner Zygi Wilf has expressed his belief that the Vikings remain two to three years away from competing for a championship, Williams' signing seems to indicate that a contrary sentiment prevails at Winter Park as Williams' current contract, and, presumably, his ability to perform in the NFL, will expire just when the Vikings would be getting good. A changing perspective at Winter Park could put added pressure on head coach Brad Childress to produce this season.
A second issue revolves around how the Vikings structured the guaranteed portion of Williams' contract. With $25 million or more left in cap space and a need to spend at least $9-10 million more just to reach the NFL's salary floor, Williams' signing was as required as it should be beneficial to the team. The question Vikings' fans undoubtedly will wait to see addressed is how much of Williams' money the team guaranteed in 2007. A roster bonus would guarantee all of the money and push the Vikings to the salary floor. Anything less would require the Vikings to bring additional money forward in 2007 or forfeit the money to the players.
If Wilf and his cohorts are serious about putting together a contender, the Williams move is merely the first step in that process. Given cap rules, the Vikings were all but required to sign Williams and to guarantee a significant amount of money this year. But that still leaves a sizeable chunk of money for this year--money that is wasted if not brought forward by restructuring existing contracts.
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