Late Tuesday, word began circulating that not only had the Minnesota Vikings front-loaded their contract extension with defensive tackle Pat Williams, they also added LBTEs to the deal that, because they are virtually impossible for Williams to obtain, essentially will create additional cap space for the Vikings in 2008.
Under the current CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA, teams are not only barred from spending beyond a set cap, they are also required to meet a floor on spending. For 2007, the cap is $109 million with a floor just below $93 million.
Prior to extending Williams' contract, the Vikings were still below the league mandated salary floor of $93 million by $4-$7 million. While bringing Williams' guaranteed money forward to 2007 in the form of a roster bonus, the Vikings were able to meet the league salary floor. Had the Vikings failed to meet the floor, the difference between the team's salary for 2007 and the league floor would have been dispersed to the players on the team.
What's interesting about Williams' contract is that the Vikings have included an additional $4 million in LTBEs that the CBA allows but that everyone, including Williams and his agent, realizes Williams cannot possibly attain. The consequence of this decision for the Vikings is that the team will realize an additional $4 million in cap space in 2008.
In 2008, the salary cap is projected to increase to $116 million with a floor of $100 million. Assuming only Williams' LTBE, the Vikings essentially will have a cap floor of just under $104 million. But they will also be able to spend up to $120 million.
The Vikings could use the money in 2008 to re-sign players and re-structure contracts. Or they could take advantage of what could be a good year in free agency to fill positions where the team most needs help--on the offensive line and at wide receiver.
One of the difficulties of sky-rocketing salary caps is that teams consistently find the space to sign the one or two key free agents on their rosters. Only the truly outstanding teams, such as Indianapolis in 2006-2007, have more talent than they are able to re-sign or franchise. The result is that, despite what the free-agent market suggests in September of 2007, the free-agent well could be considerably drier come February of 2008.
With that caveat, there are several highly appealing players currently slated to become unrestricted free agents in 2008. Among those players are five-time, All-Pro offensive guard Alan Faneca of the Steelers, offensive guard Ryan Lilja of the Colts, offensive tackle Max Starks of the Steelers, offensive guard Floyd Womack of the Seahawks, wide receiver Bernard Berrian of the Bears, Washington tight end Chris Cooley, tight end L.J. Smith of the Eagles, and wide receiver Bryant Johnson of the Cardinals. Terrell Suggs of the Ravens and Justin Smith of the Bengals should also be of interest to a Vikings' team forever in need of pass-rushing help. In short, should the Vikings opt to do so, they could fill significant needs in the 2008 free-agency period.
And, of course, Rex Grossman will be available for the big spenders.
Up Next: Around the NFC.