Thursday, September 13, 2007

Williams' Deal Suggests Vikings Are Looking Ahead to 2008 Free Agency

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.

5 comments:

DC said...

VG:

What do you say the odds are the Vikes make a substantial play for L.J. smith in the offseason - even though they invested some coin in Shiancoe? We know Chill has a hard on for ex-Eagles offensive players.

Andersklasen said...

Some guys the Viking's should look at in '08:

Alan Faneca, OL, Steelers.
He has virtually committed to entering the free agent pool, and has a few prime seasons left. Teams will be lining up, but if the Vike's offer enough, they should have a shot.

Domonique Foxworth, DB, Broncos
Isn't used all that often by the Broncos since they added Bly, so should try to leave. He's very young, 24, so just get him to experience and he'll be great.

Also, the Viking's should try to resign Mike Doss.

Vikes Geek said...

DC,

Some TEs are measurable by their stats, others by intangibles. Kleinsasser falls in the latter category--at least he once did, Smith falls in the former. Though Smith has shown the ability to catch the ball, even with his Eagles' pedigree Chilly probably won't be interested. Not only is LJ likely to get good money for a TE he also doesn't seem to fit what Chilly likes to do--throw short and get YAC. I'm not sure any TE fits that need, but, for the price, LJ is probably not a value addition for Chilly's offense. The Vikings probably will stick with Kleinsasser and Shiancoe.

VG

Vikes Geek said...

Andersklasen,

Faneca is not happy in Pittsburgh and has made his intention to enter free agency very clear. The Vikings desperately need an upgrade on the right side of the line. Faneca would give them that opportunity.

With McCauley, Griffin, and Winfield under contract for next season, the Vikings are as set at cornerback as any team in league--at least until they get to the dime package. Foxworth looks like a good dime back who might evolve into a starter, but who would not be high on my wish list for 2008.

VG

lost 3 said...

With the trades and acquisitions made going into the draft, plus the bulk of the team that is carried over from last season, and the trades and draft picks made during the draft, it sure seems like the Pats are going to be the team to beat in the AFC this season, and perhaps in all of the NFL.

Considering the Pats were almost in the Superbowl last season with a pathetic receiving corps and that they've added very talented players into said receiving corps this season, barring some nasty injury(ies), they look to be the team to take it all.I say injury(ies) because I think they could survive an injury or two to some positions, but if they lost Brady they'd probably have a hard time recovering.


I wish I could say that the Redskins did well in the draft and/or in free agency but so many holes still exist that I'm not sure they'll be significantly better than last season. I suppose on face they should be if they can keep their corners healthy. With Landry (argh, hard to type that name as a Redskin!!) back there with a healthy secondary they might be able to cheat up more and put more pressure on opposing QBs. Might.

They still have what should be a lot of talent in the receiving positions, and Campbell should be better, but they don't have the quality on either line (offense or defense) that I wish they'd have, so it could be yet another year of .500 at best, or worse.

Still, the NFC East looks to be the NFC Least again this season. None of the teams there look like they'll be that good, and none really look ready to step up and take the division.

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