Friday, January 25, 2008

Salary Cap Spikes Could Frustrate Vikings' Free Agent Search

The Minnesota Vikings embark on the 2008 free-agency period with a range of needs. At the top of the team's wish list is right offensive tackle, followed closely by right offensive tackle and defensive end, and then wide receiver, safety and cornerback. The only positions at which the Vikings appear to be set for the 2008 season, in other words, are on special teams, and at running back, defensive tackle and guard, center, and linebacker.

Identifying the Vikings' needs is the easy part. Filling the needs through free agency could prove more than daunting.

Last season, the Vikings had approximately $34 million to work with in free agency. With a thin free-agency crop, the Vikings came up small, landing only two marginal starters in wide receiver Bobby Wade and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and some other near-role players.

Unfortunately for Vikings' fans, 2008 could well prove to be for Minnesota a repeat of the 2007 free-agency period, or worse. Despite having slightly over $20 million in cap money to spend this off-season, the Vikings probably will fall victim to the same two entities that most hurt their chances of landing talented free agents last year--the larger salary cap picture and the unwillingness of high-end free agents to sign with a team that failed to make the playoffs.

Two years ago, we noted the looming free agency dilemna facing teams not both flush with free-agent dollars and primed for a playoff push. That dilemna began following the implementation of the recent collective bargaining agreement and the subsequent spike in team salary caps. The considerable increase in salary caps over the past two seasons, and the expected increase to $116 million this season, has allowed teams already loaded with talent to resign that talent for at least another season, thus keeping several would-be free agents off of the free-agent market.

Free agents who do reach the open market this season will once again have the upper hand, being able to play teams off of one another to improve their individual asking price. That's bad news for a Vikings' team that currently has few advantages over its NFL brethren.

Complicating matters even further is the fact that, though the Vikings have a considerable amount of salary cap room and, in fact, will need to spend approximately $8 million to reach the salary cap floor, the Vikings are merely in the middle of the NFL pack with respect to cap space.

At the top of the list of teams with available cap space are the San Diego Chargers with a staggering $43 million in unspent cap dollars before unearned bonuses are even attributed. Twenty-three other teams, including every other member of the NFC North Division, can expect to have more cap space than the Vikings expect to have in 2008. Add to that the fact that New England and Indianapolis, two perennial favorites to reach the Super Bowl, are two of the eight teams with less cap space than the Vikings and the Vikings face a difficult free agency period, even if the players that they covet are available in the free-agency pool.

Up Next: Potential Free Agents that Might Fit the Vikings' Needs. Plus, should he stay or should he go--the Troy Williamson saga.

5 comments:

DC said...

VG:

Surprised to read that you feel right guard is at the top of the Vikings list of positions they wish to upgrade. Why sign Anthony Herrera to a five-year extension if they want to replace him with someone else?

Compared to the quarterback, wide receiver, safety and defensive end positions, right guard seems the least of the Vikings worries.

Ryan said...

VG, can't tell you how much I've enjoyed your blog over the past few months and the intelligent discussion that follows your posts.

I must confess though that your list of needs for the Vikes had me in an RCA dog pose, in particular prioritizing RG over RT. Herra seems to be developing steadily at RG and Ryan Cook appeared to be severely overmatched for the majority of the season.

Another area of concern is the inability of Shiancoe to develop into an offensive threat. A quality pass catching tight end is a tremendous advantage for a developing QB and based on what a close relative (who has worked for the Vikings for the past decade) has said about Shiancoe (poor work ethic and an even worse attitude), it seems very unlikely that he'll improve any time soon. And considering how much cash they have tied up in him, it seems doubtful that he won't be the starter on the season opener.

Short of having another near-miraculous draft where a majority of the rookies make significant contributions to the team, it seems as though we're in for another frustrating season.

Vikes Geek said...

DC and Ryan,

Thanks for the notes. It was merely a case of careless editing on my part. Right tackle is the priority, not right guard.

As for Shiancoe, he is everything that the Vikings hoped he would not be, but worse. His attitude is cancerous and his play is what one would expect of a tight end who has never been asked to run a route prior to this year. It was a bad signing last season that, amazingly, looks far worse in retrospect. But the Vikings will have to admit a fairly sizeable mistake to let Shiancoe go in the second year of a three-year deal. And that probably isn't going to happen. It's more likely that the Vikings draft a tight end that they believe can become a pass receiver.

I'd list quarterback among the Vikings' immediate needs, but that's not how the Vikings are going to go. The position is Jackson's to lose and he hasn't lost it yet.

VG

Ryan said...

Unfortunately... Minnesota sports,as whole these last few decades, has found the recipe for mediocrity. It seems we are enjoying the "Average Joe" non-caffeinated mix a bit too much to change. This also dooms us in having a fruitful off-season for bringing in free agents... a far cry from the "BOSTON TEA PARTIES" in the North East...

JJ said...

Should there be a Salary Cap in Football?
Personally I think there should be! It’s just getting to be stupid money in football at the top of the premiership!
It’s always the same teams at the top proving that football success is based purely on money which ruins the idea of it being a sport! They’ve done it in rugby, basketball, hockey and American football and it makes the sports more competitive and better to watch!
I do a little Spread Betting from time to time and most matches don’t hold much surprise who is going to win, its boring! I want to see a team at the bottom pulling off an amazing season beating last seasons winners in a close fought battle!
Make things fair! It shouldn’t be about money!
Plus!
All there is all that money in the premiership and barely any of it stays in the UK so it’s not even helping the economy!
From my Spread Betting, if I ever win big (which is never, I’m unlucky) it’s still nothing compared to the average premiership players weekly wage!
This Rant was brought to you by Spread Betting Spike.