During the 2008 NFL off-season, the Minnesota Vikings have gone where they have seldom gone over the past decade--to the brink of the NFL salary cap. That shift, largely the result of the signings of prospective marquee players such as safety Madieu Williams, defensive end Jared Allen, and wide receiver Bernard Berrian, has been met with raised eyebrows in many quarters. But those raising their brows are less than unanimous in their opinions on what the signings signal for Minnesota.
Most observers of the Vikings' off-season moves have adopted the general consensus of the Vikings' fan base that the Vikings' off-season moves ought to propel the team from a non-playoff team to a contender for the NFC North title, see generally, http://www.profootballtalk.com/2008/04/19/vikes-can-sign-allen-post-draft/; http://www.kffl.com/article.php/86221/74.
Others have suggested that the price that the Vikings paid for Berrian, see
http://blogs.chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/huddleup/2008/02/berrian-leaves.html#comments and Allen, see http://sports.aol.com/fanhouse/2008/04/23/vikings-overpay-for-jared-allen-six-years-74-million-31-mil/, outweighs the return.
On the money issue, the Vikings have few concerns with any of their 2008 signings as the team appropriately agreed to contract terms with Williams, Allen, and Berrian that shift the weight of the team's cap burden to 2008, where the Vikings had considerable cap room to spare, and leaving for the latter years of each player's contract the far less onerous non-guaranteed portions of each player's contract. Of the three contracts, only Allen's carrys any substantial cap hit after 2008 and that at a position at which most teams carry significant cap weight.
Some observers have read more ominous signals into the Vikings' off-season moves than the hit that the signings portend for the Vikings' immediate salary cap flexibility, arguing that the Vikings' moves are a sign that the Vikings' organization will have a short leash on head coach Brad Childress. The Vikings' off-season moves, it is suggested, are a sign that the Vikings expect results in 2008--lest Childress be searching for a new job in 2009. See http://www.suntimes.com/sports/mulligan/918178,CST-SPT-nfcn27.article; http://a1135.g.akamai.net/f/1135/18227/1h/cchannel.download.akamai.com/18227/podcast/MINNEAPOLIS-MN/KFAN-AM/BAR050708_mulligan.mp3?
For the outside observer, the Vikings' off-season moves might well appear to be a shot across Childress' softening bow, but the take ignores both Wilf's hope that Childress can make things work in Minnesota--after a near implosion mid-2007--and Wilf's far greater reason for spending money in 2008 in the hopes of building a contender in Minnesota.
With the Vikings' stadium lease set to expire in 2011, no clear alternative and more lucrative venue to which to move the team, and a desire to sell Minnesota legislatures on his integrity as a Minnesota sports franchise owner, Wilf has used the 2008 off-season not primarily as a vetting point for Childress, but as a demonstration of his commitment to building a contender in Minnesota. If his modest gamble pays off, Wilf unquestionably believes, the ownership group will be able to parlay a relatively modest investment in 2008 into largesse by 2012.
Up Next: What the Numbers Mean Looking Ahead.