Last week, following the news that quarterback Brett Favre either had or had not rebuffed the Vikings' overtures and subsequent news that the Vikings were awaiting the results of an MRI on Favre's injured arm to determine whether to sign the former Green Bay Packer, two more bits of information circulated the newswires suggesting that the Vikings still have every intention of signing Favre to be the team's starting quarterback in 2009.
The first piece of news came courtesy of Vikings' co-owner Mark Wilf. Responding to questions about Favre in the wake of a news report that Favre planned to remain retired rather than sign with the Vikings, Wilf stated that the Vikings remained very interested in Favre and continued to look into their options.
While Wilf's statements alone do not increase the possibility of the Vikings signing Favre, they represent yet another indicium of the Vikings' plans. There is little question but that Wilf would not have made such a provocative statement were he not reasonably confident that the Vikings ultimately will sign Favre. Having already been through the ups and downs of the Favre saga last year and this year, just prior to making his statements, Wilf, who rarely makes public statements on the team, leaving those remarks to his brother Zygi, would not have gone out of his way to stir the cauldron that is the Vikings' prospective season-ticket base in a year in which sell-outs for home games are not yet guaranteed. No sensible owner would provoke an already wounded fan base given the risk to the bottom line of not producing. And, with limited exception pertaining to one or two team caretakers, the Wilfs, if nothing else, have proven to be sensible.
Public statements of team ownership notwithstanding, other developments suggest that Wilf is speaking from at least a position of high interest. Shortly after Wilf's statements last week, the agent for Antoine Winfield announced that he and the Vikings had reached an impasse on an extension for the cornerback.
Although Winfied turns 32 this year and has had a recent history of discrete injuries, he remains the Vikings' top cornerback and, given the performances of other similarly talented cornerbacks at a similar age, a likely candidate to re-sign with the Vikings. The question, of course, is when the re-signing should take place.
There are several factors that play into when to resign a player in the NFL. For the Vikings, the most significant is whether the team will have the money this year or next year. The Vikings are roughly $16-18 million under the league salary cap. That's enough to sign Favre to a one- or two-year deal and to still forward the cap hit to 2009. But that would leave no room for the $8 million or so in guaranteed money for Winfield, should the Vikings extend him and prefer, as has been the teams penchant under Zygi Wilf, to bring cap hits forward rather than to prorate them.
If Favre does not sign with the Vikings, the Vikings very probably will re-sign Winfield and possibly even Chester Taylor near the start of the 2009 season at terms that eat up all but one or two million in cap space for 2009, leaving 2010 yet another year of generous cap space.
While some Vikings' fans are lamenting the Vikings' slow pace at re-signing Winfield, particularly in the wake of the team's re-signing of Cedric Griffin, there thus is a logical and prudent rationale for the team's determination to suspend negotiations on a deal. And, coupled with Mark Wilf's comments on the team's continuing interest in signing Favre, the strong implication is that the Vikings still believe that the odds are good that the team will cut a deal with Favre.
Up Next: More Free Agents?