Sunday, September 06, 2009

Vikings Make U-Turn on Jackson But Have One More Move to Make

The Minnesota Vikings cut their roster to the required 53 players on Saturday evening. Among the cuts were little-used tight end Garrett Mills and oft-used, frustrating cornerback Marcus McCauley. Of all the players released, however, none was more the center of media attention and team consideration this pre-season than was John David Booty.

In 2008, the Vikings traded up in the draft to take Booty in the fifth round. At the time, the Vikings thought that they had a steal, taking the record-setting former USC Trojan relatively late in the draft. "We were surprised to see him still on the board and jumped at the chance to trade for him," Vikings' head coach Brad Childress remarked at the time.

As it happens, Booty was available in the fifth round last year because his skills did not meet the skill set necessary to succeed in the NFL. At least not at this point in his young career. After an abysmal outing in the team's final pre-season game against Dallas on Friday, the Vikings thus made the only logical choice that they could make regarding their quarterback position. Rather than cutting loose a fourth-year project who finally was showing signs of adjusting to the NFL, the Vikings parted with a second-year project who appeared at least as far away from becoming NFL ready.

Ironically, retaining Jackson represents the single most sensible quarterback move that the Vikings have made under Childress. Favre's signing was nice, even necessary. But Jackson's retention was critical should the Vikings need to resort to a back-up this season. For, after failing nearly as badly as Booty in Friday's pre-season game, Sage Rosenfels looks every bit the role of the journeyman that he has been his entire NFL career. Despite his warts, Jackson is still a cut above that level, with promise of at least some additional upside.

While retaining Jackson was a wise decision for the Vikings, the value of keeping Jackson on the roster this season is greatly diminished if the team has no intention of extending his current deal. But, with an uncapped season currently on the horizon and the possibility, however slight, of the end to the team salary cap, Jackson might well prefer to gauge his market value after 2009. And that might make it more difficult for the Vikings to reach a reasonable extension with him.

A sensible deal for the Vikings would be a two-year extension worth just north of what the Vikings are paying Rosenfels--probably two years at $7 million with $4 million guaranteed. The commitment would ensure that the Vikings at least have a prospect in the wings when Favre's contract expires and that they have someone ready to go next season should Favre opt for a one and out experience in Minnesota. The value would also keep the Vikings' salary numbers in line with performance on the field.

Should the Vikings fail to extend Jackson this year, they likely would enter 2010 with Rosenfels as the only even near-NFL caliber quarterback on their roster. There are more frightening prospects in the NFL, but, for a team that otherwise has what many NFL observers believe to be a championship-contending core, it would be another lesson in frustration in Minnesota sporting circles.

Up Next: Finances and Weak Links. Plus, Paging the Browns.

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