In a previous post, I discussed the Vikings' options for retaining running back Chester Taylor. Since then, two once-marquee running backs, who the Vikings, as "final four" participants, are eligible to sign without first losing a free agent of their own, have entered the ranks of free agency. Despite the interest piqued among some fans, neither Brian Westbrook nor LaDanian Tomlinson offers the Vikings anywhere near what they already have in Chester Taylor--nor do any other running backs likely to be on the market.
At this point, it appears that Taylor is intent either on forcing the Vikings' hand or gauging his value on the free-agent market. That ploy could, however, backfire on him.
Should Taylor enter free-agency, he likely will receive a generous bump in salary from his 2009 pay. That bump, however, equally as likely would pale in comparison to what he would receive were he to negotiate a salary with the Vikings prior to free agency. For, at the moment, Taylor has the Vikings over a barrel. They need him more than he needs them and the market is uncertain. Once the market is determined, the Vikings will know where they stand and what they need to pay Taylor to remain where they wish to be. If that means paying Taylor too much, the Vikings might well opt to draft one of the many strong running backs in this year's draft and part ways with Taylor.
Much local discussion has focused on the cost of signing Taylor, but that discussion mostly has lacked any meaningful statement of the particulars, favoring, instead, repetition of the incorrect line that the Vikings already are committed to a high team salary in 2010. In short, quite the opposite is true and the Vikings are in a very good position in terms of team salary to pay Taylor the $6.6 million or so that will be required should they opt to franchise him.
There is a better solution for both the Vikings and Taylor, however, and that is to sit down at the table and negotiate an extension before free agency opens. That move would ensure Taylor a healthy raise to somewhere below franchise level but somewhere above market and a shot at a Super Bowl with far more limited damage to his body than he almost certainly would endure as the starting back for another team in 2010. It also would ensure the Vikings their nookie blanket at running back at terms more generous than franchise level.
The key for both parties is to iron out a deal before free-agency begins and the horses are already out of the stable.