What Should the Vikings do with Chad Greenway?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

The Daily Norseman breaks down the contract numbers for linebacker Chad Greenway.

With the release of Erin Henderson, and considering that Marvin Mitchell and Desmond Bishop will become free agents this offseason, the Vikings find themselves a little thin at the linebacker position. With the spotlight shining fully on the remaining linebackers it begs the question, what should the Vikings do with Chad Greenway?

On the one hand, Greenway led the team in tackles last season, but he also led the team in missed tackles and it wasn't close. If you divide a player's total tackles by their missed tackles you get a "tackling efficiency" percentage, and here are the Vikings top 10 tacklers and their tackling efficiency from last season (stats compiled from Pro Football Focus):

Name

Tackle Totals

Missed Tackles

Tackling Efficiency

Chad Greenway

94

21

78%

Erin Henderson

81

10

88%

Andrew Sendejo

65

12

82%

Jamarca Sanford

58

10

83%

Harrison Smith

50

8

84%

Josh Robinson

47

8

83%

Chris Cook

46

8

83%

Xavier Rhodes

45

7

85%

Robert Blanton

42

3

93%

Marcus Sherels

38

5

87%

As you can see, Greenway's tackling efficiency sticks out like a sore thumb. His high number of missed tackles isn't just a result of having made more total tackles, his tackling efficiency was a full 8% worse than the average of everyone else's efficiency. In coverage, out of 35 outside linebackers in the NFL, Chad Greenway allowed the 8th worst passer rating to players he was covering. He also allowed the 2nd most yards per completion and yards after the catch. Players he covered in 2013 caught 77% of the passes thrown his way, 12th worst in the league. It wasn't all bad though. He was ranked 8th overall in stops (solo tackles which constituted an offensive failure), tied for 7th in sacks and 6th in quarterback hits. This leads me to believe that Chad Greenway has lost a bit of speed and was therefore not able to keep up with defenders in coverage, and was frequently caught out of position in the run game (hence his low tackling efficiency). But as a pass rusher he was still excellent, and still has an elite understanding of his defensive responsibilities based on the relatively high number of stops he was able to make.

So, what should the Vikings do with Chad Greenway? Well they have three options. They can do nothing, and let him play out his contract similar to what they did with Jared Allen. They could cut him, similar to what they just did with Erin Henderson. Or, they could restructure the final two years of his contract like they did with Kevin Williams and Charlie Johnson last season. So, let's take an in-depth look at all three options, using his contract information from Spotrac:

Do Nothing with Chad Greenway's Contract

Contract Year

Base Salary

Prorated Signing Bonus

Misc. Bonuses

Total Cap Hit

2014

$6.4 Mil

$1.7 Mil

$0.1 Mil

$8.2 Mil

2015

$7.1 Mil

$1.7 Mil

$0.1 Mil

$8.8 Mil

If no other contracts changed among outside linebackers this year and next, then Chad Greenway would end up having the 8th highest cap hit of all outside linebackers over the next two seasons, and this includes not only 4-3 outside linebackers, but the premiere pass rushing linebackers in 3-4 defenses like Clay Matthews, Trent Cole and Tamba Hali. Based on the statistical information about his performance on the field last season above, it seems unlikely that the Vikings would want Chad Greenway to eat up that much cap space.

Cut Chad Greenway

If the Vikings decide to cut Chad Greenway this off-season, then the prorated signing bonus they gave him back in 2011 would still count towards the cap. If they cut him before June 1st, that signing bonus would be "accelerated" and the full remaining $3.4 Million would count against the cap in 2014. If they wait until after June 1st, then it can be split up over the last two years of his deal ($1.7 Million each in 2014 and 2015). So if a cut is coming for Greenway, it likely won't happen until after June 1st. Keep in mind though, even though money counts against the cap for the Vikings if he gets cut, Greenway has already been paid. So, if he's cut, he won't see another dime from the Vikings. Only $20 Million of his salary was guaranteed, and his guaranteed money ran out last season. In any case, by cutting Greenway the Vikings would save $6.5 Million against the cap in 2014 and $7.2 Million 2015.

Restructure Chad Greenway's Contract

Since the Vikings are going to have to count Greenway's 2011 signing bonus against the cap for the next two years regardless of whether or not he is on the team, it might make sense to restructure his contract especially if the team feels he still has some gas left in the tank. This would avoid having more dead money laying around. It would also allow the Vikings to reduce his cap hit for the next 2 years.

If we restructured Chad Greenway's contract, we wouldn't necessarily have to extend him, but we would have to guarantee some of his contract to make it worth his while with another signing bonus that would be tacked onto his prorated signing bonus from 2011. So, the real issue at hand is his base salary of $6,400,000 in 2014 and $7,000,000 in 2015. I'm spit-balling a little bit, but we could offer a 2-year restructure worth $5 Million with a $2 Million signing bonus and fully guarantee the 2014 salary.

A contract restructure such as this could be broken down like this:

Contract Year

Base Salary

2011-2015 Signing Bonus

Restructured Signing Bonus

Misc. Bonuses

Total Cap Hit

2014

$2.5 Mil

$1.7 Mil

$1 Mil

$0.1 Mil

$5.3 Mil

2015

$2.5 Mil

$1.7 Mil

$1 Mil

$0.1 Mil

$5.3 Mil

This contract would save the Vikings $2.9 Million against the cap in 2014 and $3.5 Million in 2015, which would be huge. And it would allow them to retain a veteran leader on the defense. Chad Greenway is a positive role model for the young guys and an excellent contributor in the community off the field. While his play has diminished some, if he can get healthy and get on the same page with the new coaching staff there is at least some hope that he could turn it around in 2014 and beyond. This is of course assuming the Vikings have evaluated his skills and agree he has something left in the tank for the next 2 years.

Why would Chad Greenway accept such a deal? Well, he's already been paid his full signing bonus back in 2011 and his guaranteed money is up now too, so from his perspective he is only due to make his base salary and workout bonus of $6.5 Million in 2014. If the Vikings cut him this year, he won't see that $6.5 Million (or his $7.1 Million base in 2015). In other words, Chad Greenway has very little leverage in this situation. His only leverage is the signing bonus cap hit, which isn't that large should the Vikings want to cut him. Greenway would have to take his chances in free agency with another team, and for a 31 year-old linebacker coming off one of his worst statistical years there might not be much of a market there. There is pretty much no chance that another team in the NFL will pay Greenway the $6.5 Million salary he is due from the Vikings, let alone anything beyond that. So, if he renegotiates with the Vikings on a contract like this, he'll guarantee his salary for 2014, and get a nice, new and shiny signing bonus as well, which would total $4.6 Million for 2014 with the workout bonus. He would also understand that the Vikings would have to count a larger amount against the cap in 2015 to cut him (both prorated signing bonuses from 2011 and 2014), so he would likely be safe for at least another 2 years. Sure, he takes a pay cut on his end from $6.5 Million to $4.6 Million in 2014, and a massive one in 2015 from $7 Million to $2.6 Million, but the alternative is be out on the street hoping to catch on with another team that may only offer him a 1-year deal with very little (if any) guaranteed money.

Realistically there is almost no way that the Vikings allow Chad Greenway to play out the remainder of his deal, although I thought the same thing about Jared Allen and we all know how that turned out. So the Vikings and Chad Greenway will have to decide what the best option is for each of them. In my opinion a contract restructuring would be the most mutually beneficial assuming they can agree on the numbers. Obviously the Vikings will want it to be as low as possible to get some cap relief, and Chad Greenway will want it to be as high as possible for his own best interests. But assuming they can agree on the numbers, a contract restructuring seems like the most likely scenario. What do you all think?

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