Over the Cap is a pretty indispensible website for fans like us, many of whom aren't incredibly well-versed in the ways on the NFL's salary cap. If you're not checking it out regularly, it's one that should be added to your bookmarks. The folks at OTC have been going through each team and determining which player on each roster has the "best" and "worst" contract. Today, they got around to the Minnesota Vikings, so let's take a look at what they have to say.
We'll start with the "worst" contract, a distinction that OTC gives to wide receiver Greg Jennings.
Minnesota threw Jennings $17.8 million fully guaranteed, $10 million of which came in the form of a signing bonus. His contract averaged $9 million a season which was more than was given to younger and bigger upside players such as Antonio Brown, Victor Cruz, and Pierre Garcon. In 2014 Brandon Marshall, a far superior receiver in the same age bracket who showed no signs of breaking down, received $10 million a year with about $15 million guaranteed and a minimal signing bonus.
Jennings was more or less a non-factor in 2013 averaging around 12 yards per catch and producing about 800 yards on the year. The s Vikings structured the contract such that in 2015 he'll either be on the team at an $11 million cap charge or cost the team $6 million in dead money. Those kind of numbers never should have happened for a player like Jennings.
I may be slightly biased, but I think that if Minnesota's quarterback situation is a bit more stabilized, regardless of who stabilizes it, Jennings will have a significantly greater impact this year. He may end up being the #2 guy with the rise of Cordarrelle Patterson, but that's not necessarily a bad thing by any stretch. As we saw last season. . .and say it along with me. . .Greg Jennings is always open, which is something that either Matt Cassel or (hopefully) Teddy Bridgewater will find pretty helpful.
OTC also cites Everson Griffen as a candidate for this distinction, but acknowledges that Griffen's deal was based more on potential, which makes sense.
The "best" contract distinction goes to the same guy OTC gave it to last season, center John Sullivan.
The Vikings wisely locked Sullivan up in 2011 when he still had one season remaining on his rookie contract rather than allowing him to test free agency in 2012. The Center market had become somewhat overpaid with the emergence of Nick Mangold and Kalil following the wild $37.5 million dollar contract the Rams gave Jason Brown in 2009. Despite the top end prices the Vikings were able to lock Sullivan up at $4.9 million a season, around a 40% discount from the top of the market. The Vikings decision would look even better in light of more expensive contracts given to Chris Myers and Max Unger, both very good players, which may have represented what the market would have been for Sullivan had he hit free agency.
The money saved on Sullivan has allowed the Vikings to overpay to retain the services of Peterson and other players on the team. Sullivan's cap hits will never crack top 5 in a single season and for the next few years he will be around the 8th or 9th highest cap charge at the position which is a tremendous bargain. The contract was also structured to protect the team's salary cap in the event his play declines as he reached 30. The Vikings cost to cut in 2015, when he will be 30, is only $1 million and the 2016 season contains no dead money. It gives them flexibility to cut or to extend without having to worry about adding money on top of sunk costs built into the contract. Every team would be happy to have a player and contract like this one on their team.
Pretty nice for the Vikings that Sullivan will only have the "8th or 9th highest cap charge" at the center position, considering that there aren't eight or nine centers in the NFL that are better than he is. (I mean, after all, Jeff Saturday is retired now.) Sullivan has been a great player for the past few years in Minnesota, and will hopefully be anchoring the offensive line for at least a few more years to come.