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Vikings Setting New Standard With Contract Extensions

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What is the logic behind some of the new deals?

Minnesota Vikings v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Fans of the Minnesota Vikings knew. . .or at least hoped. . .that at some point during Training Camp, the team would work out a long-term contract extension with cornerback Xavier Rhodes. After all, he was going into the final year of his rookie contract and had ascended to a level far above what he was being paid at.

The team did work out an extension with Rhodes, but that extension was sandwiched between two new deals that very few people saw coming. On the first day after veterans reported to camp, the team announced a new four-year deal with defensive end Everson Griffen, and after the Rhodes deal they announced a four-year extension with defensive tackle Linval Joseph.

Those two deals were surprising because both Griffen and Joseph had two years remaining on their current contracts, and the Vikings have never been in the business of giving players extensions before the final year of their contracts. Is there a logic behind the Vikings doing it that way, and could it be something we see more teams doing in the future?

Jason Fitzgerald from Over the Cap took a look at the Vikings re-doing the deals for both Griffen and Joseph, and appears to believe that it’s a brilliant idea for the club, as they’re getting greater control over their core stars for a very modest increase in price. Fitzgerald puts it like this:

Griffen was scheduled to earn $15.5 million in 2017 and 2018. $7 million of that was clearly guaranteed and the other $8.5 million almost a virtual certainty. How much is Griffen going to earn now over those two years? $19 million. According to PFT how much of it is fully guaranteed? About $15 million, or essentially what he was already guaranteed to earn.

This is where these contracts fall off the rails for me. When we look at contracts for free agents what we are looking at are full guarantees on the new contract somewhere between $20 and $40 million. If our extension is designed to take free agency out of the equation how in the world does a $3.5 million raise over 2 years justify absolutely no real guarantees for when the extension kicks in? Its not as if they are paying a large signing bonus to make it hard to release the player on the cap or just from a psychological standpoint.

For teams this is brilliant. You are buying a $3.5M option and in return locking in a player at 2017 dollars for absolutely no risk down the line. There are plenty of other teams that are doing this and for whatever reason it is never picked up on by the player side to demand more.

This is something that I think people were quite pleased with when the Vikings signed these deals. With these contract, Griffen, Joseph, and Rhodes are now all under contract through the end of the 2022 season. Most of the guaranteed money is up front, meaning that the Vikings will have them on very team-friendly deals in a time when it appears that the salary cap is going to continue to go up, allowing them to keep more young stars as they develop.

For example, this coming offseason the team will likely have to start looking into deals for linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive end Danielle Hunter, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Anthony Barr is being rumored to be next in line for an extension. In addition, they have a bit of a quarterback quandary they’re going to have to deal with going forward. Doing these three contracts the way that they have will give them money in the future to work with all of those situations.

Here’s a look at the contract for all three of the players that got extensions over the past couple of weeks, courtesy of Over the Cap.

(The numbers in the “Cut” column may or may not be working properly on the site here. If they’re not, you can click on the link in each embed that will take you to each player’s contract.)

With the Griffen and Joseph contracts, the Vikings could effective release them at any time after the 2018 season and incur a minimal dead cap hit (at least versus the amount of cap space they would gain as a result). The Rhodes deal is a bit different, as it takes three seasons for most of the big money to go away. Of course, in a couple of years, many other players will pass these three players in terms of salary for their position, and by that time the deals that they’ve signed now could end up looking like absolute bargains.

Since we started this site, we’ve long lauded Rob Brzezinski as the best salary cap guy in the business, and it looks like he may have started a trend that other teams could be wise to emulate. This team has a solid core of players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, and they’re going to be together for a long, long time thanks to Brzezinski’s vision.