The NFL introduced the Franchise Tag back in 1993, and there are teams that have had to use it quite a bit. The Minnesota Vikings are not one of those teams. In the 25 years that the Franchise Tag has been around, the Vikings have used it exactly twice.
The first time came in 2003, when the team chose to use the tag on tight end Jim Kleinsasser. Kleinsasser had generated plenty of interest, and the Vikings decided that they didn’t want to let him get away, so they placed the tag on him. He wound up signing the franchise tender for 2003, giving him a salary of a whopping. . .$3 million, which was the average salary of the top five tight ends in the league at that time. It wound up being the right move for the Vikings, and during the 2004 offseason the Vikings signed Kleinsasser to a five-year, $15 million deal.
There was significantly more drama surrounding the Franchise Tag the second time the Vikings used it during the 2011 offseason. The Vikings had three significant players that were set to become free agents in defensive end Ray Edwards, linebacker Chad Greenway, and wide receiver Sidney Rice. With their salary cap situation in rough shape and a full-on rebuild set to begin, the Vikings chose to place the tag on Greenway and let Edwards and Rice seek their fortunes elsewhere. The Franchise Tag for Greenway cost the Vikings right around $10 million for that season.
Thanks to the benefit of hindsight, we know that the Vikings made the right decision on that one. Edwards went on to sign a big free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons, but completely flamed out and was out of the league after just a year and a half in Atlanta. Rice never did regain the form that made him such a huge part of the Vikings’ big 2009 season, playing three mostly non-descript seasons with the Seattle Seahawks before injury issues forced him out of the league for good. Greenway, on the other hand, continued to be incredibly productive and spent his entire NFL career in Minnesota before retiring after the 2016 season.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the entire history of the Minnesota Vikings and the Franchise and Transition Player Tags (they’ve never used the Transition Tag on anybody, either). Will the Vikings add Case Keenum’s name to that list sometime in the next two weeks? Starting tomorrow, they’ll have the opportunity to do just that.