Culpepper On Hold?

With free agency expected to slow to a crawl, some have speculated that Daunte Culpepper would be next in line for a pay day if the Vikings were to turn their attention to signing him long-term. However, VU has been told that, until the ownership question is decided by Red McCombs, the matter is moot at this time.

It happens every April -- after a flurry of free agent activity, signings slow to almost a complete stop as teams gear up for the April 26-27 college draft. Some felt this would be a time for the contract people with the Vikings to try to work out a contract extension with Daunte Culpepper. But VU has been told that, while talks may continue, the ownership of Red McCombs could be a sticking point.

For several months, rumors of McCombs' interest in selling the Vikings have circulated. One of the reasons many media outlets believed McCombs was in a hurry to sell the club was due to big signing bonus money owed Randy Moss and Bryant McKinnie. It is expected that if Culpepper was to sign a long-term extension, he would be due a signing bonus in the $12-15 million range -- which some speculate is more than McCombs wants to turn over at the moment if indeed he is looking to sell the team.

The timing would be right to work out a deal with Culpepper, since the Vikings are still $16.3 million under the current salary cap, according to a team source. The cap hit for a Culpepper signing bonus could be incorporated into this year's cap, thus reducing the total signing bonus pro-rated portion in future years.

While McCombs remains consistent in his belief that Culpepper will be the long-term QB of the Vikings, the bigger question may be asked if McCombs will be the long-term owner? If the answer is yes, talks to get Culpepper a new deal in the next month will progress. If the answer is no or maybe, the Vikings and Culpepper may have to put contract talks on hold.

* A team source told VU this weekend that Michael Bennett's foot surgery was a success and that, barring any post-operative complications, he should be good to go in six weeks.
* The NFL owners meetings in Phoenix ended with two issues tabled until their next meeting in May. Those issues are a proposal to expand the playoffs by two teams -- a proposal VU has been told has little chance of passing -- and potential penalties to the Lions for not interviewing minority candidates when hiring Steve Mariucci as their head coach. The punishment, if any, is expected to be a loss of potential draft picks, but, by being tabled, it obviously won't be anything in next month's draft. If any picks are taken away, they are expected to be one or two mid- to late-round picks.

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