For an upcoming season preview issue of Viking Update magazine, we asked former players from the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s what they thought of the current collective bargaining debate. To a man, those who played prior to free agency brought up what a monumental difference it made in salaries. Which got us thinking.
Many players believe the 1975 Vikings were the greatest team in franchise history. But, in the free agency era, there would have been no chance they could have kept the team together. Fortunately for Vikings fans, those players were locked into contracts that didn't allow them leave. But, what would the '75 Vikings have cost in modern-day dollars? Too much. Consider the following:
Fran Tarkenton was nearing the end of his career, but had never missed a game and was viewed by many as the best quarterback in the NFL. Given the current wage paid the top QB, Tark could easily have been given $15 million or so.
Chuck Foreman would have been entering the third year of his rookie contract and, most likely, would have held out in order to get a better deal in the current era. The Vikings would acquiesce and he would sign a deal of about five years for $45 million, with $15 million or so up front. Current cap total about $30 million.
On the offensive line, Mick Tingelhoff would likely not be earning top dollar, but would still be worth about $3 million a year. Guard Ed White would likely be coming up for free agency himself and would probably cost another $5-6 million a year. Ron Yary, the first overall pick in the 1968 draft, would likely be in the second or third year of his second contract, which, given his five straight Pro Bowl appearances, would probably put him in the $12 million range. So far, five players would have the Vikings on the hook for about $50 million, without even touching the Purple People Eaters.
The defense would be a tough call. Alan Page would be at the top of the list. He would have to get $12 million or more a season. Carl Eller? At that point in his career, he still probably would have an incentive-laden deal that would earn him about $6 million per. Jim Marshall would be nearing the end of the line, but the same would likely apply to him – an incentive-pushed deal of about $5 million. We now have eight players occupying about $73 million in cap space.
Jeff Siemon was a Pro Bowler and 1975 and Wally Hilgenberg and Roy Winston were established veterans. Even on the cheap, those three would likely total $12-15 million more. Even on the conservative side, we're looking at $85 million tied into 11 players.
The secondary wouldn't come cheap. Paul Krause was nearing the end, but given his penchant for intercepting passes, a Darren Sharper-like $5 million a year would likely kick in. Bobby Bryant and Nate Wright would probably call for similar numbers.
Given the veteran nature of that team, it wouldn't be inconceivable to believe that, if they were to keep all of them, 14 players from that team would have accounted for approximately $100 million in current NFL dollars.
While the '75 Vikings weren't the fabled "40-for-60" team, in their own way, they would be in the modern-day NFL – 40 guys getting paid league minimum to make up for those taking out the biggest pieces of the cap space available.
The clear indication is that, had the salary cap currently dictating NFL spending been involved, there would have been a lot of Vikings stalwarts playing elsewhere – even Hall of Famers like Page, Eller, Krause and Yary. Under the current economics, there would be no way the teams of the Vikings glory days could have been held together. Too many of them would have priced their way out of Minnesota long before they retired as Vikings.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.