Chad Greenway will be spending at least five more seasons in Minnesota.
The Vikings freed up salary-cap room and kept one of their best players tied to the team through 2015 by signing Greenway to a long-term contract extension Monday. The outside linebacker signed a five-year deal, ensuring he will have a long stay in Minnesota.
"To be able to make an NFL career work for you and be financially set, very, very limited people get this opportunity," Greenway said. "The biggest thing for me is, since I walked through the doors they've been nothing but good to me. I just can't say enough about how highly I hold the organization. They do such a great job. And you hear a lot of bad stories around the league, but I have nothing bad to say about these guys. They've always been good."
The Pioneer Press is reported that the contract is worth $41 million ($20 million guaranteed). Greenway, 28, was previously under contract through this season on a $10,091,000 franchise tender. Signing him to a longer deal reduces the cap hit on this season and will allow the Vikings, who were right up against the cap, more flexibility.
"Chad is one of those guys whose really coming on as a leadership standpoint and as a playmaker," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "You really want to get those guys in the fold. He's one of those guys if he gets on the market, it's going to be tough to keep him as a Minnesota Viking. So I think what we've been able to accomplish as a part of maintaining, hopefully, a good defense for years to come."
Greenway hasn't made a Pro Bowl but is regarded as one of the top outside linebackers in football, averaging 115 tackles per season in his first four years after missing his rookie season with an ACL injury. Selected 17th overall in the 2006 NFL draft, Greenway has started 63 of the Vikings' past 64 games and played in all of them.
Greenway was chosen by his teammates as the Vikings' defensive MVP last season after he finished with a team-high 149 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss.
"Seeing the improvement every single year, and you know you just expect for him to continue to get better," Frazier said. "And he's still a young football player. The fact he's on the verge of being a Pro Bowl player, you want him to be a Pro Bowl player here in Minnesota as opposed to somewhere else. But his biggest strides have been with his confidence and just seeing his leverage from a tackling standpoint that has improved so much. We get excited about the future knowing he is improving every year."
Greenway wanted to stay with the Vikings, and when he was given the franchise tag in the offseason, he felt it signified the team was going to commit to him long-term. Happy his future was closer to being determined, Greenway stayed out of the negotiations, which concluded over the weekend.
"Both sides wanted to get a deal done, so it makes it a little easier to work through that," Greenway said. "When I was franchised, I was obviously ecstatic I could be here for one more year and be able to play here and be close to home and all that."
Greenway, a farm kid from South Dakota who spent his high school years playing nine-man football, has come a long way. He says his first position at Iowa was quarterback for "six minutes." He was moved to defensive back and eventually linebacker, where he started to make his presence known.
He left Iowa ranked fifth in school history with 416 tackles and was a two-time all-Big Ten selection.
Learning from his small-town roots, he hasn't stopped working.
"Just something that's always been there; this burning desire to want to better," Greenway said. "I think it started right when I was little that I wanted to be in the NFL and nobody ever scoffed at you, especially coming from middle South Dakota. You don't have many people in the NFL that are from South Dakota, and it just started with that. You get a couple of lucky breaks and then you get put into a position and a little bit of luck a lot of hard work and here we are."
Now that Greenway is taken care of, Minnesota can shift its attention to a long-term deal for running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson is in the final year of his deal, making $10.7 million. With Tennessee Titans' running back Chris Johnson signing a four-year, $53.5 million contract ($30 million guaranteed) extension last week, Peterson's contract has become a focal point.
Now that Greenway is signed, Minnesota could opt to use the franchise tag on Peterson, but the team hopes to have something wrapped up before having to do that in the offseason.
"I know that is something that is being discussed, and hopefully something will be done at some point," Frazier said. "We've got some people handling that as well. I'm sure [VP of football operations] Rob Brzezinski and our staff will do a good job of bringing that to a closure at some point."
For more from FS North, visit FoxSportsNorth.com.
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