Donovan McNabb and Bernard Berrian are front and center in the firing-squad lineup. Frankly, it's hard to blame the fans for wanting changes there, but releasing the vested veterans makes no sense, especially in McNabb's case. Because they were on the opening-day roster, both of their salaries are guaranteed for the season, meaning there is no salary-cap benefit in releasing them.
The quarterback, especially a veteran quarterback, is often the highest-paid player on the team, but it speaks volumes that McNabb's one-year deal that was renegotiated before he was traded from the Washington Redskins and is for just over $5 million. That's eighth on the team – even Cedric Griffin earns more on an annual average. It's also interesting that even a veteran like McNabb played the jersey-number game with his salary, needing an extra "5" in his contract to put him at $5,050,000 in base salary.
Like McNabb, Berrian also had to renegotiate his contract to be a Viking in 2011. With the free-agent contract he signed in 2008 after four years with the Chicago Bears, he was scheduled to make $3.9 million in base salary this year with a salary-cap hit of $6.26 million. In 2009, that had him ranked third on the Vikings' roster in average annual salary at $7 million. How the once-mighty – or at least serviceable – have fallen. He is now 21st in average annual salary after having his base salary slashed to $1.9, giving the Vikings even more salary-cap relief by having his cap number for this season plummet to $2.83 million.
There is little doubt that neither of them will be with the Vikings next year. McNabb's decreased deal was a one-year contract, and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has stated since getting the job full-time that his desire is to find a long-term solution at the position, and that likely means Christian Ponder in 2012 (or before).
Berrian's deal run through 2013, but there is no way the Vikings swallow hard and absorb his absurdly out-of-whack pay-for-production in the coming two years. In restructuring his contract, the next two years' salaries were kept intact. He is scheduled to make $6.9 million in base salary next year and $7.9 million in 2013, with salary-cap numbers of $7.73 million and $8.73 million, respectively. If his release doesn't happen before the end of the season, you can be sure the team has no interest in retaining him for those thieving numbers.
The restructuring of both the McNabb and Berrian contracts were supposed be their opportunities to re-establish themselves, but they have effectively helped short-circuited each of their careers.
It's almost a chicken-and-egg scenario when it comes to their performances. Which came first: McNabb's lack of trust in throwing a catchable deep ball to Berrian, or Berrian's lack of effort battling for the contested pass when he has a chance?
At this point it doesn't much matter. Their inability (or unwillingness) to adequately explain their lack of productivity to Vikings fans during their interviews with the media has only helped put them atop the free-shipping wish list. Their performances started a quickly rising fever of boos that McNabb felt last Sunday at Mall of America Field.
McNabb's veteran experience might actually give the Vikings the best chance to win in the short term – it's hard to know otherwise until we see Ponder or Joe Webb in extended action – but the lack of explosive productivity from each of them assures they won't return in 2012, especially at their current pay scale.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.