Payouts And Holdouts

The Vikings have paid out big money to Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper -- albeit not as big as it first seemed -- but the Bryant McKinnie holdout sent the opposite message last year. Why the different philosophies? Two sources weigh in with their opinions.

A $102 million contract extension would lead us to believe that a team was locked in and committed to a player for a signing of such magnitude. That same extension really doesn't mean much, besides the publicity of saying that the team worked diligently to get a player signed on a long-term deal.

Whether the Vikings are surely sold on the qualities and abilities of quarterback Daunte Culpepper, the sizable contract extension agreed to by the parties involved are just numbers and not much more.

In a game where numbers are reported, but rarely achieved, the Culpepper contract just further establishes the game within the game in the NFL. Inflated signing numbers, based on backloaded dollars at the end of a contract that are rarely if ever seen are the norm in the game today.

Imagine, Culpepper will be the third-highest paid quarterback in the NFL if you go by the numbers agreed upon in the contract extension. In reality, Culpepper will only see approximately $58 million dollars before contract restructuring takes place in the future. This number could be cut further if the team ultimately decides to sever the ties with the player.

"Make no bones about it, the deal that Culpepper agreed to was of great magnitude to the Minnesota organization. The Vikings really did not want to head into the 2003 season having to deal with Culpepper after the season or to let him become a free agent," a league source said. "Granted the deal is large, but there is an enormous amount of money in the contract that Culpepper will not see. The best case scenario is that Culpepper will see $70 million if everything works out well, but in the game today with teams making major errors in financial commitment, I would not be surprised to see his contract reworked two or three times during the duration of this original extension.

"Other issues play into the Minnesota decision on Culpepper. While the extension looks nice, the team can still release Culpepper and recoup all but some bonus money. Also, while the team is not looking to deal Culpepper, his contract extension is not a liability when attempting to trade the player. These are some options that are available to the team."

With the extension now on the books, the deal signed off on by owner Red McCombs raises more questions about the owner of the team and the direction and stability that he at times does not provide. McCombs is known for his rash moves. After one of many poor defensive performances, one in particular that ended the 2000 season, a 41-0 playoff thrashing at the hands of the New York Giants, McCombs signed off on the record-setting contract to wide receiver Randy Moss.

The re-signing of Moss, known as one of the most explosive deep-threats in the game, was something the team needed to secure, but numerous players and members of the organization questioned the move and its timing.

"All Moss did was complain, alienate some players in the locker room, and show his me-first mentality at the time," another source said. " Being there and watching first hand what was happening with that team, with the coaching staff, and the with the owner, there was an issue of urgency for the team to do something positive. When Moss was signed to the extension, it was not a happy time for many within the organization. This was McCombs' move.

"Now, we see it happening with Culpepper -- a player that has had some good moments but has been fairly average over the past few seasons. This deal again will fall on McCombs. Culpepper and Moss have had issues on the sideline, in the huddle, in practice. … Credit the job of Mike Tice and his staff, if they hadn't had the pulse of the team, this problem would have exploded long ago and the team would have been lost."

The Moss signing was one questionable issue, the Culpepper is the latest. Sandwiched in between these problems was a lengthy contract holdout by 2002 first round draft selection Bryant McKinnie and some tough negotiations on the horizon with the Vikings' 2003 first-round draft choice, Kevin Williams. What is McCombs thinking when making his latest, critical decision?

"McCombs is trying to show that he is committed to winning, that he isn't cheap, and will make a deal that he believes is in the best interest of the organization," the league source said. "The interesting aspect of this situation is that McCombs will lob money out there for Moss and Culpepper but will hold out to save a few dollars on draft selections. These draft selections are the players that are needed in camp immediately. McCombs is not your ordinary owner."

Only time will tell, but McCombs has laid the foundation with Culpepper as his quarterback, a move that will either blow up in his face or be a solid football move. Either way, the pressure is on Culpepper, and that may not be what the quarterback really needs at this time.

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