Hovan Deal in the Works?

The Vikings appear to be content to sit $13 million under the 2003 salary cap. But, that could (and should) change, as the Vikings use the opportunity to use a goodly portion of that money to assure that Chris Hovan remains a Viking for several years to come.

The buzz over the last several months has been that Red McCombs wants to sell the Vikings. The only bottom line that matters with Red is a new stadium – where revenues can turn his current "break-even" situation (by NFL terms) into a serious money maker.

The fact is, five years after buying the team for $250 million, an offer of $400 million is viewed as a joke. In the current business climate, a 60 percent return on an investment is something that would make Martha Stewart's lawyers perk up. Yet, in the case of Red and the Purple, that's not even a consideration. Why? The NFL is now America's pastime, not baseball.

Where is this leading? Even with a team that is coming off a pair of double-digit loss seasons, the Vikings are a commodity. A 10-win season – like all at Winter Park expect this year – ups the ante for the next buyout offer. That's where Chris Hovan comes in.

Hovan is entering his fourth season. He's still working under his rookie contract. As it stands today, the Vikes are stealing money from him. As far as Mike Tice and the Winter Park inner circle that talks off-the-record to VU says, Hovan is the Minnesota version of Warren Sapp. When draft day came around, one of the primary reasons that Kevin Williams was taken in the first round – pay attention – is that he complement the skills of Hovan so well.

Not to belabor the point, but Hovan is so intregal to the defense that a pure nose tackle like Jimmy Kennedy was passed on to get a player that can line up next to Hovan better speaks volumes. Why is this important to discuss in June 2003?

VU has been told that the Vikings aren't going to make much more of a dent in their current cap situation – our estimate is that they're currently $13 million under the cap. Even if they bring in two or three more veterans – very unlikely – they'll still be $10 million under this year's cap.

The importance of that is a situation that can play itself out if McCombs is committed to keeping the Vikings.

If Hovan is committed to remaining a Viking, if he and the Vikes can agree on a contract extension between now and early December, much of that cap hit could be absorbed vs. this year's cap – a solid business decision and one that would require a hefty up-front payment from McCombs, but a deal that could be front-loaded to offset the contracts of Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Bryant McKinnie.

With the Vikings are set for the foreseeable future with potential franchise-type players at several key positions – Moss, Culpepper, McKinnie, Matt Birk and (soon enough) Williams, inking Hovan long-term makes too much sense – considering the short-term room the Vikings have to make sure he is a part of the next "five-year plan" for a title.

It's obvious to us the value he has to the franchise. When a draft is conducted to line up someone next to a specific player, that's almost the definition of a franchise player. By signing Hovan to a new deal – not an extension – the Vikes can absorb much of the 2003 salary cap hit this year, thus lowering Hovan's NFL cap number in future years, while numbers for players like Moss escalate.

The Vikes haven't spoken publicly about getting a new Hovan deal done, but don't be shocked if in the next few weeks you start hearing comments about it. It's in the works and, if McCombs agrees, it will be done sooner than later – whether he owns the team when the contract expires or not.

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