Vikings vs. the average starting salaries

This offseason, the Vikings studied where to spend their money on players, but a look at their outlay of cash for offensive starters shows it being heavily weighted on one position. Where do the Vikings compare to the NFL average salaries for starters? We take a position-by-position look.

Rick Spielman's curiosity continues to produce new research projects. This year, the Minnesota Vikings general manager commissioned a study to see which positions were paid the most by the NFL's most successful teams. While he declined to share the results of that particular study, Spielman did say it depends on the schemes that the teams are running.

Clearly, the Vikings value the tight end position. While eschewing a serious plunge into the free-agent receiver market – the only real serious interest uncovered was directed at Ted Ginn Jr., who is more valued as a return man than starting receiver – the Vikings' biggest offseason investment to date (and likely to remain that way with the crop considerably thinned after two weeks) was with John Carlson.

Carlson was the immediate target of the Vikings, and they even lured him out of Kansas City before he had a chance to visit with Chiefs brass. Clearly, the Vikings badly wanted Carlson. Some of that was obviously for his versatility as a receiver and blocker, and Spielman has said numerous times previously that he looks at free agency and the draft as a whole in determining which positions to target in each of the roster-building phases. With what is universally considered a weak draft class of tight ends, the Vikings committed to Carlson in free agency with a five-year deal that averaged $5 million per season.

The question here is this: How does that compare with the NFL average starting salary at tight end, and how do the Vikings compare at other positions. This time, let's look at offense. (Note: average 2011 starting salaries provided by a tweet from an NFL agent; without a significant increase in the 2012 salary cap, these figures should remain close for 2012).

QUARTERBACK – Last year, Donovan McNabb entered the season as the starter and, despite his veteran status and borderline Hall of Fame credentials, he was still being paid under the NFL average for a starting quarterback, which was $8.81 million. McNabb made $5.05 million even though he was released in December after he was benched and wanted another opportunity elsewhere. He's still looking and waiting. Christian Ponder is the starter this year, but he is still in his rookie contract and therefore scheduled to count only $2.3 million against the 2012 salary cap. NFL average: $8.81M. Vikings' expected average in 2012: $2.3M.

RUNNING BACK – Two positions immediately stand out when looking at where the Vikings are well ahead of the NFL average salary for starters – running back and defensive end. That's where the Vikings' stars lie and there is none bigger than Adrian Peterson. Despite the status of his surgically repaired knee leaving him uncertain for the start of the 2012 season, his contract extension through 2017 makes him the richest running back in league history, with a cap number of $12.7 million in 2012. That's more than four times the average for an NFL starter. NFL average: $3.02M. Vikings' expected average in 2012: $12.7M.

WIDE RECEIVER – Heading into the 2012 season, the Vikings' starters at receiver have to be considered Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins. Since Harvin is still in his rookie contract and Jenkins wasn't a priority signing, they aren't above the average starter's salary at receiver – $3.96 million – but Jenkins isn't far away. His cap number jumped from $1.666 million in 2011 to $3.166 million this year. With two years left on his contract, Harvin's cap number for 2012 is $2.0143 million, a relative bargain considering all he contributes to offense and special teams. NFL average: $3.96M. Vikings' expected average in 2012: $2.59M.

TIGHT END – Last year, if you consider Jim Kleinsasser and Visanthe Shiancoe the starters, the team was well over the NFL average for starter's salary at tight end. With the average being $2.89 million, Shiancoe's cap number was $4.2 million in what was likely his final season in purple. Kleinsasser, in his final season in the NFL, was at $3 million. Despite two new starters this year, the emphasis on the position remains. Kyle Rudolph comes cheaper because he is still in his rookie contract and has a cap number of $1.052 million this year. Carlson, the apple of the Vikings' free-agent eye this offseason, should have a cap number somewhere around $4 million this year if his $5 million signing bonus is prorated evenly over the five years of the contract. NFL average: $2.89M. Vikings' expected average in 2012: $2.5M.

OFFENSIVE LINE – This is where the Vikings saved a lot of money with their offseason moves. They released Steve Hutchinson and his $7 million cap figure, as well as Anthony Herrera and his $3.583 million cap cost. Charlie Johnson was signed to be a left tackle and therefore has a healthy cap charge of $3.85 million, which is slightly more than the NFL average for $3.46 million on the offensive line. Johnson might end up playing left guard if the Vikings draft Matt Kalil, but with Hutchinson gone, the most expensive offensive lineman for the Vikings is now center John Sullivan, who has a $4 million cap figure in 2012. After that, the cost of the offensive linemen drops significantly. Joe Berger and Geoff Schwartz, who are considered the frontrunners for the right guard spot, hold cap figures of $1.888 million and $1.5 million respectively. Right tackle Phil Loadholt is in the final year of his rookie contract, which calls for a cap charge of $867,500. If Kalil is the Vikings' pick at No. 3, he would likely average just over $5 million per year. All told, the Vikings' five starters on the offensive line could average about $3.1 million in 2012, which would be about $300,000 below the NFL average from 2011. Last year, the Vikings' five starters on the offensive line averaged about $2.9 million, but that was heavily weighted by Hutchinson's $6.73 cap charge. NFL average: $3.46M. Vikings' expected average in 2012 (with Kalil and Berger as starters): $3.1M.

Total NFL offensive average for starters (1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE, 5 OL): $42.83M. Vikings' average in 2012: $40.68M.

It's interesting to note that, despite Peterson's huge cap charge in 2012, the Vikings are still extremely close to the NFL average for offensive starters that aren't offensive linemen. In the so-called skill positions, the NFL average for starters in 2011 was $25.53 million per team. The Vikings are expected to pay their skill-position starters $25.18 million in 2012. Perhaps that shows the youth with Ponder, Harvin and Rudolph all still in their rookie contracts.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Rick Spielman's curiosity continues to produce new research projects. This year, the Minnesota Vikings general manager commissioned a study to see which positions were paid the most by the NFL's most successful teams. While he declined to share the results of that particular study, Spielman did say it depends on the schemes that the teams are running. Clearly, the Vikings value the tight end position. While eschewing a serious plunge into the free-agent receiver market – the only real serious interest uncovered was directed at Ted Ginn Jr., who is more valued as a return man than starting receiver – the Vikings' biggest offseason investment to date (and likely to remain that way with the crop considerably thinned after two weeks) was with John Carlson. Carlson was the immediate target of the Vikings, and they even lured him out of Kansas City before he had a chance to visit with Chiefs brass. Clearly, the Vikings badly wanted Carlson. Some of that was obviously for his versatility as a receiver and blocker, and Spielman has said numerous times previously that he looks at free agency and the draft as a whole in determining which positions to target in each of the roster-building phases. With what is universally considered a weak draft class of tight ends, the Vikings committed to Carlson in free agency with a five-year deal that averaged $5 million per season. The question here is this: How does that compare with the NFL average starting salary at tight end, and how do the Vikings compare at other positions. This time, let's look at offense. (Note: average 2011 starting salaries provided by a tweet from an NFL agent; without a significant increase in the 2012 salary cap, these figures should remain close for 2012). Last year, Donovan McNabb entered the season as the starter and, despite his veteran status and borderline Hall of Fame credentials, he was still being paid under the NFL average for a starting quarterback, which was $8.81 million. McNabb made $5.05 million even though he was released in December after he was benched and wanted another opportunity elsewhere. He's still looking and waiting. Christian Ponder is the starter this year, but he is still in his rookie contract and therefore scheduled to count only $2.3 million against the 2012 salary cap. $8.81M. $2.3M. Two positions immediately stand out when looking at where the Vikings are well ahead of the NFL average salary for starters – running back and defensive end. That's where the Vikings' stars lie and there is none bigger than Adrian Peterson. Despite the status of his surgically repaired knee leaving him uncertain for the start of the 2012 season, his contract extension through 2017 makes him the richest running back in league history, with a cap number of $12.7 million in 2012. That's more than four times the average for an NFL starter. $3.02M. $12.7M. Heading into the 2012 season, the Vikings' starters at receiver have to be considered Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins. Since Harvin is still in his rookie contract and Jenkins wasn't a priority signing, they aren't above the average starter's salary at receiver – $3.96 million – but Jenkins isn't far away. His cap number jumped from $1.666 million in 2011 to $3.166 million this year. With two years left on his contract, Harvin's cap number for 2012 is $2.0143 million, a relative bargain considering all he contributes to offense and special teams. $3.96M. $2.59M. Last year, if you consider Jim Kleinsasser and Visanthe Shiancoe the starters, the team was well over the NFL average for starter's salary at tight end. With the average being $2.89 million, Shiancoe's cap number was $4.2 million in what was likely his final season in purple. Kleinsasser, in his final season in the NFL, was at $3 million. Despite two new starters this year, the emphasis on the position remains. Kyle Rudolph comes cheaper because he is still in his rookie contract and has a cap number of $1.052 million this year. Carlson, the apple of the Vikings' free-agent eye this offseason, should have a cap number somewhere around $4 million this year if his $5 million signing bonus is prorated evenly over the five years of the contract. $2.89M. $2.5M. This is where the Vikings saved a lot of money with their offseason moves. They released Steve Hutchinson and his $7 million cap figure, as well as Anthony Herrera and his $3.583 million cap cost. Charlie Johnson was signed to be a left tackle and therefore has a healthy cap charge of $3.85 million, which is slightly more than the NFL average for $3.46 million on the offensive line. Johnson might end up playing left guard if the Vikings draft Matt Kalil, but with Hutchinson gone, the most expensive offensive lineman for the Vikings is now center John Sullivan, who has a $4 million cap figure in 2012. After that, the cost of the offensive linemen drops significantly. Joe Berger and Geoff Schwartz, who are considered the frontrunners for the right guard spot, hold cap figures of $1.888 million and $1.5 million respectively. Right tackle Phil Loadholt is in the final year of his rookie contract, which calls for a cap charge of $867,500. If Kalil is the Vikings' pick at No. 3, he would likely average just over $5 million per year. All told, the Vikings' five starters on the offensive line could average about $3.1 million in 2012, which would be about $300,000 below the NFL average from 2011. Last year, the Vikings' five starters on the offensive line averaged about $2.9 million, but that was heavily weighted by Hutchinson's $6.73 cap charge. $3.46M. $3.1M. $42.83M. $40.68M. It's interesting to note that, despite Peterson's huge cap charge in 2012, the Vikings are still extremely close to the NFL average for offensive starters that aren't offensive linemen. In the so-called skill positions, the NFL average for starters in 2011 was $25.53 million per team. The Vikings are expected to pay their skill-position starters $25.18 million in 2012. Perhaps that shows the youth with Ponder, Harvin and Rudolph all still in their rookie contracts. 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