Trading Made Easier With Son
Nepotism. Consider the definition of the word as it appears in the Random House College Dictionary: "From Nepos, Roman biographer and historian ... patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship, as in business or politics."
It wouldn't be all that great a stretch to say that the strict meaning of the word could be applied to the Vikings' trade with the Cleveland Browns for running back Travis Prentice and quarterback Spergon Wynn. The deal was made partly as the result of negotiations between Vikings head coach Dennis Green and his son Jeremy, who serves in Cleveland's pro personnel department.
Green and Green also struck the deal that brought offensive lineman Everett Lindsay to Minnesota two weeks earlier.
In Prentice the Vikings received Cleveland's leading running back last year (512 yards gained and seven touchdowns). The Vikings also acquired second-year NFL quarterback Wynn, who played in seven games with the Browns last year, including one start. In exchange, Minnesota gave its 2002 fifth-round draft choice and a sixth- or seventh-round conditional choice in 2003. Prentice is expected to immediately move into the rotation at tailback for the Vikings and Wynn comes on as the third-string quarterback.
To some, it seems as though Jeremy was eager to please the elder Green. The coach, however, sees it differently. He said: "We had a chance to do it. We did it for our price. I think Cleveland was happy and we were happy. There aren't many trades in the National Football League because there aren't many people who want you to get equal value. And I think when you're dealing with your son you pretty much can be fair with him and you can expect him to be fair with you."
It remains to be seen whether Prentice and/or Wynn will turn out to be more productive than Moe Williams and Romaro Miller, who were cut in order to make room on the roster for the two imports. One way or another, Green insists the move is an improvement for his team, especially in the case of the 5-foot-11, 221-pound Prentice.
"We traded for a bigger running back because we think we needed one," Green said. "My concern was that Michael Bennett and (Doug) Chapman, two young guys the same sort of size, and then with Moe also the same sort of size, we felt we needed a bigger guy to go along with the two (Bennett and Chapman)."
In addition to his rushing yardage, Prentice also caught 37 passes last year and is expected to give the Vikings a reliable third-down receiver out of the backfield. Wynn, who had a brief stop at the University of Minnesota before moving on to play at Southwest Texas State, also provides more size at his position. "We had a chance to upgrade the quarterback position," Green said. "I think Spergon is a big, strong, talented player (6-3, 226-pounds). I liked Romaro Miller a lot and I think he will eventually be where Spergon is now. But Spergon, having played over in Europe, I think it helped him a great deal.
And as far as trading with a member of the family? Some feel that Green and Company got exactly what it wanted from the negotiations between Green and Son.
The Vikings can now boast of having two of the highest paid players in the NFL at their positions after signing center Matt Birk to a seven-year contract extension worth $31 million, which included a reported $6 million signing bonus. The Birk deal comes shortly after the Vikings made league history by signing wide receiver Randy Moss to a $93 million contract that included an $18 million signing bonus.
In Birk's case, there is some thought that perhaps the Vikings paid more than was necessary to keep the St. Paul native in a purple uniform. Prior to the signing, Birk hinted that he would consider accepting less money than he might be offered as a free agent next year if it meant that he could remain with his hometown team. He said on local talk radio, "You have to be realistic about it. After all, if you think about it, if you were paid the league minimum of $400,000 it would still be a good living for just playing a game."
Time was when players moving from one team to another in the NFL was the exception instead of the rule. Not so today, and Prentice's move to Minnesota was a typical example.
Prentice confessed to being shocked when he learned that he had been traded after being the Browns' leading ground gainer last year. "Shocked? Sure I was shocked," he said. "One day I'm pumping iron in Cleveland and the next day I'm practicing with the Vikings." VU
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