For the last several weeks, there have been numerous discussions – professionally and socially – about how the 2017 Minnesota Vikings are going to change from the 2016 team.
Most of the chatter has surrounded the disposition of the “Peterson Matter.” Fans two years ago knew that the Vikings weren’t going to pay Adrian Peterson $18 million for a 32-year-old running back. It’s not new to the experience that $10 million is the going rate for 26-year-old running backs at the top of their game. Peterson is five years older than that and many wonder how much longer he can play at a high level.
No. 2 on the list has been the disposition of the offensive line. Tony Sparano has gone Tony Soprano on the family business, signing off on jettisoning Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris from his O-line room – and likely already deciding whether or not Matt Kalil comes back or creates yet another vacancy.
Lost in the discussion has been what to with Sharrif Floyd.
As things currently stand, the Vikings owe Floyd in the neighborhood of $6.75 million for the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. The question facing the team is whether or not they have any intention of paying it?
Why wouldn’t they? Because Floyd has spent as much time injured or on the injured list.
Floyd’s injury history has become something of a red flag for G.M. Rick Spielman, the master and commander of red flags.
In 2014, Floyd missed only one game, but from Week 2 of the season until Week 17, he was listed on the injury report 13 times for 15 games – once as out, five times as questionable and seven times as probable. His designations on the injury report included shoulder, elbow, ankle and knee.
In 2015, Floyd missed three games and was listed on the injury report in seven of 16 weeks with knee and ankle ailments.
In those two seasons, he missed just four games, but was always something of a question mark as to whether or not he was going to play. He was listed on team’s final injury report in 20 of 31 games.
In 2016, the NFL eliminated the listing of “probable” on the injury report, which should have been viewed as good news for a player like Floyd, but, when he suffered a knee injury in Week 1 of the 2016 season, the probable designation went out the window.
Floyd underwent arthroscopic surgery prior to the Vikings’ Week 3 game, going through a meniscus trim on his injured knee. While teams tend to keep injury news on a need-to-know basis (and the media never needs to know in coaches’ view), all accounts were that he had a successful arthroscopy and the timetable for his return was in the realm of six weeks – the standard time missed for such injuries.
Floyd never played again after that.
He wasn’t placed on injured reserve until December, a sign that the Vikings expected him back prior to the eight weeks that are required for the designation to return from I.R. That Vikings waited … and waited … and waited.
Finally, in Week 14, with the team still clinging to playoff life, he was placed on injured reserve, officially ending a season that unofficially ended after Week 1 in Nashville.
The Vikings are set to pay Floyd just south of $6.8 million, but one has to question whether, given the fact that in the last 47 weeks of playing time, Floyd has been listed as injured or dinged up in 35 of those games.
With teams letting go of players on a whim for not living up to expectations, a player who has been deemed injured in 75 percent of games over that span doesn’t seem like a risk most teams would make on a long-term deal, much less a fifth-year option.
As the Vikings look to overhaul the team while pressed up against the salary cap, they have recouped about $4 million in cap space by releasing Fusco and Harris. They can add $18 million more by jettisoning Peterson. Why wouldn’t they look to recover almost $7 million more by releasing Floyd from his fifth-year option?
There is no questioning that Floyd has the talent and ability to be a starter in the NFL and, until last season, that appeared to be the case with the Vikings. He and Linval Joseph appeared to be the long-term tackles in the Vikings defense.
Now? All bets are off and the Vikings have less than a month to decide whether to keep him and pay him $6.8 million or let him go and take their chances. Given the team’s history, Floyd may be making headlines in the coming weeks for all the wrong reasons.