Quietly, the 2004 season has turned into the Year of the Agent. From Terrell Owens' agent, who prevented him from becoming a free agent, to an agent pimping the Colts for a $99 million deal for Peyton Manning, their influence has been felt behind the scenes throughout much of this off-season.
Agents, almost by definition, are pimps. They peddle in the flesh trade and make their money off the performance of others. If the gravy train seems to be slowing down, you stir the pot. Do you think it was a coincidence that rumors started flying about the Dolphins trading Sam Madison -- who would subsequently be asked to take a big pay cut -- or Adalewe Ogunleye -- a restricted free agent looking for huge money from a team (the Vikings) with money to spend? No. Where it did it come from? Don't look too much farther than the agents representing one or both players.
Agents are a different breed. Without professional-level athletic ability, they still control the game. When the Vikings refused to reach Bryant McKinnie's asking price -- or that of his agent -- he sat out on his agent's advice until the middle of the season.
So, the latest chapter in Year of the Agent came when the suit behind Denard Walker took center stage and let it be known that Walker wants to be released from his current contract -- signed just last year. To date, Walker has said nothing publicly, letting his mouthpiece do his talking. But it's clear there is a problem.
Last year, Walker was brought in to be the starting left cornerback. He was touted as the answer to Vikings' seemingly permanent problem at cornerback. He signed a four-year deal worth $13 million with $5 million of that guaranteed money. If he was to be released, the Vikings would take about a $2 million hit against their 2004 salary cap (the accelerated portion of his signing bonus) and have to pay him about $250,000. In the end, that may be an option, but do the Vikings need to be dictated to in March about a contract signed less than one year ago?
Walker's descent down the depth chart began at midseason. Brian Williams took over as the No. 1 corner and Ken Irvin turned Walker into a nickel back. With the signing of Antoine Winfield, Walker would enter minicamp as the team's dime back. To be a team's fourth cornerback, being paid $2.8 million in base salary and have a cap number of $3.2 million seems a little excessive. But that would be if he was still in Minnesota. He doesn't have to be.
With the prices that cornerbacks have been paid in the last two weeks, Walker's contract would be a bargain for a team looking to shore up its own secondary. In a year that has seen Terrell Owens, Champ Bailey and Clinton Portis move to new teams via trades, why not try to get something of value out of Walker? He wouldn't be worth a first-round pick, but maybe a fourth-rounder would do the trick.
Whether Walker really wants out is speculation. He hasn't spoken to the matter. Only his agent has. If he does want out, the Vikings should explore the trade market before getting rid of him. Yes, this is the Year of the Agent, but the year is only a little more than two months old. The Vikings can set a precedent by making their own line in the sand. Before he is released, the team should explore every trade option they can. Use the night and weekend minutes to make the calls, boys. What do you have to lose? Apparently nothing.
Walker Wants Out?
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