Culpepper's Contract Now In Line With Performance

The hot topic this time of year seems to be players outperforming their contracts. If that's possible, then that is exactly what Daunte Culpepper had done the last two years. Now, with his restructured deal signed last week, the quarterback falls right in line with his performance relative to the rest of the league's elite.

The Vikings agreed to restructure Daunte Culpepper's contract to increase his 2005 salary — he will receive about an additional $8 million — but that doesn't mean the Pro Bowl quarterback is content with the 10-year, $102 million deal he received in May 2003.

Culpepper called the extra money, "a step towards the direction that I want to get to." His agent, Mason Ashe, termed it a "temporary solution," a clear indication that discussions are far from over.

News of the reworked deal, or the fact Culpepper wasn't happy, came as a surprise to many. However, it turned out that talks between Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski and Ashe had been ongoing since the end of last season.

The reason is because Culpepper's contract contained only $15 million in guaranteed money. That isn't near market value for an elite quarterback who has gone to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons and three times in five years. In 2004, Culpepper set virtually every Vikings single-season passing record and established career-highs by throwing for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns. He also set an NFL record for most combined passing/rushing yardage in a season with 5,123, breaking the mark of 5,077 set by Miami's Dan Marino in 1984.

But since Culpepper signed his last deal, at least 20 NFL players had surpassed him in guaranteed money. Four quarterbacks top that list, including Atlanta's Michael Vick ($37 million), Indianapolis' Peyton Manning ($34.5 million), New England's Tom Brady ($26.5 million) and San Francisco's Alex Smith ($24 million), the top-pick in the draft who has yet to play a regular-season game.

Culpepper now has guarantees of $23 million, putting him among the top five in the NFL in that category. He will get about $11 million in guaranteed cash by March 2006, including a $2.5 million roster bonus he received last spring.

Nonetheless, Culpepper's base salary for 2006 is still slated to be a below-market value $2.5 million. It wouldn't be surprising to see that number increased in future talks between Brzezinski and Ashe. Culpepper certainly seemed to indicate that he would like to see further restructuring of his contract done when asked if he felt he is getting paid what he is worth.

"I feel like I am getting there," he said. "It's pretty good. I'd say I'm satisfied; I'll tell you that much right now, I'm very satisfied."

With Randy Moss now in Oakland, there is no question the Vikings are Culpepper's team and he made it clear that his contract situation did not and will not affect his performance. "I am definitely going to be the most professional person I can be always when I step onto the field," he said.

Giving final approval to the changes in Culpepper's contract was the Vikings new owner, Zygi Wilf. The two had met at Culpepper's home in Orlando in late July to discuss matters.

"He's an elite player and we felt like it was the fair thing to do," Wilf said. "Circumstances required this thing to be done, and it was priority of mine to make sure that it did."

Brzezinski gave Wilf credit. "Like he's done with every issue he's faced, Zygi stepped up and took care of it," Brzezinski said.


Just as rookie receiver Troy Williamson appeared to be gaining some momentum, the Vikings' top draft pick suffered a setback.

Near the end of an intrasquad scrimmage last Tuesday, Williamson made a diving attempt to catch a pass from backup quarterback Brad Johnson. Williamson's right foot caught in the turf and cornerback Laroni Gallishaw fell on it.

When Williamson awoke Wednesday morning, he was in pain and precautionary X-rays and an MRI were performed. The diagnosis was an impingement of the soft tissue near his ankle. Williamson wore a walking boot as a precaution for two days and although it was taken off Friday he did not play in the preseason opener against Kansas City.

His status was termed day-to-day by athletic trainer Chuck Barta and coach Mike Tice said Williamson would return Monday at the earliest.

Williamson had been inconsistent in his pass catching through camp but he seemed to make a breakthrough in the scrimmage. He grabbed two passes for 16 yards and also made an impressive downfield reception during seven-on-seven drills that night.

"Of course it's frustrating because I go out there and work hard and then getting injured on the last couple of plays. ... It's just something I've got to learn to deal with," he said.


  • Former Pro Bowl linebacker Bryan Cox has joined the Vikings for the rest of training camp through a coaching fellowship program. Cox will assist with the team's linebackers. "I'm doing it to see if coaching is something I want to do," he said. Cox, one of the league's most outspoken players during a 12-year career that ended in 2002, also has held various media jobs, including working for Fox Sports Net and Fox Sports Radio.

  • It was probably just a motivational tactic, but there is little doubt coach Mike Tice got the attention of the offensive line last week when he threatened to re-sign veteran David Dixon, who isn't with a team but has yet to announcement his retirement. "We have to have consistency," Tice said. "At this point, offensive-line wise I don't see that so there is some concern there for me."

  • DE Erasmus James was the last Vikings' draft pick to arrive in camp after missing the first 19 practices while his agents and the team tried to come to terms on a deal. James, taken with the 18th overall selection out of Wisconsin, received a five-year contract that has a total value of a little under $10 million and includes guaranteed money in the neighborhood of $7 million. James took part in only three practices, all in shorts, before seeing limited action in the preseason opener. The original plan for James was to put him in a starting role at left end in nickel situations and have him challenge Darrion Scott for the starting spot at right end. But, for now, James will be playing catch up.

  • James' addition to the roster resulted in the release of linebacker Grant Wiley. The team had to reach an injury settlement because Wiley had hurt his right shoulder early in camp.

  • C Matt Birk, who had hip surgery in June and hadn't practiced since the end of last season, was activated from the physically unable to perform list two days earlier than expected. Birk, though, did not play in the first exhibition game and will be brought along slowly after having three sports hernia operations in the past year. Those were in addition to the procedure done on his hip. Cory Withrow remains the first-team center in for now.

  • The Vikings also are being cautious with TE Jim Kleinsasser, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the regular-season opener last season. Kleinsasser was held out of the Tuesday scrimmage and saw limited action against Kansas City. Kleinsasser understands the medical staff's strategy, although he wants to do more. "I'd like to be able to get in a groove or zone out there," he said. "But that's the way it goes."

  • CB Fred Smoot has had a frustrating camp. Signed as a free agent from Washington to start opposite Antoine Winfield, Smoot spent the opening week of camp on the physically unable to perform list because of a neck injury he suffered while lifting weights. He returned to the field last Monday but suffered a soft tissue injury in his right knee during the Tuesday scrimmage. Smoot had a noticeable limp for a couple of days and did not play against Kansas City.

  • G Shannon Snell has had a tough camp and it has nothing to do with what he has or hasn't done on the field. The first-year player had to fly to Tampa, Fla., early in camp when his partner gave birth to twins prematurely. Then last week Snell had to return to Florida because of complications with one of the newborns.

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