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.
WILLIAMSON STILL WAITING
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.