The Vikings don't make a habit of commenting on contract negotiations and Phil Williams, the agent for quarterback Brad Johnson, had no comment on the situation Wednesday.
Which means the Vikings and Williams may or may not be working out a new contract for Johnson. Leaving everyone on the outside in the dark may be the best way to handle the situation considering the spectacle Daunte Culpepper's contract requests became in February.
Back then, Culpepper was looking for more guarantees and eventually fired his agent to represent himself. That led to bizarre comments and actions from Culpepper about his negotiations as he hoped to secure meetings with the point men from the Vikings.
Later, when the Vikings said Culpepper appeared to be all about the money, Culpepper said the franchise didn't understand the times he was acting as his agent and not a player. It became a cartoon where truth was stranger than fiction.
Fast forward three months to Johnson's current situation.
He joined the Vikings last year on a four-year, $6 million contract that included a $1.2 million signing bonus. He's averaging about $1.8 million a year when figured over the life of the contract. That's probably average money for a backup – Mike McMahon signed a two-year, $2 million deal with the Vikings this year – but Johnson is now the unquestioned starter after the Vikings dealt Culpepper to the Miami Dolphins when that relationship deteriorated too far.
Last year, Culpepper went 2-5 in his starts, completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,584 yards, six touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 72.0 rating before tearing three ligaments in his knee and ending his season. Johnson stepped in go 7-2 in the final nine games, completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 1,885 yards, 12 touchdowns, four interceptions and an 88.9 rating.
So how are Johnson and Williams going to handle his current contract, which has three years remaining? The quarterback was asked that question at minicamp and gave a response that will do nothing to harm his relationship with the team or its new coaches.
"I love playing the game. I've been a part of different situations all through my career. I've been a rookie free agent, I've been traded, I've been a free agent, I've dealt with different contracts and different situations, and over time those things just take care of themselves. Usually that's just the way things play out," Johnson said.
And Williams has simply been giving "no comments." All of which leads us to believe that something will eventually get done to put Johnson's pay more in line with a starting quarterback without breaking the bank or breaking the relationship being built between him and his new coaches, which is where Johnson's focus has been the last few months.
He is busy trying to learn the specifics of Childress's West Coast offense, a scheme that Johnson is familiar with from his Super Bowl days in Tampa Bay. But with each offense, even if the plays are similar, comes new terminology and new philosophies and new concepts.
"I think you can pull him on the side every now and then. He has such a dictionary, if you will, of offense in his head," Childress said of Johnson. "He's got his own notebooks. I've seen his notebooks. He's made tapes of plays he likes. Some of the ones we are able to adapt, some of the ones we already have in the offense, and some of them I'll probably have to tell him, ‘You know what, you need to run that when you get your own football team.'"
So Johnson is just seeking to learn the meaning behind a play so he can better understand what the coaches seek out of him and that particular call.
"It's just the way you want to call it, and I want to know exactly what you want from that concept. That's the kind of relationship I'm trying to build with the coaches," he said. "More than the plays, I need the relationships as far as understanding concepts. I feel like that's where we can grow, as far as the quarterback-playcaller relationship. As far as the systems, they're pretty similar to me. …
"I've been in four different systems before – this is my fifth – and I've kind of grown with every playcaller, so I'm looking forward to that."
As for his contract, neither Johnson nor his head coach seem particularly concerned about it … at least not enough to air their concerns publicly.
"I haven't even gone there. I'm not worried about his contract," Childress said. "I haven't heard anything about his contract. I just know he's a good football player."
Johnson Not Negotiating in Public
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