Vikings Give Cash and Slash for Holidays

The Vikings rewarded a productive defensive player with a big contract on Friday, but followed that up with a release of a frustrated but productive player on Sunday.

The Vikings made two surprise moves last weekend, one that will reflect as a positive and one that likely will go down as one of the most heartless in the franchise's history.

On Saturday, defensive tackle Kevin Williams became the latest player to benefit from the Vikings' aggressive in-season pursuit to lock up players whose contracts were nearing expiration.

The next came on Christmas Eve when veteran receiver Marcus Robinson was released for mysterious reasons. Robinson led the Vikings with four touchdown catches but was a surprise inactive for two games this season, including the Dec. 17 meeting with the Jets. Robinson played sparingly last Thursday against the Packers and didn't seem to ever connect with coach Brad Childress.

Named to his second Pro Bowl last week, Williams has been rewarded with a seven-year contract extension that could pay him up to $50 million and includes multi-tiered bonuses of $16 million.

Williams was under contract through 2007 but the Vikings did not want him to go into next season with the prospect of becoming a free agent. The team's desire to re-sign Williams became even greater as he returned to the form he showed in his first two seasons when he had 22 sacks.

Williams was named an All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl after an outstanding 2004, but a knee injury suffered toward the end of that season clearly he affected his performance in 2005. Part of the problem was Williams off-season workout program had been curtailed and that left him gasping for air and doubled over after many plays.

This year, though, Williams has returned to form, and combined with nose tackle Pat Williams to lead the Vikings to the NFL's No. 1 ranking in rushing defense. Kevin Williams ranks second on the Vikings with five sacks.

"Kevin has been productive as an interior player on the defensive line," Vikings coach Brad Childress said in the statement. "He's one of the building blocks of that defense. We're happy he's going to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings long into the future."

Since the start of training camp, the Vikings have signed six veterans to contract extensions worth a combined $133 million. This includes more than $47 million in guaranteed bonuses.

Four of those deals have been done with pending free agents, including two (E.J. Henderson and Jeff Dugan) this month. The list includes:

  • Linebacker Henderson signed a five-year deal worth more than $25 million, including $10 million in guarantees.

  • Fullback/tight end Dugan signed a five-year, $4.25 million deal with a signing bonus of $750,000.

  • Long snapper Cullen Loeffler signed a five-year, $3.1 million deal.

  • Left tackle Bryant McKinnie signed a seven-year, $48.5 million extension that includes just under $18 million in guaranteed bonuses.

  • Quarterback Brooks Bollinger received a two-year contract extension shortly after being acquired from the New York Jets. He was not a pending free agent and his deal will now run through 2008.

    Barring any more deals being completed before Sunday, the Vikings' biggest-name unrestricted free agent this offseason will be middle linebacker Napoleon Harris. Defensive end Darrion Scott will be a restricted free agent.

    As for Robinson, he was let go with one game remaining in the regular season and finishes with 29 catches for 381 yards. The Vikings were 0-5 in the games he has missed -- he sat out three because of a back injury -- and 6-4 in the games he played.


  • CB Cedric Griffin (neck) appears to be done for the season. Griffin missed last Thursday's game because of a neck stinger and coach Brad Childress is "not optimistic" that Griffin will be able to play in the Dec. 31 season finale against the Rams.

  • CB Fred Smoot would be in line to make his second consecutive start at right corner in place of CB Cedric Griffin. But Sunday's game could mark the last for Smoot in a Vikings uniform. Smoot signed a six-year, $34 million contract that included $10.8 million in guaranteed money in March 2005. However, he has lost his starting job in both of his seasons with the Vikings and would appear a prime candidate to be released.

  • P Chris Kluwe suffered a hamstring injury during last Thursday's game against Green Bay (he punted 10 times) and will be evaluated again this week. He's expected to be ready to punt Sunday against St. Louis.

  • NT Pat Williams officially has not been named to the NFC Pro Bowl team yet, but that's expected to be a formality. Williams is the first alternate among inside linemen and with Chicago's Tommie Harris out for the season, Williams will go to Hawaii in his place. It will be his first Pro Bowl appearance in his 10 NFL seasons.

  • WR Troy Williamson, who has struggled with dropped passes all season, injured his hamstring last Thursday and could miss Sunday's season finale. The seventh-overall pick in the 2005 draft, is no lock to make the Vikings' roster next season.

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