Earlier this week, an NFL sponsored website released information about the 32 NFL teams and their relation to the salary cap. The Vikings checked in at $44 million – almost $30 million under the cap.
So how is the team only $3 million of what is being termed "non-McKinnie money" under the cap? Simple – if you understand how the salary cap works.
The Vikings finally got Randall Cunningham off the books this year, but the woes following Jeff Diamond sniffing a dynasty are still dogging the Vikes. When the Vikings hit it big in 1998, Diamond signed several key players to expensive long-term deals. If they were still with the team in 2001 or 2002, the deals would be re-worked for cap-friendly purposes.
Guess what? They're gone. Because of the terms of their contracts, the Vikings are still paying for Robert Smith, Randall McDaniel, Cris Carter, Robert Griffth, Orlando Thomas and, undoubtedly the most galling, Korey Stringer. Under the tight rules of the salary cap, death is not seen as an out to a contract. A couple of years ago, the Oakland Raiders sought cap relief when a draftee died of an epileptic seizure before ever coming to training camp. The league turned down the request. It's a problem within the system, but one that the Vikings are paying dearly for, since this was scheduled to be the final year of Stringer's contract.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the Vikings will come out from under that salary cap rock in 2003 and, even if the team agrees to a deal with Bryant McKinnie and signs Daunte Culpepper to a long-term deal, the team will still be $25-30 million under the cap and ready to sign another high-priced rookie and a slew of free agent talent.
Now the only question is who will be signing the checks?
** Jim Kleinsasser practiced again Friday and looks like he will be activated for Sunday's game, although he isn't expected to play more than about 20 plays with the offense.
** A VU source that attended Friday's practice of the Lions said all four of the top receivers – starters Bill Schroeder and Az Hakim, No. 3 man Larry Foster and kick returner Desmond Howard – will all likely play Sunday.
** From the "Where Are They Now?" department comes this Eric Kelly update. The former starter has been demoted again – this time to dime back. When the Vikings line up in nickel situations Sunday, it looks like rookie Brian Williams will get the call, reducing Kelly to work only in four-WR situations.
** On the topic of Diamond from the lead item, only two starters – Randy Moss and David Dixon – remain from the 1998 team.
** VU has not, does not and, barring some new federal regulation, will not condone gambling outside of Nevada. But, in case you're reading this in Vegas, consider the following: in the last four home games with the Lions, the Vikings have won each of them by five or more points and have never scored less than 24 points. With the Vikes as 4-1/2 point favorites and an over/under of 48, it looks tempting.
** With all the naysayers of the Vikes, VU would like to send a shout out to USA Today, which got wise and opted to let its Baseball Weekly publication include – prominently – the NFL. One of the weekly segments is a fantasy football piece that ranks players on a game-to-game basis. Who is this week's top-rated QB? Daunte Culpepper. Let's hope that guy is right.
** How are the Vikings doing in the world of commerce? As a test, VU went on-line 32 hours before game time to e-bay to see how Vikings-Lions tickets were doing? Of the 62 tickets being auctioned, only two of them had hit the reserved amount or even had bids. It's nice to see scalpers eating tickets. However, Vikings-Bears tickets and Vikings-Packers tickets continue to get obscene bid prices.
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