Holdout, Injuries Spoiled Chance at Stardom

An ill-advised rookie holdout and a series of injuries derailed any chance for Erasmus James to reach his full potential with the Vikings.

His career with the Minnesota Vikings ended quietly with a simple statement on the team's official website on Friday:

The Vikings announced on Friday that they have waived defensive end Erasmus James.

"We decided today to waive Erasmus and we wish the best for him in the future," Vikings head coach Brad Childress said.

And with that the former first-round draft choice by the Vikings in 2005 saw his career in Minnesota likely come to an end.  But while many are quick to lump him in with what has turned out to be a miserable draft class of 2005, the reality is that Erasmus James wasn't really a bust - at least not from a pure football perspective.

There were two key factors that contributed to his lack of success with the Vikings:  1) an ill-advised contract holdout as a rookie; and 2) three knee injuries.

The holdout was within his control, and proved to be a huge mistake, as it put him unnecessarily far behind as a rookie and undermined his chance at success out of the gate.  The injuries were not really something James had much control over, although the issue of durability was a concern on him coming out.

Yours truly wrote back then:  "[James] will compete for playing time right away at RDE.  He's a very nice fit for the Vikings' defense.  He might need a little time to fully refine his craft, but should be a consistent double-digit sack producer and solid all-around player for many years as long as he can stay healthy."

But as the team's second of two first-round picks in 2005 (No. 18 overall), James held out in training camp as a rookie and missed the first 19 practices before agreeing to a five-year contract worth $9.8 million, with just under $7 million in guaranteed money.

He wasn't in football shape when he did report and he really missed out on his chance to make an immediate impact as a rookie.  He ended up playing in 15 games in 2005 (starting nine), and collected four sacks.

With Childress taking over in 2006, hopes were high for James to bring his game to the next level, but he tore the ACL and sprained the MCL in his left knee in the second game and missed virtually the entire season.  He underwent surgery in November 2006 and had a follow-up procedure performed in February 2007.

He clearly was not 100 percent last season and began training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list.  He missed the first 19 practices and two preseason games.  He was inactive for six of the first seven regular-season games and battled a shoulder injury in October.  He made his first start in the Dec. 2 victory over the Lions but reinjured his knee early on.  James' sack (of Daunte Culpepper) against Oakland last November was his only one during the past two seasons.  He also had 12 tackles, 3 quarterback hurries and 2 tackles-for-losses, according to the coaches' film.

In reality, the addition of Pro Bowl right end Jared Allen, coupled with the promise of second-year player Brian Robison simply made it unlikely that James was even going to make the team this summer.  With that said, they might have done him a favor in letting him go sooner rather than later.

But first and foremost, James needs to get 100 percent healthy if he's going to ever have a chance of living up to his potential.

Coming out of college, he was an explosive pass rusher with the ability to change momentum.  If healthy, he has the build, quickness and speed of a pure, weakside, pass-rushing defensive end in the mold of a Chris Doleman.  He can be explosive off the ball with good club and swim moves.  He plays hard and is a good competitor.

But in Minnesota, because of the injuries, the Vikings saw only flashes of that.  Best wishes to James that he can eventually regain his health.  He'll get another opportunity with someone if he can.

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