Edwards enters key contract season

While the labor agreement between the owners and players union might hold his freedom in limbo at this point, fourth-year defensive end Ray Edwards could be in line for a significant pay raise in 2010.

Originally a fourth-round draft pick by the Vikings in 2006, defensive end Ray Edwards has thus far compiled a solid pro career in the NFL. He hasn't lived up to the big-time expectations he put on himself entering last season, when he predicted, "I definitely plan on going out here and breaking (Michael) Strahan's record of 22 1/2 sacks this year."

He did finish with a respectable 5.0 sacks last season, but nowhere near the record-breaking double-digit sack numbers he targeted for himself in 2008.

That said, Edwards did earn an additional $221,322 through the NFL's performance-based pay system for the amount of snaps he took with the team's defense last season.

That's modest money by today's NFL standards, but it's pretty good ching for Edwards, who is entering the final year of what proves to be a relatively modest rookie contract.

Edwards joined the Vikings with a four-year, $2.003-million contract in 2006. The deal included a $393,000 signing bonus. But his base salary last season was a fairly modest $530,000.

With just on-par productivity this coming season, Edwards figures to cash in big when that contract expires in 2010. While the issue of whether he will indeed be an unrestricted free agent or not is currently up in the air without a new labor agreement in place, consider the kind of money some other moderately productive defensive ends have gotten in recent years.

As an unrestricted free agent heading into 2008, former Titans DE Antwan Odom received a five-year deal worth $29.5 million that included $11.5 million in guarantees. Odom got that contract primarily on a one-year production of 8.0 sacks in 2007. He delivered a mere 3.0 sacks as he started 8 of 12 games for the Bengals last year in an injury-plagued season.

Another spendy free-agent acquisition at that position a year ago was ex-Bengals DE Justin Smith, who received a six-year deal worth $45 million, with $20 million in guarantees from the San Francisco 49ers.

Interestingly, the Vikings did not step up to stay in the running on both those players, and wound up "settling" for All-Pro Jared Allen via the high-profile trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Considering the productivity he has shown thus far, and what he likely will produce again in 2009, Edwards can likely expect similar numbers to what Odom and Smith received with his next NFL contract.

Will it be with the Vikings? Or will it be somewhere else?

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