Antoine Winfield has made it abundantly clear that he wants a contract extension, but there are several other Vikings whose contracts expire after the 2009 season. None of them has skipped offseason workouts to make a statement or even had public comments on the situation, but they have to be part of the big-picture situation for the Vikings to consider – with a salary cap still in place, money for one player means less for the rest.
Here are the key players whose contracts are coming due at the end of 2009 season.
RB Chester Taylor – Taylor's cap number has stayed pretty steady each of the last few years, just like his performance. In 2008, his contract counted $3.8 million against the salary cap with a similar number in 2009. Taylor is in the same situation as Winfield, entering the final year of his contract, but nothing has been heard from Taylor's camp about his desires to seek an extension or consider free-agent options.
What is known is Taylor's value as a backup to Adrian Peterson. While Peterson deservedly grabs the headlines, Taylor, who gained more than 1,200 yards rushing as the starter in 2006, has been a true professional in handling the drafting and stardom of Peterson. As mostly a third-down back in 2008, Taylor had a career-high 45 catches for a career-high 399 receiving yards – 25 of those catches coming on third down. But his success when given a chance could induce other teams to come calling for him with money in hand when free agency is scheduled to start next year.
QB Tarvaris Jackson – Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie contract, making him the player with the most to lose if/when Brett Favre signs. Jackson's cap number is $740,000 this year. A Favre signing could induce the team to try to trade Jackson before the season starts. If he stays with the team, he will need to find some opportunity to show better consistency.
Jackson looked like he was making progress with his consistency in the final four regular-season games of 2008, with a combined passer rating of 115.4 with eight touchdowns and one interception, connecting on 57 of 89 passes for 740 yards. However, he stumbled again when facing an aggressive Philadelphia defense in the playoffs. He connected on only 42.8 percent of his passes for 164 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a 45.4 rating.
OL Artis Hicks – Hicks is scheduled to make a very affordable base salary of $831,000 this year, but his cap number is just over $1 million because of escalators.
He showed his versatile value last year when he began the season starting at left tackle for the suspended Bryant McKinnie and later made two starts at right tackle before a triceps injury became too painful and he had to relinquish the starting job. He has also played both guard positions.
OL Ryan Cook – The Vikings very well could keep both Hicks and Cook on the roster this year, but with both of their contracts up after the season the team could be making a decision to keep just one of them. Cook will count $835,000 against this year's cap. Cook is younger; Hicks has been used in a more versatile role.
Cook worked himself into the starting lineup during the final three games of the 2006 season and has been the main starter at right tackle ever since. However, with consistency problems there, the Vikings drafted Phil Loadholt in the second round this year and appear ready to give him every opportunity to win the starting job. That has caused Cook to practice at guard and tackle during offseason practices, and he could also challenge for a roster spot at center, the position he played all through his college career.
DE Ray Edwards – Edwards' base salary jumps to $1.01 million this year, the last season of his contract.
With three Pro Bowl players on the defensive line, Edwards doesn't get as much attention, but he has proved to be a reliable starter at left end. He led the team with 10 tackles-for-loss in 2008 and had a career-best five sacks (the Vikings ranked fourth in the NFL with 45 sacks as a team). Edwards' 63 tackles and 42 quarterback hurries were part of an overall solid effort last year, and he is expected to hold down the starting job at right end again in 2009.
DE Kenechi Udeze – The incredible circumstances surrounding Udeze, who was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2008 and is attempting to come back and play this year after receiving chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, could make this one of the most emotional decisions in years. The Vikings agreed to pay Udeze's base salary of $807,500 last year despite placing him in on the reserve/non-football illness list. His 2008 contract carried over to this year, but it's possible it would cost the Vikings even more with a potential $500,000 escalator in this, the final year, of Udeze's deal.
In 2007, Udeze tied for the team lead with five sacks at left end and had a career-best 53 tackles.
And there are other contracts that expire after 2009. Here are some of those that contributed in 2008: CB Charles Gordon, TE Garrett Mills, S Eric Frampton, LB David Herron.
So while the Vikings and Winfield try to reach an agreement, the team has to contemplate the overall picture and which other players have to be considered for new contracts in the coming seven months.
Vikings have other contracts to consider too
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