Contracts to consider after 2010

The Vikings have several contributing players whose contracts will expire after this season, but looking two years out, the linebacker corps could be affected by contracts set to expire after the 2010 season. We look at those situations and a few other important players whose contracts end in two years.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is committed to building a team that can win consistently. That has been his goal since he bought the team and he reiterated that stance at the recent "State of the Vikings" address to season-ticket holders.

Building long-term success requires the ability to decide on an annual, and almost weekly, basis which players are worthy of retaining and which ones can be allowed to test the free-agent market when their contracts have expired. Yesterday, Viking Update looked at the players whose contracts expire after the 2009 season. Today, we gaze a bit further into the future and examine some of the contract choices that will be facing the franchise's decision-makers before free agency starts in 2011.

LB Chad GreenwayGiven the team's desire to lock up younger, up-and-coming talent, Greenway might be at the top of the team's priority list. His rookie contract expires after the 2010 season. His cap number has escalated each year of his deal. He received a $1.7 million option bonus in March, and this year he will count $2.3 million against the salary cap, which raises to $2.6 million in 2010 and could be worth double that with escalators.

Greenway had a big season in 2009, registering 150 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, eight passes defensed and 11 quarterback hurries. His 10 tackles against Philadelphia in the playoffs led the team.

LB Ben LeberLike Greenway, Leber's contract is set to expire after the 2010 season, making the linebackers an interesting group to watch from a contract perspective. Leber's deal calls for a $4.6 million cap number this year and next.

He tied for the NFL lead with a career-best four fumble recoveries and tied the Vikings record among linebackers with 12 passes defensed. He finished the season with 88 tackles, 11 QB hurries and two interceptions and was a valuable, versatile asset when E.J. Henderson was lost for the season with dislocated toes. Leber assumed some of Henderson's responsibilities in the nickel defense.

DT Pat WilliamsIt seems like more recently that Pat Williams signed an extension before he reached the free-agent market, but it was in September 2007 that he signed an extension to keep him in Minnesota through the 2010 season. He just got through with the two most expensive portions of his contract from a cap standpoint. Because of the Vikings front-loading Williams' contract with incentives categorized as "likely to be earned," his cap number in 2007 was a whopping $16.8 million and $8.4 million in 2008, according to a league source. It is more cap-friendly in the final two years, counting $5.9 million against the cap in those two seasons.

Williams earned his third Pro Bowl honor last season and was a big reason the Vikings finished first against the run for the third straight season, a record streak since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Williams had been a very durable player until the end of last season, when he missed his first game as a Viking and ended up inactive for the final three games with a shoulder injury.

K Ryan LongwellThe veteran of the league may be content to ride out the rest of his contract, which expires after the 2010 season. He is paid like a veteran, earning $2.5 million against the 2009 cap and $2.6 million in 2010. However, depending on what else is out there on the free-agent market, a $500,000 roster bonus in the final year of the contract might cause the team to look at renegotiating.

His production, however, hasn't been questioned. Longwell was voted the teams Special Teams MVP after connecting on 29 of 34 field goal attempts and all 40 extra points. His 127 points were the most by a Viking since Gary Anderson's 1998 performance, and Longwell has moved in 23rd place in NFL history with 1,370 career points. He also has the second- and third-longest field goals in team history.

DE Brian RobisonWith two years left and no starting job, Robison is scheduled to count only $581,000 against this year's cap and $671,000 next year.

Robison has been limited to a rotational role along the defensive line, but he ended up starting the playoff game against Philadelphia. He finished the season with 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 19 QB hurries.

CB Marcus McCauleyMcCauley is still in his rookie contract, but that is scheduled to end following the 2010 season. He counts $656,500 against this year's cap and $746,500 next year.

Head coach Brad Childress continues to say that a training camp injury to McCauley last year was the main factor in his limited action during the season. As it turned out, McCauley played in 11 games with one start. During this offseason, however, his role increased dramatically as he filled in at left cornerback for Antoine Winfield, who opted to not attend the voluntary practices.

DL Jayme MitchellMitchell re-signed for two years in February and will have to continue to prove himself during that time. A knee injury took Mitchell out of commission for the entire 2008 season. His 2010 cap number is $1.2 million.

Others up after the 2010 season (who played in 2008): WR Aundrae Allison, K Taylor Mehlhaff, OT Drew Radovich, S Husain Abdullah, LB Erin Henderson, WR Darius Reynaud.


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