When Todd Bouman was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 1997 draft, he was compared by then-coach Dennis Green to Brad Johnson -- a project player who could develop into something special. We all know what has happened to Johnson, and Bouman is itching for the same opportunity.
But, barring an injury to Daunte Culpepper, that isn't going to happen in Minnesota -- at least not in the short-term. That said, the Vikings have to answer a $1 million question within the next couple of months -- keep Bouman or explore the possibility of a trade.
When Bouman signed his last contract, his agents included a $1 million roster bonus if he was still with the Vikings April 15 of this year. At the time, it was viewed as a clause that could be easily renegotiated, since the Division II QB wasn't on many teams' radar screen.
That has changed. In a pair of brief relief appearances the last two years, Bouman has a QB rating of 98.6 and has twice as many TDs (8) as interceptions (4). He has shown poise in the pocket as well as scrambling ability when needed. Other teams have taken notice, and, with this year's draft looming, a lot of teams are looking at quarterbacks.
While Cincinnati and Chicago may answer their QB problems early on draft day, the Ravens, Panthers, Broncos and Packers are all looking for backups. Throw in Jake Plummer, who many think will leave the Cardinals via free agency, Arizona may be in the market as well.
The question facing the Vikings now is whether they want to invest $1 million to keep Bouman or if one of the teams looking for a QB will be willing to part with a first-day draft pick in exchange for him.
While VU has been told the phone lines aren't ringing yet, by the time April 15 comes closer, that could very well change. The Vikings need to make a decision on Bouman in the next couple of months -- pay him like veteran backup or work a deal to let him get his starting opportunity elsewhere. Early indications are that the Vikings want to keep him, but if an offer presents itself, don't be shocked to see a deal made.
* Call it 3-card Monte. That's what happened Thursday in Tampa. As Monte Kiffen was prepared to board a plane for San Francisco, the Bucs ponied up the dough -- giving Kiffin a three-year deal for a reported $5.1 million. It's the most expensive contract ever given to an assistant coach and gives him a salary higher than about a third of the NFL's head coaches. Consider the bar officially raised.
* Former Vikings G.M. Jeff Diamond is meeting with Titans owner Bud Adams about a new contract. His current deal expires this weekend and there are rumors circulating that he may be squeezed out much in the same way he was in Minnesota. But, considering his success in Tennessee, don't be surprised to see a deal struck by the end of the week.
* Who's calling the shots with the Niners? VU is hearing that Bill Walsh continues to push for the 49ers to hire Denny Green, but owner John York is balking at the idea.
* Greg Biekert is going to have minor shoulder surgery performed in February. He is expected to be ready to go by the post-draft minicamps.
* VU has been told Bryant McKinnie is waiting for his house in Eden Prairie to finish construction and then he will be a full-time participant in the team's offseason workouts.
* In NFC North news, Steve Mariucci is in Detroit meeting with Lions officials and a contract is expected to be agreed on rather quickly.
* Is Chris Hovan rightfully bitter? With Warren Sapp scheduled to have surgery, he'll skip the Pro Bowl. In his place will be Carolina's Kris Jenkins, who, while he had a solid season, wasn't as big an impact player in the middle as Hovan this season.
Is Bouman's Future Here?
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