Vikings at the top of their contract game

The Vikings appear to have planned well for the probability that 2010 will be an uncapped year. Many of their most expensive players will have their contracts count the most in this uncapped season. It's just another sign that the team's contract negotiators and cap managers find ways to get it done with less revenue.

The lack of a salary cap in 2010 may turn out to be a good thing for the Vikings, who have some big cap numbers coming up this year.

Maybe that's why the Vikings deferred $4 million of Brett Favre's $12 million base salary in 2009 until March 15, shortly after the start of this league year. Favre would also make $13 million in base salary this year if he decides to return to the Vikings, a decision that is still very much up in the air.

"I would not say months," Favre said after the NFC Championship when asked about a timeline for his decision. "But I know people will roll their eyes. In a situation like this I really don't want to make a decision right now based solely on what's happened.

"I really enjoyed the guys. I wonder if I can hold up, especially after a day like today physically and mentally. That was pretty draining. I am going to go home in a couple days and talk it over with the family."

But Favre is far from alone on the list of pricey Vikings that would have taken a big part of the Vikings' cap space in 2010. This is also the year that Jared Allen's contract would have cost the Vikings the most against the cap. While his $15,500,069 (yes, the $69 were added to reflect his jersey number) signing bonus was prorated over the length of his six-year contract, he is due a roster bonus of $8 million this year as well.

Get the feeling that the Vikings were bracing for the possibility of an uncapped year in 2010 when they laid out the Allen and Favre contracts? Their contracts would have accounted for almost $30 million in cap space this year, but there won't be a salary cap this year unless the NFL and the NFL Players Association come to quick and highly unlikely resolution to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement before the start of free agency on March 5.

Besides Favre and Allen, Steve Hutchinson's contract will hit one of its highest cap numbers this year. Hutchinson, who was signed by the Vikings to the infamous poison-pill contract in 2006 after the Seattle Seahawks designated him as a transition player instead of a franchise player, signed a seven-year contract worth about $49 million, but the combination of his $10 million signing bonus being in its last year of proration and a $6.55 million base salary give Hutchinson a cap number of $8.6 million in 2010, the highest since 2006, when a $6 million roster bonus jacked his cap number up to $13.34 million.

Bryant McKinnie is in a similar situation. Although he's got four more years left on his contract, it is in the final year of proration with his $13.5 million signing bonus, giving him a cap number of more than $7.5 million this year.

Linebacker E.J. Henderson is also entering the highest cap number with his contract, at $5.83 million, as his base salary continues to climb and his prorated signing bonus declines in the final year of his deal next season.

While many of the contracts for the team's most expensive players hit their high-water mark in 2010, that isn't the case with all of them. Bernard Berrian's cap number is below $5 million for the only time in the six-year deal he signed with the Vikings in 2008, and Kevin Williams' cap number is below $5 million for the last time as it climbs above $6 million in each of the final four years of his contract. This also the only year that safety Madieu Williams' cap number is below $5 million.

But for the majority of the Vikings' big-buck players, it appears the Vikings were once again at the top of their contract-structuring game so long as 2010 goes off without a salary cap.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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