Lack of cap could benefit Vikings

Some players may not like it, but the salary cap going away could be a good thing for the Vikings and other teams.

As the countdown to the execution of the salary cap continues, the inevitable uncapped 2010 season will fall under the "good news, bad news" scenario. For a team like the Vikings, not having a salary cap in 2010 will be good news. For some veteran players, it will be bad news – for the same reason.

When the salary cap officially goes away March 5, so will several veterans with mammoth contracts. In the age of the salary cap, teams have found ways to circumvent the system to their own advantage. One way of doing that is with a huge signing bonus spread over the duration of the contract. For example, if a player gets a $20 million signing bonus on a five-year contract, the cap hit for the bonus is $4 million per year and is typically accompanied by modest base salaries for the first two or three years of the deal. However, when a player is released, the unpaid years on the signing bonus come due and the cap hit is accelerated. If that player was cut prior his third season under the above-mentioned contract, the cap hit for that season would be $12 million – the unaccounted for portion of the signing bonus.

Although the cap is going away, the NFL is officially still operating under the 2009 fiscal year. It won't officially end until free agency begins, which is why the news of Brian Westbrook's release from the Eagles won't be official until March 5. To do so prior would put Philadelphia over the salary cap, even though their season was done more than a month ago.

The reason the team can let Westbrook go is that, with no salary cap in 2010, there will also be no acceleration of the remaining "dead money" on his contract for the organization. They can cut Westbrook and effectively get a free cap pass. The same held true for LaDainian Tomlinson, and others will likely follow suit once the cost of getting an albatross contract is no longer hung up by cap concerns or liabilities.

While that may be bad news for some veterans, in the case of teams like the Vikings and Seahawks, it's actually good news. Consider the situation the Vikings would be in if the cap was operational heading into 2010. Although they would be able to be much more active in free agency, they would have about $20 million tied up in Brett Favre and Pat Williams, both of whom hinted at the end of the season that they were considering retirement. Under the old system, the Vikings would have to release them to get the cap space back, because any player under contract counts against the salary cap. Favre signed a two-year deal with the Vikings that could have potentially forced their hand to move on without him if they opted to trade for a veteran QB like Donovan McNabb.

Without a salary cap, it doesn't matter when Favre makes a decision whether or not to return. His salary is technically still on the books, but with no salary cap in place, his eight-figure 2010 contract number means nothing. He can wait until August to return and it won't impact the team's salary cap. The same is true in Seattle, where future Hall of Famer Walter Jones is contemplating retirement. The Seahawks can spend like drunken sailors because of the lack of a cap and not have to worry about cutting people to open up space if Jones opts to return for 2010.

There are a lot of players, especially those who have four or five years of tenure in the league, that are none too happy about the salary cap going away next month. But for some players and teams, including Favre and the Vikings, not having a cap might actually be somewhat beneficial.

THURSDAY NOTES

  • Favre will make his first television appearance since the loss to the Saints in the playoffs next week on "The Tonight Show" with returning host Jay Leno on Thursday, March 4. Over the last year, Leno has pounded all the Favre jokes he could muster into the ground, which isn't uncommon for the lantern-jawed comedian – which may explain why his prime-time show tanked. Aside from a statement on his website about how much he loved playing with the Vikings in 2009, he hasn't said whether he will be back or if he will retire. Leno returns to late night next Monday following the Olympics on NBC.

  • If the people of Hattiesburg, Miss., knew how popular Brett Favre was with fans, they may have started pimping business years ago. A month after Vikings fans placed billboards in Hattiesburg asking Favre to come back, another Vikings fan is upping the ante. Benjamin Nelms, 39, a Ph.D who runs a company that designs cancer therapy products, is taking out a full-page color ad scheduled to run Monday in the Hattiesburg American newspaper. In the ad, which is an open letter to Favre, he expresses the desire of most Vikings fans that he get his rest and then come back for another season.

  • The Vikings are scheduled to meet with Ken Sarnoff, the agent for Chester Taylor, while the team is at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week. Many of the agents and teams will touch base at the annual rookie workouts.

  • Look for there to more talk of a Vikings stadium proposal coming out of this year's legislative session. The Vikings have hired seven new lobbyists, bringing their total to 10 registered lobbyists, to help push the cause of getting a new stadium deal done. Considering the current and projected state deficit, they may have a bumpy road in front of them.


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