Sunday Slant: Not that simple with Sage

The Vikings' most efficient and productive quarterback this preseason, Sage Rosenfels, has also been the one most fans assume is gone by next week. But there are other factors, including a guarantee and other expiring contracts, to consider before throwing Rosenfels under the waiver-wire bus just yet.

In a fantasy-football driven world, the decisions seem so easy – cut a player here, pick up a player there, call a buddy and make a trade.

It's easier when the stakes are a couple hundred bucks, the ridicule of only a few friends are at risk, and the opportunity is there to draft a completely new team next summer.

For the Vikings, it simply isn't that easy when shaping a roster that requires more than skill-position players and 53 well-paid athletes. A misstep can cost players and front-office people jobs and owners millions of dollars. The handful of friends that needle a fantasy-football buddy turn into hundreds of thousands of fans cursing the coach or general manager who let go of the next big star or drafted the first-round dud. And getting a whole new team to make up for a few mistakes takes years, sometimes decades – just ask Detroit Lions fans.

So when it comes to picking their No. 3 quarterback, the Vikings have a lot at stake. That player might not see the field on game days all season long, like what happened with Sage Rosenfels last year. Or he might become a starter by the end of his rookie season, like Tarvaris Jackson in 2006.

Brett Favre is the Vikings' starter Sept. 9 in New Orleans. Easy call. Jackson is the backup. Pretty easy call, especially for a coach like Brad Childress who drafted Jackson in 2006. The tough decision will be who stays and who goes when it comes to crunch time for a decision on the third quarterback. Rosenfels or Joe Webb? The high-priced veteran backup or the developing rookie sixth-round pick?

With Webb showing some raw promise, many fans won't want to give up on him, but there are a few little-discussed facts when it comes to a decision on Rosenfels.

Most fans know about his $2.6 million salary in 2010. That could make it difficult for the Vikings to find a suitor willing to trade for him and pay their backup that kind of money, but did you know that $2 million of that money is guaranteed. That little caveat throws a whole new wrinkle into the decision. If the Vikings can't find a trading partner for Rosenfels, they eat $2 million if they cut him.

Considering the potential "new money" in Favre's contract – another $3.5 million in base salary and $4 million in incentives – the Vikings will end up with a quarterback payroll potentially approaching $24 million no matter what they do with Rosenfels. That's nearly one-fifth of the last salary cap in place for 3/53rds of the roster.

Owner Zygi Wilf proved he isn't concerned about pinching a penny with the Vikings contending for a title, but the long-term future of the position is approaching dire straits and could factor into the Vikings' decision.

To wit: Brett Favre is in the final years of his contract – which could pay him $20 million this season – and he says it's his last year. I tend to believe him because of the uncertainty surrounding everything else – the league is in the final year of its Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players and the probably not so coincidentally the Vikings have a number of key players running toward the end of their contracts, like Sidney Rice, Pat Williams, Ray Edwards, Chad Greenway and Ben Leber to name a few. If half of those retire or move on to other teams, Favre may not trust that the Vikings are a contending team in 2011.

Tarvaris Jackson is also one of those players in the final year of his deal after basically being forced to accept a one-year tender as part of a class of free agents that got the short of the labor stick and were classified as restricted. Given how Jackson has been played like a puppet on a short string in his up-and-down career so far, will he even want to stay with the Vikings if he becomes unrestricted next spring? He told me this summer he doesn't hold any ill will toward the Vikings. In the end, Minnesota might end up being willing to pay as much as any other team for his services because of his familiarity with the system and being a Brad Childress draft pick.

If the Vikings don't have designs on still trying to shove Jackson into starting productivity, the future of the position is even dicier. That's why saying the Vikings will trade or cut Rosenfels really isn't that simple. If they cut him in favor of developing Joe Webb, it's possible Favre retires, Jackson moves on next year and Webb is the only one of the four current quarterbacks remaining.

So far, Rosenfels has been the king of preseason for the Vikings. Of the four quarterbacks on the roster, he leads the team in completion percentage (63.8), yards per attempt (8.3), touchdowns (four) and rating (118.4).

Whether Rosenfels' solid preseason means he's improved his chances to stick with the Vikings or just increased the possibilities for trade, it at least throws another factor into the list of considerations that already existed – the other expiring contracts of the Vikings' quarterbacks and his $2 million guarantee.

It's not really fantasy world making that kind of decision.

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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