When the collective bargaining agreement was approved by owners a little more than a week ago, one thing that came out of that was that the salary cap would return and be reduced for 2011 – to a figure of about $120 million.
The Vikings had problems with that number, being among a dozen or so teams that were either pressed tightly to the cap or above the cap. Beat writers turned amateur cap analysts almost unanimously said the easiest way for the Vikings to get enough cap relief was to release Bernard Berrian.
It’s hard to argue the point. When the Vikings signed Berrian, he was coming to Minnesota to be “the guy.” He wasn’t. Sidney Rice emerged as the go-to guy and Percy Harvin quickly turned Berrian into the No. 3 receiver in the passing offense (No. 4 if you factored in tight end Visanthe Shiancoe).
Yet, despite being due $6 million – too much by any standard – not only are the Vikings seemingly not ready to release Berrian, they’re counting on him in 2011.
When asked who Donovan McNabb would throw to with Sidney Rice gone, head coach Leslie Frazier made a cryptic statement that gives the impression that, while fans and media members may write off Berrian, the Vikings still expect big things – or at least big enough to make Berrian feel he earned the checks he is cashing each week.
“We’ve still got Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe,” Frazier said. “Those guys are pretty good players. Bernard Berrian is going to step up and have a great year.”
Frazier went on to list other receivers that will improve the passing game, but a follow-up question tried to verify that by asking if the Vikings still needed a deep threat receiver to make the offense as complete as it can be in the short-term, post-Rice era? Again, Frazier reiterated that Berrian has a role in the offense and it is expected to be significant.
“We’ve got Bernard Berrian here for a reason,” Frazier said. “He’s going to step up and help in that area.”
For those who have become disenchanted with Berrian, the only “Wow! moment” he has had with the team was his 99-yard touchdown. As far as moments go, it’s hard to top that, so, even his critics must admit that he made a play that can never be taken out of the all-time record books. The NFL record book gets rewritten every year. Berrian’s name will never leave, tied for the longest touchdown reception. Not too shabby, but the body of work remains in question.
If you believe that Berrian can be the player the Vikings intended him to be when they signed him away from Chicago, the decision for him to stay (if you believe the head coach’s assessment of the receiver corps) is a portent to a big season. However, more outside analysts are likely to say that they will believe it when the see it. And, in their minds, they haven’t seen enough of it to go “all-in” with him as the designated deep presence to the Vikings offense.
The Vikings signed three draft picks Saturday – second-round tight end Kyle Rudolph, sixth round center Brandon Fusco and seventh-round DE D’Andre Reed. While several first-rounders have signed, the Vikings have yet to reach a contract agreement No. 12 overall pick Christian Ponder.
As expected, the NFL Players Association officially recertified as a union Saturday. When players reported to their respective teams, they collected union cards and were asked to vote. While 25 percent of the league (including the Vikings) don’t report until today, it is believed the NFLPA already has enough votes to officially ratify the CBA.
In his introduction press conference in Seattle, Sidney Rice said leaving the Vikings was “a tough decision,” adding that the factors that went into his decision were much more involved than just moving on. “It was a lot of things,” Rice said. “It was a tough decision. I love those guys over in Minnesota. But, unfortunately I had to move on. I’m here, I’m a Seahawk and I’m looking forward from here on out – no looking back.”
From the “For What It’s Worth” Department comes this: in an interview with USA Today, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said he believes that McNabb will thrive in Minnesota. If they believe that strongly in McNabb’s odds of succeeding with the Vikings, why would they have dealt him to keep Rex Grossman and John Beck?
The Bears have been stockpiling former top-10 draft picks this weekend, adding former Jets linebacker Vernon Gholston, former Texans defensive tackle Amobi Okoye and former Lions/Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams. In addition, the Bears added Marion Barber, which begs the question as to whether his presence could adversely affect the future of Chester Taylor. Last season Taylor signed a huge-free agent contract, but averaged a career-worst 2.8 yards per carry in his first season with the Bears.
The Eagles are already being called “The Dream Team” for their free-agent acquisitions, adding even more talent to one of the best teams in the league. Aside from the trade of Kevin Kolb that brought Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Eagles, the team signed the crown jewel of free agency (CB Nnamdi Asomugha), former top-10 draft pick QB Vince Young, DE Jason Babin, DT Cullen Jenkins and TE Donald Lee.
Despite not being able to practice with his new team until the collective bargaining agreement is finalized, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll named Tarvaris Jackson the team’s starting quarterback as the Seahawks opened training camp. That likely doesn’t sit well with backup Charlie Whitehurst, who is the No. 1 QB until Jackson is allowed to practice.
Once the bridges are mended between the NFL and the NFLPA, it will be interesting to see how the NFL will handle violations of the league’s personal conduct policy. Can the league hold players responsible for any transgressions when the union wasn’t a union and the owners had locked out players? After all, they weren’t technically employees from March until a week ago.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.