Next week in Philadelphia, the 32 NFL owners (or their representatives) will meet once again to discuss issues pressing to the league. While VU has been told of items on the official agenda, we've also been informed of a "quiet topic" -- according to one league source.
The prime agenda includes four issues that will likely get media coverage -- discussion of newtork contracts, planning for future Super Bowls in the post-9/11 era, addressing diversity hiring issues and continuing discussion of expanding the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14.
However, VU has been told that another -- not so publicized -- topic will be discussed. It pertains to the Vikings and their future in Minnesota. While VU has remained consistent on the obvious -- late Commissioner Pete Rozelle signed a document with the state saying that Minnesota would have an NFL team (the Vikings or an expansion franchise if they left) through 2011 -- it would appear that the owners will be asked for a "stance ruling" on the Vikings' uncertain situation.
For those VU readers outside Minnesota, perhaps a quick state status report is needed. The state is facing a $4.2 billion budget deficit and, as it stands now, appropriating taxpayer money to a new Vikings stadium is not going happen this year. Seeing as 2004 is an election year for many legislators, chances of getting career politicians to remain career politicians voting in favor of asking millions of taxpayer dollars (like $400 million) isn't in the cards either.
The result? The NFL is apparently going to discuss an informal poll of owners armed with the facts and realities if any prospective move of the Vikings would be approved -- if the owners would deny a move, any attempt would be moot, but it's not the kind of thing the league wants made public because it would leave the Vikings in a "no-win" situation.
Vikings owner Red McCombs and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue met last month to discuss "multiple issues," according to our source. They ranged from questions about G-3 funding (the NFL's inclusion in money for new stadiums) to "franchise status."
The Vikings continue to be one of a very short list of teams rumored to be eyed for relocation in Los Angeles, but from what we're hearing, the official NFL party line remains if McCombs wants to sell the priority remains to a Minnesota-based buyer to keep the Vikings in Minnesota.
While issues like network deals and playoff expansion will probably come to official votes that will be made public, the topic of the Vikings won't be on that agenda -- but will be on the discussion list.
* In a quasi-related matter, the Los Angeles city council voted 14-1 Tuesday in favor of a financial impact study to be done about the prospect of returning the NFL to the city. This is seen by VU as a "good news, bad news" scenario. According to a connected L.A. source of VU's, L.A. is serious about getting the NFL back into the country's second-largest market. That's the bad news for Vikes fans. The good news is the city leaders seem hell-bent on bringing the NFL back to Memorial Colliseum -- a venue viewed by most outsiders as an antiquated NFL site considering signage, revenue streams and luxury box priorities. If the intent of the city council of L.A. is to simply spend money pushing the Colliseum as the only venue for football, a new team will never come to L.A. -- unless it's on it's knees and, in the current economic climate of the league, that won't happen.
* The Vikings announced the signing of TE Matt Huebner of St. Cloud (Minn.) State. His chances of sticking with the team are minimal, considering the wealth of talent currently signed at tight end. Huebner was signed after the draft by the Packers, but subsequently released.
* Former Vikings first-rounder Duane Clemons found gainful employment (sort of) Tuesday, signing a two-year $2.2 million deal with the Bengals. The contract includes a signing bonus of $622,500 and is packed with incentive escalators that could double the deal if Clemons is a double-digit sack guy. Seeing as he didn't do that with the Vikes or Chiefs, there's little reason to think he'll meet those goals with the hapless Bengals.
* Earlier this week, VU reported on the misinterpretations of Daunte Culpepper's $102 million contract. After our first report was published, VU was reminded by a source close to situation of an incentive clause included in the deal -- which was officially approved by the league Tuesday. It calls for Culpepper to be paid $900,000 if he is part of 75 percent of the team's special teams plays. Unless the Vikes intend to have Daunte returning punts or breaking the wedge on kickoffs, that is one contract padder that will never be seen -- or even considered possible.