What exactly is offset language? Simply stated (or as simply stated as possible), following the new collective bargaining agreement, first round-contracts are four-year deals with a fifth-year option for the team. If a team wants to exercise that option for a 2012 first-round pick, they would have to do it by March 2015, prior to the fourth year of the contract. If there is offset language written into the contract, it allows the team to save money if it releases that player. If a player is set to make $3 million in the final year of his contract, gets cut and signs with another team and gets an identical deal, the team that cut him isn't on the hook for the remaining money. If there is no offset language, the cut players get the guaranteed money from the original team that drafted him and the full salary from his new team – a practice dubbed double-dipping, getting paid by two teams at the same time.
A lot of teams have decided that, for the purposes of getting deals done with the top picks, they won't include offset language in the rookie deals. The deals are effectively guaranteed money. The Vikings are one of the teams trying to buck that trend and put offset language in Kalil's contract. Clearly, Kalil and his agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, to date anyway, have felt that's a deal-breaker.
It appears both sides have their feet dug in. Given that Condon and Dogra got a non-offset money deal for running back Trent Richardson – a much greater risk to be a bust than a left tackle like Kalil – at No. 3, it would seem there is a line in the sand that will only get deeper if the two sides can't come together.
Surely, there is a compromise that can be made. Given the new landscape for rookie salaries – a far cry from just a couple years ago when Sam Bradford signed a deal that included $50 million in guaranteed money before he ever took an NFL snap – there has to be some inclination for a give and take.
It's likely cooler heads will eventually prevail, but the Vikings' fear of setting a contract precedent – potentially for veterans as well as blue-chip rookies – could make Kalil a test case that could hurt the team if things aren't resolved soon.
The last thing any team wants is to be the last one to get a first-round draft pick signed, much less one in the top four picks. The biggest victims of the new CBA were rookies, who saw tens of millions taken off the table annually. The contract Bradford signed in 2010 has more guaranteed money than the entire contracts of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III combined. Agents are seeing millions in commission come off the table as well and they're not happy about it.
Perhaps a wide receiver with off-field issues garners the line in the sand with offset money, but not as close to a lead-pipe lock as an All-America left tackle that is almost assured of earning every dollar he's paid when he signs his contract. The Vikings don't want to be in a standoff waiting for the other guy to blink, but they don't want to set a precedent. However, if anyone should be safe from being cut within the first four years of his contract, it's a blue-chip left tackle like Kalil.
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.