Whether the Vikings are interested in keeping Josh Freeman or not, they have the power, if they choose, to make sure he’s in Mankato next July when the 2014 camp breaks. They could franchise him. But they won’t.
Given that the only thing Freeman has put on film stunk worse than the surrounding New Jersey neighborhoods to MetLife Stadium, the expensive franchise tag for quarterbacks won’t be used by the Vikings, but the league is formulating the basic parameters of what it will take to slap the franchise tag like a white glove across a player’s face to make sure he doesn’t hit the open market where crazy money gets spent.
The final 2014 salary cap won’t be completed until the end of the season and the huge pile of money generated is determined, but, based on past practices, preliminary numbers for the franchise tags are being estimated.
The preliminary numbers are pretty steep.
No. 1 Quarterback – 16.2 million
No. 2 Defensive End – $12.6 million
No. 3 Wide Receiver – $11.6 million
No. 4 Cornerback – $11.3 million
No. 5 Offensive Linemen – $11.2 million
No. 6 Linebacker – $11 million
No. 7 Defensive Tackle – $9.2 million
No. 8 Running Back – $9.1 million
No. 9 Safety – $8.1 million
No. 10 Tight End – $6.8 million
No. 11 Kicker/Punter – $3.4 million
The franchise designation on players takes the average of the top five salaries at a given position and gives a team the option of paying a player that salary. The defensive end number has been bloated because Jared Allen is being paid $17 million this season. That also eliminates any chance of the Vikings franchising Allen, because, he would have to get a 10 percent increase (a whopping $18.7 million). That’s not happening.
What makes these numbers interesting is that the changeover of elite player positions is reflected in the franchise tag numbers. It’s all about passing. If you look at the top six franchise tags, the reality of the NFL is laid bare. Quarterback is king . No big surprise there – just ask players on the 2009 Vikings team about money well spent.
But, beyond that, the market for elite NFL talent is coming much closer to mirroring the transformation of the NFL. Quarterback is No. 1. It always will be. But No. 2 is the defensive player that can make the most negative impact on No. 1. No. 3 is the player who helps earn No. 1 his money. No. 4 is the elite player who can negate No. 3. No. 5 protects No. 1 from No. 2 earning his money. Given the expansion of the 3-4 defense, No. 6 is often a smaller version of No. 2 doing No. 2’s job from a standup position.
Perhaps even more conclusive on this question is that running back is now No. 8 – ahead of only safeties (typically viewed as too slow to be NFL cornerbacks), tight ends and people who put the foot in football on the franchise list. They have been reduced to an afterthought.
The bottom line, to quote at least one Vikings player, on the current state of the state in the NFL is that Vikings fans should be grateful they have a Hall of Famer in Adrian Peterson. The state of the running back situation has become so diluted that many draft insiders locked Eddie Lacy as being the Packers first-round pick. Today he will face the Vikings for the second time, but he does so as a second-round pick. When elite running backs over the next couple of years come due for free agency, given their historically short shelf life, the new battleground will be set.
The victim of the New World Order of the NFL is the running back. Fortunately, the Vikings have the best one going getting his mail at their house. But if the tag values tell us anything, the running back is on the endangered species list for the moment and, barring an influx of replacement talent, the immediate future prospects don’t look good.
VIKINGS-PACKERS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 26th-ranked offense (16th rushing, 25th passing) and the 30th-ranked defense (14th rushing, 29th passing).
The Packers have the 3rd-ranked offense (6th rushing, 3rd passing) and the 18th-ranked defense (12th rushing, 21st passing).
Minnesota is averaging 318 yards a game (206 passing, 112 rushing), while allowing 392 yards a game (280 passing, 112 rushing).
Green Bay is averaging 417 yards a game (283 passing, 134 rushing), while allowing 351 yards a game (247 passing, 104 rushing).
The Packers are fifth in the league in average per rush (4.7 yards). The Vikings are sixth at 4.6 yards per rush.
Through 10 games, the Vikings have rushed for 1,115 yards. Their defense has allowed opponents to rush for 1,116 yards.
Green Bay is tied for 24th in giveaway/takeaway ratio at minus-6 (15 giveaways, nine takeaways). The Vikings are tied for 27th at minus-8 (22 giveaways, 14 takeaways).
The Packers are one of just five teams with less than 10 takeaways, along with the Texans (8), Falcons (8), Chargers (7) and Jets (7).
The Vikings are 18th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 15 of 28 possessions (53.6 percent). The Packers are 30th in red zone offense at 43.2 percent (14 touchdowns on 37 possessions). Only Pittsburgh and Jacksonville have been worse in the red zone converting drives into touchdowns than Green Bay.
The Packers are 19th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 19 of 33 possessions (57.6 percent). The Vikings are 26th at 60.5 percent (26 touchdowns on 43 possessions).
Only Jacksonville has allowed more opponent red zone possessions (47) and touchdowns (28) than the Vikings.
The league average of third-down conversions is 38.0 percent. The Packers offense is seventh in the league at 42.3 percent (55 of 130). The Vikings are ninth at 43.1 percent (63 of 144).
Defensively, the Vikings are dead last on third down, allowing conversions on 49 percent of opportunities (71 of 145). The Packers are 10th at 35.8 percent (48 of 134).
The average starting position following kickoffs in the NFL is the 21.4-yard line. The Vikings are first in the league with an average starting point of the 25.8-yard line. Green Bay is 31st with an average starting point of the 19.5 yard line.
Defensively, Green Bay is last in average starting position at the 25.1-yard line. The Vikings aren’t much better at 31st with an average starting position of the 24.0 yard line.
The Packers have four 300-yard passing games – three from Aaron Rodgers and one from Scott Tolzien. The Vikings don’t have a 300-yard passing game this season.
Defensively, Minnesota has allowed four 300-yard passers. Green Bay has allowed three.
The Packers have a whopping 10 100-yard receiving games in 10 games this season – four from Jordy Nelson and two each from James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin. The Vikings have two – both from Jerome Simpson.
Defensively, the Vikings have allowed eight 100-yard receivers. The Packers have allowed five.
After going the better part of three years without a 100-yard rusher, the Packers have more 100-yard rushing games than the Vikings. Adrian Peterson has three 100-yard games, while Green Bay has two from Eddie Lacy and one each from James Starks and Jonathan Franklin.
Having missed three games, Rodgers has dropped significantly in the numbers-based statistics like attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns, but in the stats that don’t involve gross numbers, he’s near the top of the league in all of them – fourth in completion percentage (66.9), second in average gain per attempt (8.84 yards), fifth in touchdown percentage (6.0), fifth in interception percentage (1.6) and third in passer rating (108.0).
Of the 10 stats the league keeps for ranking quarterbacks, Christian Ponder is 27th or worse in seven of them, including being 27th in passer rating at 74.9.
Peterson is fourth in the league in rushing with 851 yards. Lacy leads the Packers with 696 rushing yards, good enough for eighth place.
Seven of the top eight rushers in the league are from the NFC.
Nelson is 13th in the league in receptions with 57. Simpson and Greg Jennings are tied for the lead on the Vikings with 34 receptions, which ties them for 69th place in the league.
Nelson is seventh in the league in receiving yards with 889 yards. Simpson is 51st with 498 yards.
Peterson is tied for third in scoring among non-kickers with 60 points (10 touchdowns). Nelson leads the Packers with 42 points (seven touchdowns).
Peterson has scored 10 or more touchdowns in every season of his career.
Mason Crosby is third in the league in scoring with 96 points. Blair Walsh is 20th with 72 points.
Walsh is tied for 25th in touchbacks with 23, but it should be noted that he didn’t kickoff off for two games. Crosby, has just five touchbacks, which could be very good news for Cordarrelle Patterson.
Peterson is eighth in the league in total yards with 1,014 (851 rushing, 163 receiving). Nelson leads the Packers with 889 yards (all receiving) – good enough for 17th place.
Jeff Locke is 18th in punting average at 45.4 yards. Tim Mastay is 23rd at 44.8 yards.
When it comes to net punting average, which factors in return yardage, Mastay is 20th at 39.6 yards and Locke is 24th at 39.0.
Marcus Sherels would lead the league in punt return average, but, because he has called fair catches on 17 of 29 potential returns, he doesn’t have enough returns to qualify for the league leader board. Micah Hyde is third in the league with an average of 14.6 yards.
Patterson leads the league in kickoff return average at 34.4 yards and is the only return man with two touchdowns on returns.
The Vikings have three players with two interceptions to tie for 29th in the league – Erin Henderson, Chad Greenway and Harrison Smith. The Packers have four interceptions by four different players.
Jared Allen is tied for 35th place with five sacks. Defensive lineman Mike Daniels leads Green Bay with 4.5, which ties him for 45th place.
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.