Culpepper Decision Pending

Daunte Culpepper

A couple of weeks ago, Red McCombs gave Daunte Culpepper a vote of confidence. However, it now looks like he and the team may be taking a "wait and see" approach.

At the time Red McCombs personally brokered a contract extension for Randy Moss, the conventional wisdom was "one down, one to go" -- Moss is done Daunte Culpepper is next.

But, despite recent reassurances from McCombs that Culpepper will be a Viking for years to come, there has been some delays in getting the process of extending his contract completed...and the clock is ticking.

There are two factors that have the team questioning whether to spend untold millions and another signing bonus in the neighborhood of $15 million. First is Culpepper's apparent regression as a pro. Mike Tice questioned his work ethic as it applied to putting time in to be a student of the game. In his first season as a starter, Culpepper was surrounded by Pro Bowlers on offense and was able to get by on his God-given talent. The last two years, he's lost many of those players and has been forced to become a student of the intricacies of the game and not a mad bomber. Some question whether he is willing to make that kind of off-season and mid-week commitment to learn all the ins and outs of the game.

The second issue is backup Todd Bouman. The Vikings have had decent luck developing QBs, often for other teams, but Bouman will have a price tag of $1.8 million this year to keep -- his salary plus a $1 million roster bonus in March. That's a lot for a backup QB. It would seem to be difficult to keep both of them if they both require a larger investment.

There's no telling what kind of success Bouman would have in the open market since so many teams have addressed their quarterback issues in recent years. The bottom line should be to get Culpepper signed before the start of the 2003 season. If it is seen as an extension of, let's say six years, with his one remaining year on his current contract, the signing bonus hit can be spread over an extra season, his 2003 salary would remain relatively low so as to free up cap space and, if the team decides two or three years down the line to go in a different direction, the hit at that time would be less severe.

The Vikings are posed with a choice. Either pay Culpepper big-time money or use a high draft pick on a QB and spend the same kind of money for a player who's never taken an NFL snap and roll the dice on the team's future. When Denny Green took Culpepper over Jevon Kearse, he ended a decade-long carousel of starting QBs for the Vikings. It's time to sit down and make sure that process doesn't begin all over again.

SUNDAY NOTES
* With the pending retirement of Ronnie Bradford, the Vikings plan to move Corey Chavous to a more natural free safety position, which should suit him better than strong safety.
* For two years, the Vikings had plans for Chris Liwienski to be the team's left guard. He moved to right tackle after the death of Korey Stringer and was scheduled to move back to guard last season. But, the holdout of Bryant McKinnie scuttled that plan. Now the Vikings aren't so sure they want to move him back. He's adapted well to RT and now the thinking is leaning more toward have Lewis Kelly push Corbin Lacina for the LG starting job.
* It was an awful day for former Vikings in the playoffs. First, DeWayne Washington gets torched for a pair of long receptions in overtime to give the Titans a chance to win, but, when Joe Nedney misses a chip shot field goal, Washington is charged with running into the kicker and he gets another chance. He hits it and the Titans win. In the Eagles-Falcons game, Atlanta has cut the lead to 13-6 and try an onside kick which it recovers. However, former Viking Artie Ulmer is offside, the play is negated and the Eagles go on to win.

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