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  1. #1
    briboy75's Avatar
    briboy75 is offline Asst. Coach
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    Vikings Innovative Salary Cap

    Vikings' innovative salary cap strategy put them in great position for future
    Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
    July 25, 2004 VIKE0725


    Can you hear it? They sure do in Las Vegas, where oddsmakers have established 6-1 odds of the Vikings winning Super Bowl XXXIX. Only New England (4-1) and Philadelphia (7-2) are faring better among bookies.

    They're responding in most annual preview magazines as well, where the Vikings are a consensus pick to reach the NFC Championship Game, if not the Super Bowl.

    Make no mistake: An undeniable buzz has developed around the Vikings as they prepare to open training camp Friday. Although their postseason drought has now reached three years (Remember 41-donut?), the Vikings' talented roster has put most prognosticators on alert.

    Preseason projections are about as credible as a CIA report, but it seems at least one fact is indisputable. In the ashes of their Giants Stadium meltdown and subsequent salary-cap purge, the Vikings have restructured with a cap strategy that ensures indefinite roster stability while adhering to their well-documented financial boundaries.

    The approach resulted in a $33 million cap windfall last offseason, and the Vikings are projected to have at least $25 million in cap room after this season.

    How well they maximize that surplus remains to be seen. The Vikings signed five free agents to contracts totaling $61.555 million this offseason, but in the process they artificially boosted the 2004 cap numbers of at least two players as a method for consuming the space.

    Regardless of intent or motivation, the Vikings have built an offense brimming with skill players and a defense with more personnel credibility than in recent memory. As well, their burgeoning nucleus of players faces no cap-induced breakup and can be enhanced liberally if the team chooses.

    "I wouldn't say that we have some kind of magic formula," said Rob Brzezinski, the vice president of football operations and chief cap strategist. "All we've tried to do is plan for long-term competitive excellence."

    Change in strategy

    Brzezinski launched the strategy after the 1999 season, the first of two difficult offseasons in which the Vikings cleared some $50 million from their cap accounting books. A series of backloaded contracts had caught up to them; the victims included John Randle, Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, Jake Reed and Randall Cunningham. Todd Steussie departed after the 2000 season for similar reasons.

    At the same time, Brzezinski began signing players to contracts that evenly distributed the cap hit over the life of the deal. Consider the seven-year, $30.83 million contract center Matt Birk signed prior to the 2001 season.

    Rather than push the largest cap hits to the end of the deal, which was the NFL trend at the time, Brzezinski maintained a cap hit that will hover between $3.4 million and a manageable $6.2 million per season over the final four years. As a result, the Vikings never will be forced to restructure the contract for cap reasons.

    After a few years of Birk-like deals for defensive end Kenny Mixon, safety Corey Chavous and even quarterback Daunte Culpepper, the Vikings have ascended to a unique position: They have too much cap space, or at least more than their cash budget will allow them to spend.

    Teams must meet a minimum cap spending threshold; this year it was $70.3 million. After passing that floor, however, there is no obligation to spend up to the $80.6 million limit. For reasons relating to their well-documented revenue margins, the Vikings have not budgeted the cash balance necessary to do so.

    But rather than waste the space, they have used the NFL's cap rules regarding incentives to push the surplus into future years.

    In essence, they have inserted large incentive clauses into some contracts, stipulating conditions that almost certainly will not be met in the coming year. For cap purposes, however, they are considered "likely to be earned" under the complex rules of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement. All such incentives count against that year's cap, thus consuming the remaining cap space.

    Assuming the player does not meet those incentives, the figure is credited to the following year's cap allotment. For the Vikings last winter, $14 million worth of unmet incentives from the 2003 season were credited to their 2004 cap total, increasing their total available space from $19 million to $33 million.

    A similar bonanza is expected next year. Safety Brian Russell ($7 million) and tight end Jim Kleinsasser ($3 million), both have multi-part incentives in their new contracts. Neither player has a realistic chance of meeting the complex matrix of achievements detailed in each clause, in which case the Vikings would add another $10 million to their 2005 cap availability.

    The Vikings have found other ways to consume cap space as well, most notably by terming the guaranteed $10.8 million in cornerback Antoine Winfield's contract a "roster bonus" rather than a "signing bonus." The verbiage changes nothing for Winfield, but it allows the Vikings to absorb the entire $10.8 million on their 2004 cap.

    Along with his $1.6 million base salary, Winfield will count a whopping $12.4 million against the cap this season. That number will drop to $6.1 million next year. Russell counts $7.38 million, and Kleinsasser $4.9 million.

    For the hard-core cynic, or merely the skeptical, this strategy raises questions: Is it truly to create more cap space in the future, or simply to curtail owner Red McCombs' cash expenditures?

    After all, the Vikings showed no interest in the two most expensive defensive players available last winter, defensive end Jevon Kearse and cornerback Champ Bailey, despite having more than enough cap space to pursue market-level deals. Vikings officials point out they have spent judiciously, if not wildly, on the free agent market over the past two seasons; indeed, seven starters of their 24 were acquired in that manner.

    Another question to consider: How do players feel about cap space being used on incentives they have no chance to make?

    The NFL Players Association, which monitors cap language in all contracts, is not concerned.

    "There's nothing wrong with it because the cap room doesn't go away," spokesman Carl Francis said. "It's being pushed into the next year. And it's not affecting the player because it's money he wouldn't have earned, anyway."

    Everyone's happy, it appears. Now, if those Vegas bookies can get what they want ...

  2. #2
    TEXPACK is offline Pro-Bowler
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    Vikings Innovative Salary Cap

    At what point does it become, "put up or shut up". If all of these things are going so well for the Vikings then, how much time should be alotted to Tice to win an NFL championship? This year? Next year?

    It seems to me if Tice fails to reach the NFC championship this year he should be fired. If he does and loses to say Philly, then he should be afforded one more year to make the superbowl, that's it!

    The Vikings need to realize they have a very narrow window for championship opportunities and understand that many of the players they develop will not be with the team after two more years.
    Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged by only one thing - the result." --Vince Lombardi

  3. #3
    JoeMama is offline Starter
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    Vikings Innovative Salary Cap

    Well....Tice has always touted his 3 year plan. So....I think the time to put up or shut up is this year. If we don't make the play offs this year.....he should be fired.

    If we make it....then, you're right, afford him one more year. I don't want to see the team always making the play offs and never going beyond that like it was with Denny.

    I agree with your last point as well....but what about incoming talent? You never know. As one ace leaves another one could come in.

  4. #4
    TEXPACK is offline Pro-Bowler
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    Vikings Innovative Salary Cap

    The Vikings do seem to draft well as of the last several years. Its always risky trying to build through the draft. I think at certain positions a team can do better through the draft than at others. OL, WR, and DL seem to need time to grow into the pro game while LB and RB can sometimes go right in and start out of college.
    Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged by only one thing - the result." --Vince Lombardi

  5. #5
    muchluv4smoot's Avatar
    muchluv4smoot is offline Team Alumni
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    Re: Vikings Innovative Salary Cap

    "briboy75" wrote:
    Vikings' innovative salary cap strategy put them in great position for future
    Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
    July 25, 2004 VIKE0725


    Can you hear it? They sure do in Las Vegas, where oddsmakers have established 6-1 odds of the Vikings winning Super Bowl XXXIX. Only New England (4-1) and Philadelphia (7-2) are faring better among bookies.

    They're responding in most annual preview magazines as well, where the Vikings are a consensus pick to reach the NFC Championship Game, if not the Super Bowl.

    Make no mistake: An undeniable buzz has developed around the Vikings as they prepare to open training camp Friday. Although their postseason drought has now reached three years (Remember 41-donut?), the Vikings' talented roster has put most prognosticators on alert.

    Preseason projections are about as credible as a CIA report, but it seems at least one fact is indisputable. In the ashes of their Giants Stadium meltdown and subsequent salary-cap purge, the Vikings have restructured with a cap strategy that ensures indefinite roster stability while adhering to their well-documented financial boundaries.

    The approach resulted in a $33 million cap windfall last offseason, and the Vikings are projected to have at least $25 million in cap room after this season.

    How well they maximize that surplus remains to be seen. The Vikings signed five free agents to contracts totaling $61.555 million this offseason, but in the process they artificially boosted the 2004 cap numbers of at least two players as a method for consuming the space.

    Regardless of intent or motivation, the Vikings have built an offense brimming with skill players and a defense with more personnel credibility than in recent memory. As well, their burgeoning nucleus of players faces no cap-induced breakup and can be enhanced liberally if the team chooses.

    "I wouldn't say that we have some kind of magic formula," said Rob Brzezinski, the vice president of football operations and chief cap strategist. "All we've tried to do is plan for long-term competitive excellence."

    Change in strategy

    Brzezinski launched the strategy after the 1999 season, the first of two difficult offseasons in which the Vikings cleared some $50 million from their cap accounting books. A series of backloaded contracts had caught up to them; the victims included John Randle, Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, Jake Reed and Randall Cunningham. Todd Steussie departed after the 2000 season for similar reasons.

    At the same time, Brzezinski began signing players to contracts that evenly distributed the cap hit over the life of the deal. Consider the seven-year, $30.83 million contract center Matt Birk signed prior to the 2001 season.

    Rather than push the largest cap hits to the end of the deal, which was the NFL trend at the time, Brzezinski maintained a cap hit that will hover between $3.4 million and a manageable $6.2 million per season over the final four years. As a result, the Vikings never will be forced to restructure the contract for cap reasons.

    After a few years of Birk-like deals for defensive end Kenny Mixon, safety Corey Chavous and even quarterback Daunte Culpepper, the Vikings have ascended to a unique position: They have too much cap space, or at least more than their cash budget will allow them to spend.

    Teams must meet a minimum cap spending threshold; this year it was $70.3 million. After passing that floor, however, there is no obligation to spend up to the $80.6 million limit. For reasons relating to their well-documented revenue margins, the Vikings have not budgeted the cash balance necessary to do so.

    But rather than waste the space, they have used the NFL's cap rules regarding incentives to push the surplus into future years.

    In essence, they have inserted large incentive clauses into some contracts, stipulating conditions that almost certainly will not be met in the coming year. For cap purposes, however, they are considered "likely to be earned" under the complex rules of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement. All such incentives count against that year's cap, thus consuming the remaining cap space.

    Assuming the player does not meet those incentives, the figure is credited to the following year's cap allotment. For the Vikings last winter, $14 million worth of unmet incentives from the 2003 season were credited to their 2004 cap total, increasing their total available space from $19 million to $33 million.

    A similar bonanza is expected next year. Safety Brian Russell ($7 million) and tight end Jim Kleinsasser ($3 million), both have multi-part incentives in their new contracts. Neither player has a realistic chance of meeting the complex matrix of achievements detailed in each clause, in which case the Vikings would add another $10 million to their 2005 cap availability.

    The Vikings have found other ways to consume cap space as well, most notably by terming the guaranteed $10.8 million in cornerback Antoine Winfield's contract a "roster bonus" rather than a "signing bonus." The verbiage changes nothing for Winfield, but it allows the Vikings to absorb the entire $10.8 million on their 2004 cap.

    Along with his $1.6 million base salary, Winfield will count a whopping $12.4 million against the cap this season. That number will drop to $6.1 million next year. Russell counts $7.38 million, and Kleinsasser $4.9 million.

    For the hard-core cynic, or merely the skeptical, this strategy raises questions: Is it truly to create more cap space in the future, or simply to curtail owner Red McCombs' cash expenditures?

    After all, the Vikings showed no interest in the two most expensive defensive players available last winter, defensive end Jevon Kearse and cornerback Champ Bailey, despite having more than enough cap space to pursue market-level deals. Vikings officials point out they have spent judiciously, if not wildly, on the free agent market over the past two seasons; indeed, seven starters of their 24 were acquired in that manner.

    Another question to consider: How do players feel about cap space being used on incentives they have no chance to make?

    The NFL Players Association, which monitors cap language in all contracts, is not concerned.

    "There's nothing wrong with it because the cap room doesn't go away," spokesman Carl Francis said. "It's being pushed into the next year. And it's not affecting the player because it's money he wouldn't have earned, anyway."

    Everyone's happy, it appears. Now, if those Vegas bookies can get what they want ...




    Did brian russell sign a new contract that I don't know about, or were you talking about chavous's contract? I thought russell signed a really crappy one year deal?

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