Every NFL team needs veterans in their locker room, but its important to recognize when a player is past his prime and to make personnel and fiscal adjustments to reflect those changes.
In 2009, along with being one of the league's best teams, the Minnesota Vikings were also one of the oldest and had one of the highest payrolls. After a lackluster 2010 season and a shortened offseason, the Vikings downsized their payroll and got quite younger before moving into 2011. Of course, we all know how those changes reflected their record, but they were necessary changes nonetheless.
To get their salary cap to where it needed to be, the Vikings made three key changes that ultimately gave them the cap space to move forward in a positive way. This included pay-cuts (and eventually releases) for WR Bernard Berrian and S Madieu Williams, and the release of LT Bryant McKinnie—all of whom did not play up to the value of their contracts.
While there aren't as many over-payed players on the roster at this particular moment, there are certainly some players on the Vikings roster that could be in line to lose some money before the 2012 season begins.
Here's a look at seven players that fit this description.
Cornerback Cedric Griffin once looked like he was on his way to being a very solid starter for the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately—for both Griffin and the Vikings—two torn ACLs derailed his hopes of being a shut-down corner at the NFL level.
Griffin was retained—to the dismay of many Vikings fans—even after getting burned on a weekly basis and getting benched on more than one occasion in 2011. Presumably, his relationship with head coach Leslie Frazier is the reason for his continued spot on the roster, but its hard to imagine for that to continue if he is a liability moving forward.
If Griffin makes it past 2012 training camp, it wouldn't be surprising to see GM Rick Speilman ask Griffin to re-negotiate his contract in order to stay with the team.
This team needs to improve its secondary and Griffin probably recognizes that as much as anyone. In interviews with both Speilman and Frazier, the powers-that-be have alluded to personnel changes that will occur before the 2012 season.
If Griffin wants to be in the plans moving forward, he'll gladly accept a pay-cut or risk being released.
In March of 2011, the Vikings signed DE Brian Robison to a three-year, $14.1 Million extension that essentially made him the starter.
Robison didn't play poorly at all in 2011. In fact, he totaled 44 tackles and eight sacks over the course of his first season as a starter. Considering he contributed to the second-best pass-rushing defensive line in the NFL, Robison isn't really in danger of losing his starting role.
On the other hand, DE Everson Griffen provided six sacks in a non-starting role and could compete with Robison for the starting spot opposite defensive POY candidate Jared Allen. Griffen automatically becomes the more preferential option for Rick Speilman, because his contract is significantly smaller, but the call will ultimately be made on play.
If Robison wants to cement himself as the starter in 2012, he may be asked to renegotiate his contract. That's not because he didn't play well, but because the Vikings grossly over-payed him when his contract was extended in 2011.
After looking like a top-five TE in 2009, Visanthe Shiancoe has seen a significant drop in production without Brett Favre. Now that he's a free agent, that could really effect his impending pay-day.
In his contract year (2011), Shiancoe totaled a mere 36 receptions for 409 yards and three touchdowns. That's not terrible, but when you compare it to his 2009 numbers of 56 receptions for 566 yards and 11 touchdowns, its not great either.
Those statistics could've been subject to the inconsistency the Vikings had at QB, but nonetheless, Shiancoe hasn't been the same reliable target he once was.
Regardless of whether the Vikings re-sign Shiancoe or if he ends up with another team, his recent lack of production could mean a much smaller contract than he'll be expecting.
E.J. Henderson has been an important veteran leader for the Vikings over the last few seasons. He came back from a leg injury—that would've ended many players' careers—and continued to play at a pretty high level.
While Henderson has been just as consistent as ever in stopping the run, he has however been a huge liability in defending the pass. In a Tampa-Two defense, the MLB is one of the most crucial positions—especially in pass-coverage—and I'm not so sure he'll continue to be the answer over the middle for the Vikings.
Henderson would presumably take a hometown discount to stay with the team that he's spent his entire career with, but he may not be able to play at a level that will allow him to be the starter anymore.
Now that he's a free agent, Henderson could probably go find a starting spot on another roster. If he wants to be re-signed by the Vikings, he might be given a pretty small contract.
This is the part where the financial changes could become a little bit tougher for the organization and the players.
Steve Hutchinson has realistically been the most consistent player on the Vikings roster over the last five seasons. Unfortunately, injuries and significant changes to the personnel on the offensive line have resulted in some inconsistency from Hutchinson.
While some have speculated over whether or not Hutchinson should retire, he'll be back in purple in 2012. Given that he's moving towards the twilight of his career in the NFL, Hutchinson may be in line to take a pay-cut to make space for some young talent.
You hate to see this kind of thing happen to a guy that has been the identity of the team for so long, but that's the reality of how the NFL works. As Hutch gets closer to the end of his career, his value drops significantly to the Vikings and he may be asked to re-structure his contract.
For the last nine years, Kevin Williams has been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. This half of the "Williams Wall" is still playing at a pretty high level, but has clearly lost a step when compared to a young stud like Ndamukong Suh.
Williams is a veteran leader for the Vikings and presumably will continue to be for at least a few more seasons.
He's set to make $7 million in 2012 and while he's definitely worth it, he may be asked to re-negotiate his contract in order to bring in the kind of secondary personnel this defense needs to play within their division.
I don't see Williams losing a lot of money in this process, but he may be asked to downsize a bit.
There has been no shortage of speculation over a possible position change for CB Antoine Winfield in recent weeks. While I'm not going to speculate over that possibility or offer my opinion on that subject, I will certainly say that if he wants to stay at corner he will lose some money.
Winfield is still one of the best pure tacklers in the NFL, but because of injury and age, he may only be allowed to play in a nickel role unless he wants to move to safety.
This would mean that Winfield would technically no longer be a starter, which would have a significant affect on his contract. Basically, a stipulation of his contract says that if he loses his starting role, his pay will be cut as well.
Winfield has said in multiple conversations with KFAN's Paul Allen (the Voice of the Vikings) that he has no intention at this time of making a move to safety. If that plan comes to fruition, Winfield will lose some serious coin just in order to keep playing the same position.
Like I said, I'm not going to speculate or give my opinion on the matter, but if Winfield wants to keep playing corner, he better be prepared to take a pay-cut.
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