The Vikings are actually in pretty good shape regarding their soon-to-be-expiring contracts. They have a bunch, sure, but only a few can be viewed as critical.
Four of these qualify, and one may be a guy who has some worth but pleaded himself out of it.
Jerome Felton: 3/20/2012: Signed a one-year, $750,000 contract. The deal contains a $50,000 workout bonus. 2012: $700,000, 2013: free agent
Felton is a solid player, one I have followed closely since he came into the league. He is a very good fullback in my opinion, though coming into camp behind Ryan D'Imperio wasn't like someone handing him the job.
He was going to have to fight for a spot—even before he caught that recent DUI. Now, he might not even make the roster. Even if he does, he has no margin for error and had better be outstanding this season.
D'Imperio isn't Tony Richardson. He's not even John Conner. He is, however, a solid fullback who I saw make some heads up blocks last season, who knows the offense and who isn't an off-the-field problem.
Felton wasn't that before—he may be now, and it could cost him a job.
Jaspar Brinkley: 6/30/2009: Signed a four-year, $1.936 million contract. The deal included a $186,000 signing bonus. 2012: $565,000, 2013: Free Agent
Brinkley missed all of 2011 with an injury, so it's now or never. Right now, he's penciled in as middle linebacker, though whether he'll be a three or two-down player remains to be seen.
Who can the Vikings least live without?
With Greenway and Henderson flanking him, there is no reason to think he can't have a big year at the spot—and if he can't have at least an improved year, it will be hard to see the Vikings bringing him back.
Part of the problem is a lack of depth, though, so the alternating viewpoint is, can they afford to let him skate after 2012?
Depending on who hits free agency and what the draft looks like at the linebacker position, Brinkley could still find himself on the street with a bad enough season.
Speaking of Henderson...
Erin Henderson: 3/23/2012: Signed a one-year, $2 million contract. The deal contains $550,000 in workout and roster bonus money. 2012: $1.45 million, 2013: free agent
Henderson signed a short-term deal, but he might have long-term value, and if he performs, it's going to be hard for the Vikings to re-sign both. Not impossible because we all know the teams can find a way.
Of the two, it would have to be Henderson if he keeps up the good work (44 tackles. 26 assists and 1.5 sacks). He impressed in his first year as a starter—he'll have plenty of chances to do so again as a second-year three-down linebacker.
Phil Loadholt: 7/29/2009: Signed a four-year, $3.425 million contract. The deal contains $1.675 million guaranteed, including a $1.2 million signing bonus. Another $15,000 is available through incentives. 2012: $615,000, 2013: free agent
Loadholt is a mauler on the right side and is outstanding at opening holes for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart on that side. While Charlie Johnson could slide over to right tackle if Matt Kalil pans out, more likely, they'll keep him at left guard and do what they can to lock Loadholt down for a reasonable price.
I don't believe Loadholt will ask for the moon, so it's a good bet they can work it out. He'll have a solid year again and be back in 2013 barring injury. The Vikings might want to look into a future replacement for him, but he has plenty in the tank.
Jamarca Sanford: 6/22/2009: Signed a four-year, $1.799 million contract. The deal included a $49,275 signing bonus. 2012: $565,000, 2013: free agent
Sanford is in a tough spot—both he and Mistral Raymond, the difference being that Raymond will be under contract in 2013 and Sanford will not.
Both have rookie Harrison Smith breathing down their necks, and we're not even in training camp yet.
One of these two is likely not going to have much of a future with the team. Sanford had an OK year in 2011 but he has to be on the field if he's going to stay with the team.
If he can't, there's a good chance he'll be wearing another jersey in 2013.
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