As with any team in professional sports, the Minnesota Vikings have some players performing at a much different level than what their salary would provide for.
Whether they be overpaid or underpaid, it is essential that the team fix this problem so that they can not only make cap space to bring in guys that will perform, but keep the guys that are outperforming their contracts.
Keeping the salary cap under control allows teams to prevent their players from holding out and allows them to sign major free agents that can be the "missing pieces" in putting together a championship team.
The Vikings are a long way from being a championship team again but if G.M. Rick Speilman can keep the cap under control now, he should have plenty of resources to make some big signings when the team is ready to compete.
Using salary information from Spotrac, here's a look at five guys that are playing at a different level than what their contract may provide for.
The addition of John Carlson was the biggest move the Vikings front office made in the 2012 offseason.
I lead with Carlson because he has not gotten a chance to prove himself yet, but seems quite overpaid from the outside looking in.
Carlson was given a five-year contract worth $25 million, making him the eighth highest paid player on the team.
Though the contract is "back-loaded," meaning that the bulk of his earnings will be in the last two years of the deal, $2.9 million in each of his first two seasons with the Vikings seems like a bit much for a guy that sat out 2011 with an injury.
Still, Carlson could prove all of the doubters wrong and come up big as a leading receiver for the team. Given that he's the third-highest paid offensive player—behind Adrian Peterson and Jon Sullivan—there's no doubt that he will be starting.
Despite missing most of the last two seasons due to injuries, Jasper Brinkley is penciled in as the starter at middle linebacker for the Vikings.
Drafted in the fifth round in 2009, Brinkley's rookie contract provides $1.9 million over four years. In the final year of his contract, Brinkley is set to make $565,000.
This does not just make him the lowest paid starter on the Vikings roster, it makes him paid lower than rookies and non-starters like rookie DE Trevor Guyton or WR Jarius Wright, who makes nearly double what Brinkley makes.
I'm not advocating for Brinkley. I'm not trying to say that I like him as the starter. I'm not even saying that he deserves a pay increase because he's a starter.
I'm saying that in comparison to guys that have not played a snap in the NFL, Brinkley is severely underpaid, especially considering the fact that the Vikings seem so confident in him as the starter.
Michael Jenkins may be the most blindly overpaid player on the Vikings roster.
The 30-year-old receiver was given a three-year contract in 2011 worth $9 million. In 2012 and 2013, Jenkins will make $2.5 million and a $666,666 signing bonus in both years.
This contract makes Jenkins the ninth highest paid Viking and the 17th highest paid receiver in the NFL. You could argue that he is the best prototypical receiver on the Vikings roster, but he's not even in the top 30 in the league.
Though he showed flashes in 2011, he does not deserve starter money. Jenkins could not finish the 2011 season because of injury and disappeared against even average corners.
Expect Jenkins to either take a pay cut at training camp or to be cut because of his age and lack of productivity.
I think you all knew this one was coming.
Percy Harvin is the most underpaid player on the Vikings roster—and he knows it.
Harvin is the most valuable offensive player that will be ready to start for week 1. Without Adrian Peterson on the field, Minnesota is the Percy Harvin Show.
After being selected in the first round in 2008, Harvin was given a five-year contract worth $12 million. In 2012, Harvin is set to make under $1 million, and is just hitting his stride as one of the best playmakers in the NFL.
Because of how the Vikings use Harvin in both the passing and running games, the salary he deserves is tough to determine. One thing is for certain, though, and that is that Percy Harvin deserves to get paid.
The Vikings need to figure out this situation, and they need to do it sooner rather than later. Along with being one of the best offensive players on the roster, Harvin is a leader in the locker room and the team can not allow him to become an enigma as they try to rebuild into a championship product.
Antoine Winfield has consistently been the best player in the Vikings secondary since he joined the team in 2004.
The former Pro Bowl corner received his largest contract in 2009 that spanned five years and was worth $36 million.
Though he is making significantly less in the last two seasons of his contract, Winfield likely will not be a starter any more as the Vikings try to help him preserve his body for the remainder of his career.
The team has said multiple times that they have no interest in moving Winfield to safety, so it will instead use him in the nickel corner role to get him on the field but limit his snaps.
Even so, $3 million is simply too much money for a player that has ended his last three seasons on IR and is not in condition to start any longer. Should Winfield get injured even one more time, I would expect him to retire from the game.
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