Re-Evaluating Minnesota Vikings' Worst Player Contracts

Matthew StensrudContributor IIIJanuary 31, 2014

Re-Evaluating Minnesota Vikings' Worst Player Contracts

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    Christian Ponder and Greg Jennings are both under contract with the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. Are they worth it?
    Christian Ponder and Greg Jennings are both under contract with the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. Are they worth it?Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings have already made sweeping changes following their 2013 season, with new head coach Mike Zimmer and coordinators Norv Turner and George Edwards joining the team.

    General manager Rick Spielman will have his hands full this offseason reviewing current free agents and preparing for the upcoming NFL draft.

    But another part of his job will be to review current players under contract and make decisions that could ultimately determine the player's future with the club.

    We've broken down five of the worst contracts for Minnesota heading into 2014.

    These deals may be bad for a variety of reasons, including performance this season, comparison to other player contracts at the position, cap hit next year and viability for the future.

    For example, fullback Jerome Felton was excluded from this list, despite ranking as the most overpaid player by Forbes prior to the 2013 season.

    He ended up ranking as the sixth-best fullback by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and has a similar contract to some of the fullbacks just ahead of him, such as Mike Tolbert and John Kuhn.

    The following players, on the other hand, don't quite have the same return on investment given the overall cost of their current deals.

     

    Statistics courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise noted. Player rankings and advanced statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    All contract details courtesy of Spotrac.com.

5. Letroy Guion

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    Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract: Three years, $9 million

    2014 Cap Hit: $4.3 million

    PFF Ranking: 60 out of 69

     

    One contract the Vikings must review in the offseason is that of Letroy Guion. The six-year veteran is approaching the final year of a three-year deal.

    Given his performance over the past season as demonstrated by PFF, not to mention ranking dead last among 85 defensive tackles in 2012, Guion has not lived up to the investment made by his team.

    As currently inked, Guion's contract simply doesn't make sense given his output. The Vikings are in a favorable position where they could either drastically restructure Guion's deal or simply cut the defender and only take a $300,000 hit for dead money.

     

4. Christian Ponder

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract: Four years, $10.15 million

    2014 Cap Hit: $3.232 million

    PFF Ranking: 35 out of 42

     

    Christian Ponder's days in Minnesota are clearly numbered as he approaches the final year of his rookie contract.

    Unfortunately for the Vikings, the cost is the same whether the team decides to keep or cut the three-year quarterback, making this an awful contract given the situation.

    Spielman and his coaching staff must decide whether to keep Ponder as a potential backup to Matt Cassel or another incoming player, or simply cut ties with the former No. 12 draft pick so both parties can have a fresh start.

    I'd recommend the latter option to avoid further distraction in Minnesota, which may be more beneficial than the $3.232 million the team would still have to swallow.

     

3. Greg Jennings

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    Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract: Five years, $45 million

    2014 Cap Hit: $7 million

    PFF Ranking: 41 out of 111

     

    When Greg Jennings signed with the Vikings in March of 2013, he was immediately tagged as the team's No. 1 wide receiver.

    Coming off a mediocre year in Green Bay where he only recorded 36 receptions for 366 yards and four touchdowns, the former Packer was hoping to rebound in Minnesota.

    Unfortunately, Jennings had an underwhelming season given the price tag and such high expectations. He finished the year with 68 grabs for 804 yards and four touchdowns.

    In comparison, Jerome Simpson collected 48 receptions for 726 yards and one touchdown. He did so at a cap hit of $2.1 million rather than $5 million for Jennings.

    After a cap hit of $7 million this coming season, the veteran receiver is scheduled to contribute $11 million in each season from 2015-2017.

    Given this was the first year of Jennings' contract, not to mention the level of instability at quarterback, we're willing to see how this one plays out. 

    But 2014 will be a big year for Jennings to prove he was worth the lucrative contract he received from the Vikings front office.

     

2. John Carlson

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    David Seelig/Associated Press

    Contract: Five years, $25 million

    2014 Cap Hit: $5 million

    PFF Ranking: 17 out of 64

     

    John Carlson found a great opportunity in Minnesota heading into the 2012 season, signing a lengthy contract with $9.1 million in guaranteed money.

    But after a dismal season where the former Seattle Seahawk only recorded eight catches for 43 yards and zero touchdowns, the Vikings were able to restructure his contract for 2013. The team reduced his base salary from $2.9 million to $1.5 million, resulting in a more favorable cap hit of $2.55 million.

    The Vikings are now in a similar position regarding Carlson's contract. While his numbers improved to 32 receptions for 344 yards and one touchdown, the question remains whether that matches up to the cap hit for 2014, especially given Carlson's injury history with concussions (three since 2011).

    If Minnesota simply cuts Carlson, they'll be on the hook for $3 million of dead money, which accelerates his signing bonus currently spread over three years. The same will be true if Carlson decides to retire as a result of his concussions.

    The Vikings are somewhat hamstrung in this scenario, with the best option involving another restructured contract and medical clearance. 

1. Chad Greenway

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    Andy King/Associated Press

    Contract: Five years, $40.6 million

    2014 Cap Hit: $8.2 million

    PFF Ranking: 34 out of 35

     

    Finally, the worst player contract belongs to linebacker Chad Greenway. With a scheduled cap hit of $8.2 million for 2014, the longtime Viking only stands behind Adrian Peterson in cost next year ($14.4 million).

    On first pass, you could argue that Greenway deserves the money. He just finished his sixth-straight season leading the team in tackles, joining Scott Studwell as the only player in franchise history to accomplish that feat.

    However, the number of tackles for Greenway did not translate into superior run or pass defense. As ranked by PFF for outside linebackers in a 4-3 scheme, he finished 34th overall (out of 35), 31st against the run and dead last in pass defense.

    While I'm not advocating that Spielman cut Greenway outright, an action that would still result in $3.4 million of dead money, the front office must seriously work to restructure a deal with a more favorable cap hit in 2014.

    Greenway is currently signed through 2015 and has been a steady presence on defense for Minnesota over the years among an incredibly volatile group. 

    However, in order to upgrade at key positions, the Vikings will need additional cap room to target the free-agent market. And Greenway's contract, as it stands, hampers that pursuit.

     

    Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+