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singersp
08-31-2006, 07:19 AM
Backup QBs take a pass on miserly Vikings (http://www.startribune.com/510/story/646445.html)
Paying a benchwarmer's salary to starter Brad Johnson left the Vikings with few options in the search for his understudy.

Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
Last update: August 31, 2006 – 5:54 AM

The Vikings fell on their hands and knees Wednesday morning, begging A.J. Feeley to rescue them from a self-inflicted crisis. Though they never would admit it, the Vikings were offering Feeley the opportunity to sign a contract and take over as their No. 2 quarterback for the Sept. 11 season opener at Washington.
Instead, Feeley returned to Philadelphia, where he played from 2001-03. The Vikings? They were left with the middling group of Tarvaris Jackson, Mike McMahon and J.T. O'Sullivan to continue competing for a role that should be decided in tonight's preseason finale at Dallas.

The Vikings' decision to assemble quarterback depth on the cheap already has backfired. In football and in life, you get what you pay for -- and 12 days before they start playing for real, the Vikings don't seem to have a viable option should something happen to starter Brad Johnson.

In somewhat of a twist, the void is rooted in Johnson's ascension to the starting role with a contract that pays him a backup's salary ($1.2 million in 2006). Because they made no move to increase that figure -- a decision well within their rights -- the Vikings triggered an unfortunate domino effect.

According to an agent who represents a veteran backup, the Vikings made it clear they would not sign a potential No. 2 quarterback seeking a salary equal to or greater than Johnson's.

The Vikings certainly are not the first NFL team to avoid paying a backup more than a starter. But only one team, Cleveland, is paying its starting quarterback (Charlie Frye) less than the Vikings have committed to Johnson. By one count, there are 40 quarterbacks -- starters and backups -- who are poised to earn more than $1.2 million this season.

That limitation, entirely self-imposed, forced the Vikings to sift through the least attractive members of the free agent class. They never competed for Jon Kitna, Josh McCown or Brian Griese. Buffalo outbid them for Craig Nall, and just this week, Kerry Collins signed with Tennessee -- for nearly $2 million in 2006 compensation.

Left with few options, the Vikings signed McMahon to a two-year contract worth $2 million, acquiring a player who never has demonstrated an ability to provide reliable and consistent relief work. To what should have been no one's surprise, McMahon has played so poorly this preseason (four completions in 16 attempts, 23.7 passer rating) that Jackson passed him on the depth chart two weeks ago.

Without question, Jackson has provided a pleasant surprise in his first training camp. But are there many NFL teams, at least those with playoff aspirations, who would be comfortable opening the season with a rookie backup from a Division I-AA school?

Not the Vikings, at least based on reports of their earnest pursuit of Feeley.

The Vikings never have articulated their position on Johnson's contract, but there are legitimate salary cap reasons for delaying the decision -- namely, saving space for signing veterans at other positions during the flurry of final cuts this weekend.

If they use up most of their space in that endeavor, the Vikings could offer Johnson a bonus that pro-rates over the final three years of his contract to limit its impact on the 2006 cap.

But even if Johnson gets a new deal today, some of the damage is irreversible. Will another Feeley-like option present itself this weekend? Part of Feeley's attractiveness is that he knows Vikings coach Brad Childress' offense from their time together in Philadelphia. Would pursuing a player such as, say, Buffalo's Kelly Holcomb, be worth the effort?

Childress built his NFL reputation on developing quarterbacks; Feeley, Donovan McNabb and Koy Detmer all succeeded under his tutelage. But even Childress understands the folly of believing that any passer can be developed into a legitimate NFL quarterback.

Speaking earlier this summer on the topic, Childress said the idea of a quarterback that "doesn't have to win games but just can't get you beat" is flawed.

"A guy that touches the ball 50 or 60 or 70 times a game is going to be pretty important," Childress said. "He's going to have something to do with the outcome."

Johnson has maintained his excellent physical condition, and his continued health would render the issue moot. Yet should the unthinkable happen, the Vikings will have only themselves to blame -- no matter how much they beg.


Kevin Seifert • kseifert@startribune.com

Turboe
08-31-2006, 09:18 AM
I saw this story too, I guess I missed the original note when Feely signed with Philadelphia, that is too bad, I would have liked to see him in uniform for us.

NodakPaul
08-31-2006, 09:24 AM
The Vikings never have articulated their position on Johnson's contract, but there are legitimate salary cap reasons for delaying the decision -- namely, saving space for signing veterans at other positions during the flurry of final cuts this weekend.

If they use up most of their space in that endeavor, the Vikings could offer Johnson a bonus that pro-rates over the final three years of his contract to limit its impact on the 2006 cap.

Interesting...

jargomcfargo
08-31-2006, 11:30 AM
What kind of article would Mr. Seifert have written if we had OVERPAID a backup or someone cut from another team.
The Vikings aren't going to get any love no matter what they do!
I wouldn't want any of those guys mentioned unless we could get them cheap.

cajunvike
08-31-2006, 11:43 AM
TJ could step in and do just fine...yeah, it's risky, but other rookies (Rottenburger) have stepped in and done just fine.

Besides, we could always pick up Detmer...who would have to be an improvement over McNotaman!

Slade
08-31-2006, 11:55 AM
I dunno, I was not that impressed with Feely when he was in Miami either. He was handed the starting job, but couldn't hang. I don't think its that big of a deal

finnishvikingsfan
08-31-2006, 12:00 PM
Wasn't Jay Fiedler cut last night?
I think we would do alright as a backup to Brad.

Chad8970
08-31-2006, 12:00 PM
Fiedler is hurt and can't play for the first 4-6 games.

finnishvikingsfan
08-31-2006, 12:26 PM
Oh I didnt Fiedler was injuried.
All I know is we need a backup better than O' Sullivan.
I really think McMahon will get cut he has done nothing for the team.