Chad Greenway figures to make around $10 million this season under the terms of the one-year franchise tag he received from the Vikings before the NFL lockout commenced in March.
The linebacker is in no way scoffing at such a big payday -- "To play for that amount of money for one season is incredible," he said -- but his preference would be to get a long-term deal. It appears the team will have plenty of incentive to give him that security once the work stoppage ends, something that could happen this week.
The reason the Vikings would want to make such a move is simple. They reportedly are going to be $5.1 million over the $120.4 million salary cap, and extending Greenway's contract would be one way of lessening what would be about a $10 million cap hit.
"Obviously by signing the franchise tag, basically it puts them under the gun where the salary cap is going to come back in at," Greenway said Sunday before attending the annual Starkey Hearing Foundation event at RiverCentre in St. Paul. "So we need to be smart about the opportunities we're going to have. We think that we want to be in Minnesota, but at the same time, we want to do what's best for us as well."
Greenway's contract is one of many issues the Vikings are going to potentially have to deal with in the coming days. Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson is entering the last season of his rookie contract, will certainly want a contract extension and currently would have a monster cap hit of $12.775 million for 2011. As with Greenway, the Vikings could shrink that number, and give themselves flexibility to sign free agents or make moves, by giving Peterson a long-term deal.
Then there is the issue of Sidney Rice, who will be one of the top free-agent wide receivers on the market, even though he missed much of last season following hip surgery. Rice was supposed to walk the red carpet at the Starkey event but failed to appear. He will be looking to cash in, but would the Vikings offer up much guaranteed money to a talented player who has had one standout season in his four years and has played in all 16 regular-season games only once?
"You'd always love to see Sid return, but he's his own person, he's his own man," Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian said. "He's got to make decisions for him and his family and that's the way you've really got to look at it. I love Sid. He's a great player, he's going to do great things wherever he plays at. Hopefully, he'll be here."
There is some question about whether Berrian will remain in Minnesota, too. He is coming off a disappointing 2010 season in which he caught 28 passes for 252 yards and no touchdowns and carries a cap number of $6.3 million for 2011. Berrian, though, refuses to worry about what might happen.
"Until I hear otherwise, I'm just really ready to get back to work," he said. "If we have to cut ties, then we have to cut ties. ... I definitely do feel good about being in Minnesota still. But you know how the game works, we all know it's a business and sometimes things don't work out the way we want."
Berrian, 30, did not dismiss the possibility that he would be willing to restructure his contact, saying he would have to discuss that matter with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, if the Vikings approached him.
"Whatever happens, it's going to happen, one way or the other," Berrian said.
Greenway, meanwhile, has led the Vikings in tackles the past three seasons, and keeping him happy will be a top priority. He said the talks he had with the Vikings before they put the franchise tag on him indicated the team wants "to be pretty aggressive" with getting a long-term deal done.
But Greenway, the Vikings' first-round pick in 2006, said he won't make any quick decisions in signing the second contract of his NFL career.
"It's not one of those things where the first contract they put up you're going to sign the paper because that's what you want," he said. "We're going to make sure we get a fair deal and what we deserve and go from there. The [Vikings] have been good to us and they've never one time turned their back or lied to us at all, so at this point I have no reason to think that the Vikings would do anything different besides be a great organization. So that's what we're hoping for but if not we'll move on."