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The Vikings took another step toward severing ties with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson after five often turbulent seasons Thursday by electing not to use a restricted free-agent tender on the quarterback.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

Vikings finally close file on Jackson

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD and CHIP SCOGGINS
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • March 4, 2011 - 9:33 AM

The Vikings and Tarvaris Jackson both wanted to move on.

The team took another step toward severing ties with Jackson after five often turbulent seasons Thursday by electing not to use a restricted free-agent tender on the quarterback.

Meanwhile, the Vikings and defensive end Brian Robison came to an agreement on a three-year, $14.1 million deal that included a $6.5 million signing bonus. All of this occurred as the NFL and the players' association agreed to a 24-hour extension of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) so negotiations could continue.

Robison had been one of seven players to be tendered a qualifying offer by the Vikings. Also included on that list were safeties Husain Abdullah and Eric Frampton, offensive lineman Ryan Cook, defensive end Ray Edwards, linebacker Erin Henderson and wide receiver Sidney Rice.

The tenders could be meaningless depending on what happens with the yet-to-be established CBA, but the Vikings' decision not to tender Jackson means that no matter what happens, he will be free to seek employment elsewhere once the labor situation is resolved.

Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar are the quarterbacks on the Vikings roster, and the team could draft a quarterback, add one in free agency, or both.

No Vikings player was as linked to the Brad Childress coaching era as much as the 27-year-old Jackson. A product of Division I-AA Alabama State, he was drafted in the second round in 2006, Childress' first year with the team, and the expectation was he would be the quarterback of the future.

That never happened.

Jackson made a career-high 12 starts in 2007 but was replaced by Gus Frerotte after the Vikings opened the following season with losses to Green Bay and Indianapolis. He regained the job after Frerotte suffered a back injury late in the season and was the starter in the Vikings' 26-14 playoff loss to Philadelphia.

Jackson believed he would compete for the starting job with Sage Rosenfels in 2009, but then Brett Favre was signed. Jackson's only start the past two seasons came on Dec. 13 in the Vikings' 21-3 loss to the New York Giants at Detroit. He suffered a foot injury in that game and finished the season on injured reserve.

Often the focus of fan criticism, Jackson was booed at the Metrodome in the Vikings' exhibition finale this past season after throwing six consecutive incompletions against Denver and finishing 2-for-8 for 2 yards. Jackson said he didn't care about the boos.

After the season, he acknowledged a change of scenery might be best for him. "The grass isn't always greener on the other side," Jackson said then. "But it wasn't pretty green on this side either. I guess we'll see. ... A fresh start might be good."

While retaining Jackson wasn't a priority, keeping Robison long-term clearly was important to the Vikings.

Robison has served primarily as a backup defensive end and utility lineman in his four seasons with the Vikings. He made $550,000 last season and could replace Edwards at left defensive end, if Edwards becomes an unrestricted free agent.

"They kind of told me I was one of their priority guys, that they wanted to get back, and this definitely shows it," said Robison, who had a second-rounder tender placed on him. "This is definitely a big-time vote of confidence."

A fourth-round pick by the Vikings in 2007, Robison has appeared in 63 career regular-season games with seven starts. He was known as a situational pass rusher early in his career but worked to become a complete defensive end who is capable of playing on every down. Robison also played tackle in some nickel passing situations, but he felt he is ready to become a starting defensive end.

He admitted that he didn't know if he would get that opportunity with the Vikings. "I really wasn't sure, but my outlook was to just take things one day at a time," Robison said. "Just whatever opportunity I got, take advantage of it. ... That's just the way I look at things. I have to take advantage of my opportunities. Luckily I guess I did that well enough for the Vikings to be able to see that and give me this money."

In addition to Jackson, the Vikings did not place tenders on wide receiver Hank Baskett, defensive lineman Fred Evans, fullback Naufahu Tahi and running back Albert Young. Any of the non-tendered players could be re-signed if the Vikings want to pursue them at a lower price than it would have potentially cost to put a tag on them.

Before last year, the CBA called for players with four or more years of service to be unrestricted free agents. In the last year of the current CBA, however, players needed six years of service to become unrestricted. There is a chance the new labor agreement will go back to players only needing four years, meaning Cook, Edwards, Frampton and Rice would be free to explore their options on the open market.

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