In our story today in the Star Tribune, we wrote about five key issues facing the Vikings when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is finally in place and the lockout is lifted. (And, folks, eventually that is going to happen.)
Issue No. 1 was the fact that Vikings are going to have some work to do managing the salary cap. ESPN's John Clayton has reported the cap is going to be $120 million and that the Vikings will be $5.1 million over that limit.
One way to cut salary in quick fashion would be to jettison guys like wide receiver Bernard Berrian ($6.258 million cap hit) and safety Madieu Williams ($5.5 million). Left guard Steve Hutchinson has a cap number of $6.73 million and could be a candidate to have his deal restructured.
However, it now appears that guys like Berrian, Williams and Hutchinson might not be in as much trouble as first thought. Pro Football Talk reported today that the new deal is expected to protect veterans from becoming cap casualties.
There weren't any real details in the PFT story but considering how fluid this situation is that's not surprising. One likely scenario could be that the salary cap in 2011 would be a soft cap that would give teams some type of relief in order to keep veterans.
This does make sense given that when unrestricted free agency opens there likely will be 400-plus players on the market. Forcing teams to cut veterans to get under the cap would put even more guys in a situation of trying to look for a job in a very short period of time.
Update: There will be special transition rules to protect veteran players in 2011, when the salary cap will be $120.375 million. All teams will have approximately $3.5 million in what would otherwise be performance-based pay available to fund veteran player salaries. Each club may "borrow" up to $3 million in cap room from a future year, which may be used to support veteran player costs.
Ponder eager to get to work
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder returned to the Larry Fitzgerald-led workouts Thursday on the University of Minnesota campus for the third time this week. Ponder plans to keep working out and throwing passes at the facility through Tuesday, when it's expected the workouts will end. (Here's Star Tribune video of Ponder in action.)
But Ponder said the second he is able to have contact with Vikings' coaches, he will be on his way to Winter Park. The Vikings will want all their draft picks in the facility in short order because that group will need to play some serious catch up.
"Once this thing gets lifted, I'm definitely going to head straight to the facility, give Coach [Bill] Musgrave a call, sit down with him and hopefully talk some ball," Ponder said. "We report [July] 31st [so I will] do everything I can until that day."
Ponder last was able to talk to Musgrave, the Vikings' new offensive coordinator, in late April right after he was drafted and during a brief window when the lockout was lifted. He said his plan Monday and Tuesday -- if the lockout is over --would be to go to the University of Minnesota campus in the morning and then spend the afternoon studying with Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson.
Ponder said he has not been able to get his hands on any of the Vikings film from last season so he can study plays or players, but he added that he doesn't know if that would help much since the system will change under Musgrave. "I've had no access to film," Ponder said. "That's been really frustrating to me. As a quarterback you like to watch some film."
Ponder did get a clip of Falcons film -- Musgrave was the quarterbacks coach in Atlanta -- from one of the coaches he worked with this offseason. "Other than that, it hasn't been really much," Ponder said.
Ponder admitted he was very rusty throwing passes on Monday, after he took two weeks off to take care of matters. But Thursday seemed to go far better.
"I'm just getting more comfortable with what I'm doing," said Ponder, who found a place to live this week in Eden Prairie near the Vikings facility. "Getting my feet back underneath me and getting comfortable with everything."
Told it seemed he was opening it up with his arm, Ponder agreed: "I am, I am. I'm just feeling more comfortable, knocking all that rust off. Took two weeks off, which probably wasn't the smartest thing, but had so many things to take care of to get up here. But I'm getting back into it and it's getting better."
Ponder praised the fact there are so many receivers at the Fitzgerald workout and likes the fact he can get his arm ready to go without overdoing it.
"The good thing is we get a decent amount of throws here but we're not throwing too many," he said. "We're not throwing posts. We have a couple of go-routes but that's about it. So nothing too crazy but it's been good work."
Waiting to hear
Vikings defensive end Brian Robison, one of 10 plaintiffs in the "Tom Brady vs. NFL" antitrust lawsuit, said he doesn't know any details regarding the reports fellow plaintiffs Logan Mankins and Vincent Jackson are asking to either be unrestricted free agents or be given $10 million each once the CBA is in place.
"I haven't been briefed yet," Robison said. "That's something that they really have to call each person about, so I have not been spoken to about it yet. That's something that I have to get a hold of my agent and see what's going on with that whole deal. But the bottom line is I'm just ready to start football and that's all that really matters to me."
The final word
Ponder on if he had spoken to wide receiver Sidney Rice, who almost certainly will be an unrestricted free agent when the CBA is done: "I talked to him early this summer, but other than that I haven't had too many conversations with him. Hopefully, he comes back. It would be nice, it would be good for me. And, if not, obviously we have a lot of good guys and probably would bring in someone else as well."