Hartman: Vikings spend in free agency

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2013 - 12:17 AM

The person who benefitted the most from all three signings has to be quarterback Christian Ponder.

Well, those who thought the Vikings didn’t re-sign Percy Harvin because they wouldn’t match the five-year, $65.5 million contract Seattle was willing to pay him learned money wasn’t the problem Friday when the team signed former Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings for a contract that allows him to earn a maximum of $47.5 million over five years, with $18 million guaranteed.

Harvin’s contract has a guarantee of $25.5 million.

If Jennings doesn’t get injured, he has a good chance to earn at least $27 million over the first three years of the deal and even more if he makes the Pro Bowl.

The Vikings must have set some kind of record when it came to spending for free agents when they first signed offensive tackle Phil Loadholt to a four-year, $25 million contract and then added quarterback Matt Cassel for two years, with it voided after next season, guaranteed for $3.7 million for the first year.

That money was a lot more than was expected for the Vikings to spend so early in free agency.

The person who benefitted the most from all three signings has to be quarterback Christian Ponder.

The addition of Jennings gives him the first-class receiver he didn’t have after Harvin got hurt.

The signing of Loadholt means the offensive line that protected him so well last year will return intact.

And finally, the signing of Cassel will give Ponder a veteran quarterback who has been a starter for Kansas City and New England and can share the knowledge he has picked up as a starting quarterback the past five seasons.

“You can just get the sense that he needed a little more around him to give him some help,” Jennings said about Ponder. “Hopefully I can help him a bit.”

Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave pointed that out when Cassel was signed. Certainly 2012 backup quarterback Joe Webb was in no position to help Ponder with the lack of experience he had playing in the NFL.

Vikings will face Harvin, Seahawks

Entering Week 9 of the NFL season, Harvin had 60 receptions to be tied for the league lead, was second in receiving yards and kickoff average return and it was at Seattle where the new Seahawks wide receiver was injured last season.

Now it is going to be interesting, because the Vikings play at Seattle again this year when Harvin will be on the opposing side. The date hasn’t been set here.

Incidentally Russell Wilson, the former Badgers quarterback who had a great year in Seattle, is being paid $750,000 for the next two seasons. Sidney Rice, the former Vikings receiver now with Seattle, recently signed for five years at $41 million.

Where will Gray play?

Former Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray has been speculating about what position he might play in the NFL.

“I’ve been hearing is I’m probably going to be doing a lot of stand-up tight-end type, being that move-around guy,” Gray said. “[An] H-back tight end, so I’m doing a lot of work now to get myself ready for that, as well as running routes and throwing the ball in case different types of teams have different perspectives on how they want to use me.

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