The Vikings locked up one of their core players and cleared some much-needed salary space on Monday by signing strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway to a new five-year contract.
“This is a top-notch organization,” Greenway said. “I’m extremely excited to be here for another five years.”
Greenway, 28, would have made $10.091 million had he played out the season under the franchise tag. Instead, he received the security of a new deal that reportedly is worth as much as $41 million, with $20 million guaranteed.
“Chad has been an instrumental part of our success during his career, and he’s a guy who has improved every year he’s been a part of our defense,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “So, excited that that contract is behind him, and now he’ll be able to focus on the task at hand, and that’s going on and helping us to have a great season as a football team.”
Greenway is the 10th of 14 franchise players in the NFL to sign a multiyear deal, and it came just in time for the Vikings, who had less available salary-cap space than any team in the league entering cutdown weekend.
Had they failed to re-sign Greenway by Sept. 20, the Vikings would have had to carry that $10.091 cap number all season and run the risk of having to franchise him again or lose him in free agency come March.
“I think the next level for us is just restoring what we have here in 2009 — that confidence and swagger that we can get back to the playoffs, even though we play in a really tough division,” said Greenway, the 17th overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Iowa.
“Personally, just go out there and continue to be a consistent linebacker who goes out and gives it to you every week. Obviously, the big plays need to come and be a big part of this defense winning games.”
The Vikings now will turn their attention to re-signing star halfback Adrian Peterson, who is due a team-high $10.72 million in base salary with a $12.775 million cap number.
“I know that is something that’s being discussed, and hopefully, something will be done at some point,” Frazier said when asked about Peterson’s contract. “But we’ve got some people that are handling that as well. I’m sure Rob Brzezinski (the Vikings’ vice president of football operations) and our staff will do a good job bringing that to closure at some point.”
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES
–It appears rookie Christian Ponder will be the Vikings’ No. 2 quarterback, but that won’t stop talented second-year pro Joe Webb from getting on the field.
“He’s a tremendous talent,” Frazier said of Webb. “So, we’re exploring some options, and it’s just a matter of whether we want to do it now or two weeks from now, three weeks from now, but we want to utilize his gifts.”
The No. 12 overall pick in April’s draft, Ponder always was the favorite for the No. 2 job once the Vikings traded for veteran starter Donovan McNabb. He finished the preseason 27-of-49 passing (55.1 percent) for 290 yards, a touchdown and a 79.5 rating, putting on his most productive performance in Thursday’s preseason finale against Houston.
“I think that’s definitely big,” Ponder said. “Obviously, (everyone knew) coming in that it was crucial for me to secure that No. 2 spot. Now, it’s my job to keep it and keep progressing.”
–Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe returned to practice after missing the entire preseason with hamstring problems.
“He was smooth (Monday),” Frazier said of Shiancoe. “He looked good, and we’ve some work to do throughout this week, but first day back, he looked good. So, we’ll see how he does on Wednesday and just keep watching his progress.”
Asked if he can open it up, Shiancoe said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m about 100 percent right now. So, I’m good to go. I’m excited.”
–Jamarca Sanford will be the Vikings’ starting strong safety in Sunday’s opener at San Diego, but Frazier indicated Tyrell Johnson could get some reps in that game, too.
“We’re going to end up rotating those guys,” Frazier said, adding that Sanford will “take the first rotation and we’ll let it play out from there.”
Sanford and Johnson each started two games in the preseason. Johnson did not help his case in the preseason finale on Thursday night when he dropped what appeared to be a sure interception in the first quarter.
–The Vikings filled their practice squad with players they cut on Saturday.
That included guard/tackle Chris DeGeare, a fifth-round pick in 2010 who was among the most surprising names waived as teams reduced rosters to 53.
Also re-signed to the practice squad were: receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux, fullback Matt Asiata, receiver Stephen Burton, fullback Ryan D’Imperio, halfback Caleb King, defensive lineman Cedric McKinley and tight end Allen Reisner, who cleared waivers after being cut on Sunday afternoon.
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
–MLB Jasper Brinkley returned to Vikings headquarters for the first time since undergoing surgery last week for a hip injury suffered last season. “It’s one of those things that you don’t know until the symptoms start arriving,” Brinkley said. ” … It became clear something was wrong with me last week when it got to the point where I couldn’t hardly run.”
–WR Greg Camarillo confirmed he took a pay cut from $1.7 million to less than $1 million this season to stay with the Vikings. “My salary was too high for the spot I was on the depth chart,” Camarillo said. “You want to make as much money as possible. But at some point, you’ve got to come to the realization as to what your value is and where you are on the depth chart.”
–RB Toby Gerhart practiced on Monday and said the ankle and Achilles problems that ended his preseason are a nonissue.
–CB Asher Allen (toe) returned to practice on Monday.
–RB Lorenzo Booker (back) returned to practice on Monday.
–CB Chris Cook (hamstring) returned to practice on Monday.
–LB Xavier Adibi made his practice debut after being claimed off waivers from Houston on Sunday.
REPORT CARD ENTERING REGULAR SEASON
PASSING OFFENSE: C — QB Donovan McNabb was relatively efficient in the preseason, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 285 yards, a touchdown, a tipped-ball interception and an 86.0 rating. But do the Vikings have the vertical element to make their passing game dynamic? WR Bernard Berrian’s 49-yard touchdown against Dallas was a positive sign, but it remains to be seen how often the 30 year old can stretch the field like that in the regular season. The Vikings’ most dynamic receiver, slot man Percy Harvin, averaged only 6.4 yards on five preseason catches.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B — RB Adrian Peterson appears to be enjoying the freedom afforded by an altered running scheme featuring more power plays and less inside zone. The question here is, can the Vikings’ offensive line give Peterson more help — and stay healthy? C John Sullivan, who battled calf problems last season, is finishing better but remains physically limited. LG Steve Hutchinson is healthy, too, but he’s in obvious decline at age 33. RGAnthony Herrera is coming off a torn ACL. Experienced depth is almost nonexistent. Peterson can make just about any line look good, though.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — The secondary remains the biggest question of any position group, outside of veteran CB Antoine Winfield’s steady presence in the slot. How will CB Cedric Griffin’s two reconstructed knees hold up when he’s playing 70 snaps a game? Can CB Chris Cook shake off his mess of a rookie season as the third corner in the nickel? Will partnering SS Jamarca Sanford with FS Husain Abdullah solidify the back end after FS Madieu Williams’ release? The Sept. 11 opener against Philip Rivers and the Chargers should provide some immediate answers. There’s no question the Vikings need more from RE Jared Allen as a pass rusher than they got the first half of last season, too.
RUSH DEFENSE: B — Coaches were encouraged by the way the Vikings played the run in their third preseason game against Dallas, holding the Cowboys to 22 yards on nine carries (2.4 average) while the first unit was in the game. DT Letroy Guion has had a breakthrough camp and figures to hold down the three-technique spot while DT Kevin Williams serves a two-game suspension. If there’s a concern, it’s about NT Remi Ayodele taking over the nose for veteran NT Pat Williams, who remained an above-average run stopper in his limited snaps last season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C — PK Ryan Longwell scuffled more than expected in the preseason, but that’s not seen as a significant concern. It remains to be seen if Harvin can have his usual impact on kick returns given the rules changes. CB Marcus Sherels figures as the primary punt returner, although HB Lorenzo Booker and WR Greg Camarillo continue to take reps there.
COACHING: B-plus — Coach Leslie Frazier set a tone by releasing overweight LT Bryant McKinnie early in camp, and his message seems to be resonating with players. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has won friends by inviting players’ input. Defensive coordinator Fred Pagac seems more predisposed to sending pressure on third downs, which players always enjoy. It’s always sunshine and roses until the real games begin, though.