Monday, March 03, 2008

Weekend Roundup: BERNARD BERRIAN!!!

In one of the better sports weekends in my recent memory, the Hoyas came away with an amazing come from behind win at #21 Marquette, the Vikings filled some of the holes in their roster, including the signing of a legitimate wide receiver who is an actual deep threat, something the Purple haven't had since they traded Randy Moss away after the 2004 season.

The signing of Berrian is huge. And when I say huge, I mean "create a 'hope' tag for the first time" huge. He was, quite simply, the best receiver available to the Vikings on the free agent market. When I wrote about him earlier, I didn't expect him to make it away from Chicago, because I expected da Bears to either sign him or use the franchise tag on him. They didn't do either, and because of Zygi Wilf's willingness to spend money to make his team better (this is the second time since he took over in 2005 that the Vikings have made a splash in free agency), the Vikings have added the biggest piece missing from their offense (assuming that the Purple are planning on continuing the Tarvaris Revolution).

And while Berrian has never had 1000 yards receiving, or 100 receptions, what he has done is produce despite having mediocre to bad quarterbacks throwing him the ball. No matter what your opinion of Tarvaris is, he's not that much worse than Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman and Brian Griese, especially when you consider that da Bears played in conditions that weren't favorable to passing.

Of course, some seem to think that the Vikings overpaid for Berrian. His contract for six years included $16 million in guaranteed money and was worth $42 million overall, which makes him the fourth highest paid receiver in the NFL. Is he the 4th best receiver in the NFL? Probably not. That's a flawed metric to use in order to determine if the Vikings overpaid, however, because the market for free agents this year is different than last year's, or the year before that, or the year before that. The question one needs to ask to determine if the Vikings overpaid is to determine whether they could have used the money to acquire a better player and if Berrian's value to the Vikings is worth the cap space he takes up. I think he was the best receiver available and that he will be more than worth the money to the Vikings and to Adrian Peterson, who will only have to run into eight and nine man fronts, instead of the nine and ten man fronts he saw last year.

First off, Berrian greatly upgrades the Vikings' weakest position, something that the Purple absolutely had to do this off season. Secondly, the Vikings had the cap room to spend, something they are likely to continue to have, considering the ability they have shown at managing their cap (for example, Chester Taylor, Steve Hutchinson and the rest of the Vikings' big signings in 2005 didn't effect their ability to pursue free agents last year or to sign free agents this year). Finally, when one considers that Donte' Stallworth, a receiver who was an inferior version of Berrian, signed a contract for seven years, with $10 million of it's $35 million total guaranteed, Berrian's contract looks a lot better. One of the keys to free agency is to spend your money on the best talent. Where a team can get itself in trouble is when it starts shelling out money to mid range talent. And Berrian was clearly the best talent available at wide receiver. And now he's a Viking.

As I said earlier in the post, it was a good weekend.

[Up next--Who's left the Purple, Who's rushing the quarterback, and Maurice Hicks & Jabar Gaffney]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That "cap management" is something of an aberration.

Just about every significant contract for a Vikings player includes performance bonuses with large payouts but outlandish stipulations. An example of this is Daunte Culpepper's 2003 contract; allegedly one of his performance bonuses required him to be on the field for at least 75% of the special teams plays for the season.

Now the reason I brought that up is because of an NFL rule regarding performance bonuses. Ostensibly, if the sum of all bonuses that were not earned is greater than the sum of bonuses that were actually earned, the difference in amount is applied to the team's salary cap the following season. Sports Illustrated's Reuben Frank recently posted a good write up of this in action, although this kind of thing has been going on since McCombs owned the team.

In all likelihood the overpaying for Berrian and Williams that's perceived to be foolish by many (read: other team's fans) is a necessary step that lets the Vikings inflate their salary cap figure next year. This year it's almost $18.5 million more than the league average, which probably has less to do with the offseason signings of Shiancoe and Wade but is likely attributable to the mid-2006 season contract extensions for McKinnie, Henderson and Kevin Williams.

As for Berrian, I hope he's not as one-dimensional as made out to be in Chicago (burner only productive when running a lot of fly routes or comebacks, sloppy running most other routes, not fond of the middle/underneath). Supposedly he's gotten better every year (especially the route-running), but I have no real perspective on that, having seen little of him in seasons prior to 2007.