MANKATO, Minn. -- After looking at the most valuable contracts in the NFL, Grantland's Bill Barnwell debuted his All-Bad Contracts team late last week. The Vikings didn't have any players on Barnwell's first list, but they had two appear on his second.
Both wide receiver Greg Jennings and defensive end Everson Griffen made Barnwell's list, thanks to the five-year deals the Vikings gave both players in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Jennings' first season in Minnesota was tarnished by the Vikings' uncertainty at quarterback, and his numbers (68 catches, 804 yards and four touchdowns) were his worst in a season where he played more than eight games since his rookie year. Griffen got $20 million of a $42.5 million deal guaranteed this March, and he'll be a full-time starter for the first time this fall.
Here's what Barnwell said about both deals:
On Jennings: "Wanting a new no. 1 wideout for young quarterback Christian Ponder, the Vikings went shopping in free agency and came away with Jennings, who was once a star for the Packers. Despite the fact that he would be moving from Aaron Rodgers to Ponder, the Vikes authorized a five-year, $45 million deal for Jennings, who would turn 30 at the beginning of the 2013 season. He finished with a pedestrian 68 catches for 804 yards and four touchdowns in his first season away from Lambeau; the good news, perhaps, is that there’s no further guaranteed money in Jennings’s deal after 2014."
On Griffen: "A promising backup who has accrued 17.5 sacks across four seasons with Minnesota while playing behind Jared Allen and Brian Robison, Griffen was marked for the starting lineup after Allen’s contract expired this past offseason. The only problem? Griffen was also about to hit free agency. To avoid losing him, the Vikings gave the 26-year-old a stunning deal. Despite starting just one career pro game, Griffen was signed to a five-year, $42.5 million contract that guarantees him nearly $20 million. If Minnesota had that much faith in Griffen, why didn’t it extend him during his time as a backup, when he surely would have come cheaper? The best-case scenario is that Griffen delivers on his promise and lives up to the massive deal. The worst-case? Minnesota just gave a superstar’s deal to a player best used in small doses."
A couple points to add here: First, the Vikings talked with Griffen about a contract in general terms during the 2013 season, but didn't make serious progress toward a deal until the days and weeks before the start of free agency. And second, as Barnwell points out, the guaranteed money on both deals is such that even if the contracts turn out to be bad ones, the Vikings won't feel the sting for long. They will have paid Jennings all $18 million guaranteed after this season, and all of the guaranteed money in Griffen's deal comes within the first two seasons, as well. The pay-as-you-go approach means the Vikings won't have to worry about dead money later in the deals, and they've also got some leverage if they eventually need to think about restructuring one or both contracts.
It's certainly possible that Jennings will rebound this season, Griffen will turn into the player the Vikings paid him to be and both deals will work out fine, but it's not a stretch to say there's an onus on both players to prove they're worth the deals the Vikings gave them.