Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
If he wanted to play hardball, Thomas Tapeh could have walked away from the Minnesota Vikings with $1.855 million -- for two game's worth of work. It's likely he agreed to a settlement before the Vikings waived him Thursday, but the figure represents how tough of a spot the Vikings landed in this botched transaction.
You might not have heard of Tapeh, but the Vikings signed him to a five-year contract on the first day of free agency and planned to pair him with tailback Adrian Peterson for years to come. Tapeh and coach Brad Childress had spent two years together with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Vikings gave him a market-level deal that included $1.25 million in bonuses and a 2008 base salary of $605,000.
(By NFL rule, the base salary was guaranteed on Sept. 8 because Tapeh was on the Vikings' opening-day roster.)
Things went sour sometime between March and October, when the Vikings learned that Tapeh had undergone a "cleanup" procedure on his knee in February -- less than a month before the Vikings signed him. Childress said the knee appeared to be giving Tapeh some trouble early in his Vikings tenure, but it's not clear when Tapeh acknowledged the procedure.
Wednesday, Childress said:
"We just didn't feel like everything, all of the questions that we asked, that we got conveyed all of the information that we needed."
Tapeh hasn't told his side of the story and we might never have enough information to point a definitive finger. A player generally is responsible for disclosing medical preconditions and past surgeries, but ultimately the Vikings passed him on their physical and gave him medical clearance to join the team and practice in training camp.
Childress told Minnesota reporters Thursday that fullback Naufahu Tahi simply won the starting job. Childless wouldn't say whether the undisclosed surgery hastened Tapeh's departure, but you can rest assured that it did. It's almost unprecedented for a significant free-agent signee to be waived in midseason for performance reasons. The Vikings jumped on the surgery issue to correct a mistake and, presumably, get some of their money back.
While it might be coincidental, it doesn't look good for the Vikings now that two of their four major offseason acquisitions -- Tapeh and safety Madieu Williams -- have yet to contribute. Williams came down with a neck injury early in training camp and wasn't cleared to practice in full until Wednesday. He's likely to return Nov. 2 against Houston.