PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Apparently, our next stop in sniffing out the Minnesota Vikings' true intentions this offseason is to make the dangerous connection between a stadium drive and football expenditures.
John of Belleview, Ill., is worried that the Vikings could become the "Kansas City Royals of football" for one of two reasons: Either owner Zygi Wilf will bring down his player payroll to limit further losses, or state legislators will require the team to pay so much toward construction that debt service will render moot the increased revenue of a new stadium.
Here's what I can tell you: Wilf has done nothing if not spend liberally on players during his first seven years as the team's majority owner. If my count is right, he has made five capital calls to his investment partners to cover the difference between revenues and his player payroll. In total, Wilf and his partners have pumped about nearly $100 million into the franchise on top of the $600-million purchase price.
And I feel confident in suggesting Wilf wouldn't have agreed to the current terms of his stadium proposal if it would have shortchanged his projected revenues.
There is no denying the Vikings have made but one significant free-agent expenditure, signing tight end John Carlson to a five-year contract worth $25 million. And I understand why Vikings fans would be suspicious given the blatant financial scaleback they endured in the final years of previous owner Red McCombs' tenure.
But if the Vikings have made a shift, it's one of philosophy rather than finances, general manager Rick Spielman said here at the NFL owners meetings.
Spielman: "Our ownership has always been very supportive of what we need to do, getting players and things like that. I think that doesn't have any effect on whether we're going to sign or not sign a player."
Owner/president Mark Wilf echoed that sentiment: "It's a long-term process in terms of building through the draft, filling in through free agency, and that combination is something we wanted to structure the organization to have our best chance at long-term success. … We want to win right away, too, but the main thing is we want to be first-rate and first-class on a consistent basis."
I realize that no team official would admit to a financial scaleback, but in Wilf's case, we have seven years of free spending and one offseason of a longer-term view. It doesn't add up to anything sinister for me.