The Minnesota Vikings have rewarded tight end/fullback Jeff Dugan for an outstanding month of play and kept the promising youngster off the free-agent market by signing him to a five-year contract extension.
The extension runs through the 2011 season and is worth between $4 million and $5 million. It means Dugan will bypass his restricted free-agent season in 2007 and his unrestricted year in 2008. He will earn base salaries of $525,000 (for 2007), $625,000 (2008), $675,000 (2009), $725,000 (2010) and $775,000 (2011).
Dugan, 25, stepped into the starting fullback position last month when veteran Tony Richardson suffered a broken forearm and was forced onto the injured reserve list Nov. 22. A seventh-round selection in the 2004 draft, Dugan has proven to be a solid lead blocker for tailback Chester Taylor and a reliable receiver.
By signing him to an extension, the Vikings have addressed the fullback position for the long-term, since Richardson is only signed through the 2007 season.
Typical of how the fullback position has evolved in the league, Dugan has not registered a single carry this season but does have six receptions for 34 yards and one touchdown. Dugan has started in each of the last four games and, on occasion, has lined up at tight end as well.
A former University of Maryland standout, Dugan appeared in just 15 games, with two starts, in his first two seasons in the league and did not have a reception or a rushing attempt. He primarily saw action as a blocking tight end and on special teams.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.