Continuing a proactive approach in which they have retained several nucleus-type players with rich new deals, the Minnesota Vikings have reached agreement with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams on a seven-year contract extension that will make him one of the game's highest paid players at his position.
The extension is believed to include about $16 million in bonuses and could have a maximum value in the $50 million range.
"He's one of the building blocks of [our] defense," said coach Brad Childress. "We're happy he's going to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings long into the future."
Williams, 26, is the latest standout veteran to land a lucrative long-term extension under the stewardship of new Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. Among the other players who have signed recent contract extensions are left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and weakside linebacker E.J. Henderson.
Under terms of his original contract, Williams was signed through the 2007 season, with a scheduled base salary of $736,500 for next year. That 2007 base salary was set to increase by $2 million, however, because Williams had reached performance levels that triggered "escalator" clauses.
But the Vikings weren't about to allow Williams to get anywhere near the end of his rookie contract, or close to free agency. Negotiations between vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski and agents Tom Condon and Ken Kremer of CAA, which had been ongoing for months, were recently ramped up.
"I couldn't be in a better situation," Williams said. "The team has shown a commitment to me, and I'm proud they feel that way about me. Management has done a good job of signing back the 'core' players we have here, and I feel good about what we are building."
The team's first-round selection in the 2003 draft, Williams has developed into one of the best "under" tackles in the league, and this week was awarded with his second Pro Bowl berth in four seasons. He teams with veteran nose tackle Pat Williams to provide the Vikings a premier interior tandem, and the two are the twin cornerstones of a defense that ranks No. 8 overall and is first in the league against the run.
The former Oklahoma State star is a disruptive force who usually aligns in a "three technique" spot, in a gap between offensive linemen, and who can compress the pocket from the inside. Williams blends strength with rare speed and his quickness is evidenced by the fact that, early in his career, he frequently moved outside and played end at times.
In 61 appearances, all of them as a starter, Williams has 256 tackles, 31 sacks, two forced fumbles, eight recoveries, two interceptions and 23 pass deflections. Williams posted double-digit sacks in each of his first two seasons, when he was playing some at end.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.