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Updated: September 13th, 2012 10:34pm
Pelissero: Vikings' league-low payroll won't become part of a trend

Pelissero: Vikings' league-low payroll won't become part of a trend

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by Tom Pelissero

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Sunday's game at Lucas Oil Stadium will match up the teams with the two lowest player payrolls in the NFL.

As of Thursday morning, the Indianapolis Colts ranked 31st with a 2012 cash spend of about $107.9 million, according to sources with access to NFL salary data. The Minnesota Vikings ranked 32nd with a cash spend of $105.3 million -- nearly $20 million below the league average of $124.6 million.

For both teams, though, there is an explanation that has nothing to do with philosophical frugality. Both teams are under the direction of new general managers who have replaced numerous high-priced veterans with younger players as part of multiyear plans to rebuild from the ground up.

Moreover, both teams were among the NFL's biggest spenders last season -- the Colts ranked third ($158.2 million), the Vikings fourth ($150.7 million) -- while winning five games combined.

Spending is cyclical. Every dollar hits the cap eventually. And no team has spent more on player salaries in recent years than the Vikings, who paid their players approximately $808.4 million over the past seven seasons, dating to the Wilfs' purchase of the team in 2005. (The Colts were third at $786.7 million, behind the Oakland Raiders at $797 million.)

The Vikings locked up halfback Adrian Peterson (seven years, $96 million) and center John Sullivan (five years, $25.1 million) for the long haul before their rookie deals were up, pushing more money back into 2011 instead of '12. They also re-signed linebacker Chad Greenway (five years, $40.6 million) and long snapper Cullen Loeffler (three years, $4.3 million).

That left only lower-profile free agents -- nose tackles Letroy Guion (three years, $9 million) and Fred Evans (two years, $3 million), linebacker Erin Henderson (one year, $1.75 million), receiver Devin Aromashodu (one year, $800,000) -- to re-sign around the start of the 2012 league year.

The Vikings did make a significant financial commitment to free agent John Carlson, whose five-year, $25 million contract ranks 14th in average per year among NFL tight ends. They also strongly pursued ex-Colts receiver Pierre Garcon, who ended up getting a staggering $42.5 million over five years from Washington.

As of Thursday morning, the Vikings ranked 11th in the NFL with about $8.2 million in salary cap space. It wouldn't be a surprise if some of that ends up being used before season's end on contract extensions for right tackle Phil Loadholt, middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley or one of the many potential free agents playing under one-year deals.

The rest can be rolled over to 2013, when the Vikings likely will have to address the expiring contracts of end Jared Allen and receiver Percy Harvin, in addition to making decisions on the likes of veterans Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield.

Whatever happens, don't expect the low cash spend this season to become a trend going forward. The Wilfs' track record shows they're willing to pay what it takes to put a winning team on the field, even if sometimes they have paid the wrong people.

The following is a list of the scheduled 2012 compensation for the 65 players currently under contract, organized by cap number (the first number listed), as well as 51 other charges that appeared on the Vikings' cap as of Thursday.

Notes: Compensation does not match the cap number in many cases because of accounting for bonus proration, per diems, etc. Some players may appear more than once on the "dead money" list because they've been cut more than once. Likely to be earned incentives (LTBEs) count against the cap. Not likely to be earned incentives (NLTBEs) do not.

Current contracts (65)

Jared Allen $14,203,194 (Base salary: $11,619,850. NLTBEs: $200,000.)
Adrian Peterson $12,706,705 (Base salary: $8 million. Workout bonus: $251,705.)
Kevin Williams $8,403,187 (Base salary: $7 million. Workout bonus: $504,495.)
Chad Greenway $7,704,650 (Base salary: $5.9 million. Workout bonus: $104,650.)
John Carlson $4,004,650 (Signing bonus: $5 million. Base salary: $2.9 million. Workout bonus: $104,650.)
John Sullivan $4,004,650 (Base salary: $3 million.)
Brian Robison $3,983,316 (Base salary: $1.712 million. Workout bonus: $104,650. NLTBEs: $986,000.)
Charlie Johnson $3.85 million (Base salary: $2.95 million. Workout bonus: $50,000. LTBEs: $250,000.)
Matt Kalil $3,594,655 (Signing bonus: $12,818,620. Base salary: $390,000.)
Antoine Winfield $3,003,875 (Base salary: $3 million. Workout bonus: $3,875. NLTBEs: $3.1 million.)
Christian Ponder $2,313,445 (Base salary: $836,759.)
Percy Harvin $2,043,800 (Base salary: $915,000. Workout bonus: $27,500.)
Letroy Guion $1,904,185 (Signing bonus: $900,000. Roster bonus: $600,000. Base salary: $950,000. Workout bonus: $50,000.)
Jerome Simpson $1,862,698.53 (Base salary: $800,000. Roster bonus: $59,375 per game on active roster. Workout bonus: $250,000.)
Erin Henderson $1,739,025 (Base salary: $1.45 million. Roster bonus: $15,625 per game on active roster. Workout bonus: $54,650.)
Michael Jenkins $1,668,216 (Base salary: $1 million. Workout bonus: $1,550. NLTBEs: $3 million.)
Chris Kluwe $1,637,985 (Base salary: $1.3 million. Workout bonus: $54,650. NLTBEs: $50,000.)
Toby Gerhart $1,383,150 (Base salary: $540,000. Roster bonus: $455,000. Workout bonus: $17,150.)
Harrison Smith $1,297,917 (Signing bonus: $3,631,672. Base salary: $390,000.)
Fred Evans $1,254,650 (Signing bonus: $500,000. Base salary: $700,000. Roster bonus: $250,000. Workout bonus: $54,650.)
Joe Berger $1,142,150 (Base salary: $1 million. Roster bonus: $35,000. Workout bonus: $44,650. NLTBEs: $750,000.)
Chris Cook $1,119,495 (Base salary: $540,000. Workout bonus: $100,000.)
Kyle Rudolph $1,056,889 (Base salary: $585,448.)
Cullen Loeffler $979,650 (Base salary: $840,000. Workout bonus: $14,650.)
Phil Loadholt $920,580 (Base salary: $615,000. Workout bonus: $5,580. NLTBEs: $475,000.)
Devin Aromashodu $804,650 (Base salary: $700,000. Roster bonus: $50,000.)
Geoff Schwartz $717,150 (Signing bonus: $100,000. Roster bonus: $12,500 per game on active roster. Workout bonus: $54,650.)
Everson Griffen $679,650 (Base salary: $540,000.)
Jamarca Sanford $631,816 (Base salary: $615,000.)
Jasper Brinkley $616,150 (Base salary: $565,000.)
Christian Ballard $600,760 (Base salary: $465,000. Roster bonus: $29,222. Workout bonus: $4,650.)
Jerome Felton $594,650 (Base salary: $700,000. Roster bonus: $25,000. Workout bonus: $29,650. Minimum salary benefit.)
Marvin Mitchell $569,650 (Signing bonus: $25,000. Base salary: $700,000. NLTBEs: $25,000. Minimum salary benefit.)
Joe Webb $567,778 (Base salary: $540,000.)
Josh Robinson $564,250 (Signing bonus: $697,000. Base salary: $390,000.)
Andrew Sendejo $544,650 (Base salary: $540,000.)
A.J. Jefferson $540,000 (Base salary: $540,000. Workout bonus, paid by Arizona: $4,185.)
Brandon Burton $526,213 (Base salary: $465,000. Roster bonus: $14,313. Workout bonus: $4,650.)
Mistral Raymond $504,004 (Base salary: $465,000. Roster bonus: $9,871. Workout bonus: $4,650.)
Brandon Fusco $502,845 (Base salary: $465,000. Roster bonus: $9,639. Workout bonus: $4,650.)
Jarius Wright $495,027 (Signing bonus: $420,108. Base salary: $390,000.)
D'Aundre Reed $489,104 (Base salary: $465,000. Roster bonus: $6,891. Workout bonus: $4,650.)
Stephen Burton $469,650 (Base salary: $465,000.)
Larry Dean $469,650 (Base salary: $465,000.)
Allen Reisner $469,650 (Base salary: $465,000.)
Marcus Sherels $469,650 (Base salary: $465,000.)
Tyrone McKenzie $469,650 (Base salary: $465,000.)
Rhett Ellison $465,146 (Signing bonus: $300,584. Base salary: $390,000.)
Robert Blanton $442,763 (Signing bonus: $211,052. Base salary: $390,000.)
Blair Walsh $419,483 (Signing bonus: $117,932. Base salary: $390,000.)
Audie Cole $406,875 (Signing bonus: $67,500. Base salary: $390,000.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson $397,150 (Signing bonus: $5,000. Base salary: $390,000.)
Matt Asiata $394,650 (Base salary: $390,000.)
Mark Asper $390,000 (Signing bonus, paid by Buffalo: $113,452. Base salary: $390,000.)
Greg Childs $348,146 (Signing bonus: $300,584. Injured/split salary: $273,000.)
DeMarcus Love $328,619 (Injured/split salary: $288,000. Roster bonus: $10,194. Workout bonus: $4,650.)
Nick Taylor $273,000 (Injured/split salary: $273,000.)
Jordan Todman $170,000 (Practice squad/base salary: $170,000.)
Chase Baker $96,900 (Practice squad/base salary: $96,900.)
Bobby Felder $96,900 (Practice squad/base salary: $96,900.)
Tori Gurley $96,900 (Practice squad/base salary: $96,900.)
Tyler Holmes $96,900 (Practice squad/base salary: $96,900.)
Kevin Murphy $96,900 (Practice squad/base salary: $96,900.)
Ernest Owusu $96,900 (Practice squad/base salary: $96,900.)
Chris Summers $96,900 (Practice squad/base salary: $96,900.)

Dead money (49)

Ryan Longwell $2.625 million
Remi Ayodele $2,376,667
Bernard Berrian $1,666,668
Cedric Griffin $1 million
Anthony Herrera $833,335
Sage Rosenfels $554,650
Eric Frampton $387,983
Asher Allen $183,855
Chris DeGeare $82,400
Ryan Cook $62,500
Chris Carr $54,495
Emmanuel Arceneaux $50,000
Ross Homan $49,260
Lex Hilliard $29,650
Stephen Burton $26,925
Trevor Guyton $15,064
Emmanuel Arceneaux $4,650
Zack Bowman $4,650
Pat Brown $4,650
Ryan D'Imperio $4,650
Solomon Elimimian $4,650
Reggie Jones $4,650
Kerry Taylor $4,650
Jordan Todman $4,650
Bryan Walters $4,650
Mickey Shuler $4,495
Chris DeGeare $4,030
Caleb King $3,334
Chase Baker $3,333
Nick Reed $2,635
Bobby Felder $2,500
Tyler Nielsen $2,500
Levi Horn $2,170
Jose Valdez $2,170
• Kevin Cyrille $2,000
• C.C. Whitlock $2,000
Kris Adams $1,860
Derrick Coleman $1,666
Ernest Owusu $1,166
Corey Paredes $1,666
Tydreke Powell $1,666
Terrell Resonno $1,666
Quentin Saulsberry $1,666
Kamar Jorden $833
Eric Latimore $666
Austin Pasztor $666
Daniel Hardy $620
Caleb King $620
Butch Lewis $620

Other (2)

Kevin Williams $48,941 (grievance)
Kamar Jorden $32,118 (injury settlement)

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Kris Adams, Jared Allen, Asher Allen, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Devin Aromashodu, Matt Asiata, Mark Asper, Remi Ayodele, Chase Baker, Christian Ballard, Joe Berger, Bernard Berrian, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Robert Blanton, Zack Bowman, Jasper Brinkley, Pat Brown, Brandon Burton, Stephen Burton, John Carlson, Chris Carr, Greg Childs, Audie Cole, Derrick Coleman, Ryan Cook, Chris Cook, Ryan D'Imperio, Larry Dean, Chris DeGeare, Solomon Elimimian, Rhett Ellison, Fred Evans, Bobby Felder, Jerome Felton, Eric Frampton, Brandon Fusco, Toby Gerhart, Chad Greenway, Everson Griffen, Cedric Griffin, Letroy Guion, Tori Gurley, Trevor Guyton, Daniel Hardy, Percy Harvin, Erin Henderson, Anthony Herrera, Lex Hilliard, Tyler Holmes, Ross Homan, Levi Horn, A.J. Jefferson, Michael Jenkins, Charlie Johnson, Reggie Jones, Kamar Jorden, Matt Kalil, Caleb King, Chris Kluwe, Eric Latimore, Butch Lewis, Phil Loadholt, Cullen Loeffler, Ryan Longwell, DeMarcus Love, Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell, Kevin Murphy, Tyler Nielsen, Ernest Owusu, Corey Paredes, Austin Pasztor, Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, Tydreke Powell, Mistral Raymond, Nick Reed, D'Aundre Reed, Allen Reisner, Terrell Resonno, Josh Robinson, Brian Robison, Sage Rosenfels, Kyle Rudolph, Jamarca Sanford, Quentin Saulsberry, Geoff Schwartz, Andrew Sendejo, Marcus Sherels, Mickey Shuler, Jerome Simpson, Harrison Smith, John Sullivan, Chris Summers, Kerry Taylor, Nick Taylor, Jordan Todman, Jose Valdez, Blair Walsh, Bryan Walters, Joe Webb, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield, Jarius Wright