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Updated: July 26th, 2011 10:28pm
Vikings reach tentative deal for Donovan McNabb; a message to Rice?

Vikings reach tentative deal for Donovan McNabb; a message to Rice?

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Donovan McNabb is going to be a Minnesota Viking -- if he'll take a sizeable pay cut.

Somewhere, Sidney Rice figures to be watching the situation closely.

The Vikings have agreed to trade a sixth-round pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth-rounder in 2013 to the Redskins for McNabb, the six-time Pro Bowl selection who fell out of favor and was benched twice in his only season in Washington, FoxSports.com reported late Tuesday night.

However, the trade is contingent upon the 34-year-old quarterback agreeing to a substantial restructuring of the five-year, $78 million contract extension he signed in November.

If completed, the deal would send a strong message to a veteran-laden locker room and several key free agents the Vikings intend to be contenders now, rather than suffering through growing pains with a young quarterback.

According to NFL sources, the Vikings expressed strong interest in free agent Tyler Thigpen on Tuesday as the short-term stopgap they need while No. 12 overall draft pick Christian Ponder develops.

Once Thigpen agreed to a three-year deal with the Buffalo Bills, though, the Vikings apparently ramped up their pursuit of McNabb, who is coming off the worst of his 12 NFL seasons.

The questions now are, how desperate is McNabb to escape Washington sooner than later, and is he comfortable being a placeholder with a first-round pick behind him?

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has made clear he's done with McNabb, according to sources, and probably would release the longtime Philadelphia Eagle if no trade could be finalized. But refusing to restructure could mean McNabb ends up in purgatory when training camp begins, knowing the Redskins might squat on him until it's too late for him to find a job elsewhere.

The Vikings entered Tuesday about $4.8 million over the salary cap, although they'll cut that number by more than 50% by releasing defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. Still, one NFL source said late Tuesday he couldn't see the Vikings swinging a deal for McNabb's existing contract, which has a $10 million bonus due if he's on the roster in Week 1.

"I don't see how they'd do that," the source said. "They're cash-strapped and cap-strapped."

McNabb finished last season with 14 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions and a career-low 77.1 passer rating. But bringing him aboard potentially would answer the questions multiple veterans have raised about playing Ponder immediately, without the benefit of offseason practices.

"With the timeframe, it would probably be good to get a veteran, just because it's so hard," receiver Bernard Berrian said over the weekend.

"It's already hard enough with a full offseason being a rookie quarterback, and the way things have been condensed down, now he's four weeks from (being) thrown in the fire if he's supposedly supposed to be the starter. A lot of careers go down the drain at quarterback starting out that fast."

With that in mind, the Vikings may have felt they needed to make a strong statement in their push to retain Rice, whom an NFL source confirmed is drawing strong interest from the Seattle Seahawks, pending a physical.

The Seahawks reportedly agreed to terms with former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson on Tuesday, with the intention of having him compete for the starting job with Charlie Whitehurst, a five-year veteran who has only two NFL starts.

Even in the twilight of his career, McNabb is a proven player and a name recognized in the locker room. Whether McNabb is willing to accept the role he'd play in Minnesota figures to determine whether he's willing to ensure the deal gets done.

The only deal the Vikings were known to have completed on the first day of post-lockout negotiations was a one-year contract with journeyman receiver Devin Aromashodu. They also informed defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy and practice-squad receiver Freddie Brown they will be released later this week.

But this was only the start of a wild 3½ days of negotiations, cap calculations and speculation before the start of the free-agent signing period at 5 p.m. Friday. The Vikings made initial contact in the morning with at least one top free agent, San Diego safety Eric Weddle, and moved on McNabb in the evening.

The conditional draft pick in 2013 would be determined by McNabb's playing time, FoxSports.com reported.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. 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
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