UPDATE: Vikings place franchise tag on linebacker Greenway
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Linebacker Chad Greenway called the news of his franchise tag "one step closer" to his goal of playing out his career in Minnesota. But only a long-term deal will allow Greenway to retire as a Viking. The Vikings are taking th...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.
Linebacker Chad Greenway called the news of his franchise tag "one step closer" to his goal of playing out his career in Minnesota.
But only a long-term deal will allow Greenway to retire as a Viking.
The Vikings are taking the conservative approach to signing their players in light of the impending NFL lockout, but they aren't taking any chances of losing Greenway, who got the one-year tag instead of wide receiver Sidney Rice or defensive end Ray Edwards.
Meanwhile, Greenway and the Vikings have the flexibility to negotiate a multi-year extension while the team holds his rights for at least a year under the franchise tag.
"I'm happy to know that the Vikings value me enough to make this move," said Greenway, 28. "It's been a goal of mine since getting drafted (in 2006) to play with the Vikings my whole career. I think we're one step closer to that now. My family and I love living in the Twin Cities, and I want to be a part of the Vikings for years to come. I feel like the team has a bright future, and I want to be a part of that."
A franchise tag is a device that allows teams to retain key players by paying them an average of the league's top-five paid players at the position.
That guarantee is likely to pay Greenway around $9.68 million based on last season's highest-paid linebackers, a significant jump from his previous $3.17 million salary. The first draft pick of the Brad Childress era just completed a five-year, $13.6-million rookie
After 144 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in 2010, Greenway was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing 6-10 season.
The Vikings have not used the franchise tag often, but the looming NFL lockout has placed uncertainty on when teams can sign players to long-term extensions.
The collective bargaining agreement expires March 3, and franchise tags might disappear under a new deal. The NFL Players Association is not in favor of teams using the franchise tag, though several players around the league have been given the franchise tag in the past 10 days.
The Vikings used a non-exclusive tag on Greenway, which means they can match any offer another team makes on him. If the Vikings decide not to match, the potential suitor must give them two first-round picks as compensation. This scenario rarely happens.
It's hard to imagine Greenway could demand the same money as San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis (seven years, $53.51 million) or Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher (five years, $40.6 million).
But Greenway has proven to be a key component of the Vikings' young nucleus that vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman wants to preserve.
After missing all of his 2006 rookie campaign with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, Greenway hasn't missed a game in four years.
"Chad's an important part of our team, and his play speaks for itself," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said in a statement from the team. "He's productive and has continued to improve each year he has been in the NFL. He's a leader for us in the locker room and on the field."
Now that Greenway will be a Viking in 2011, the free agency focus turns to Rice.
Rice, one of the team's 17 free agents, likely will seek a long-term deal that elevates him among the five or seven highest-paid receivers in the game.
It's uncertain whether the Vikings plan to use their transition tag, a one-year contract that pays the average of the top-10 highest paid at the position.
Rice has shown flashes of brilliance at age 24, but he's carrying the brittle reputation after hip surgery in 2010 and a nagging knee injury in 2008. His one productive season came in 2009, when he caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards on his way to the Pro Bowl.
Rice and Edwards could be restricted free agents once the collective bargaining agreement is resolved. Edwards has made it clear that he's prepared to reject another one-year tender and pursue a boxing career should he fail to get a long-term deal.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.