Sage Rosenfels (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
The Vikings released Sage Rosenfels on the final roster cut-down, but there is too much history between Rosenfels and Rick Spielman to automatically say their working relationship is absolutely done.
Have we really seen the last of Sage Rosenfels?
While his release over the holiday weekend may be the final straw between Rosenfels and Rick Spielman, it may not be the end. After all, Spielman has traded for, claimed or signed Rosenfels as a free agent four times – doing each at least once. Will the fifth time be the charm? Don’t bet the house against it.
Rick Spielman is the type of guy who could make a living traveling from bar to bar winning money by solving a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. He is always thinking one step ahead, which is why he is one of the few people in the country entrusted to play human chess with an NFL roster.
The history between Spielman and Rosenfels is borderline epic. He traded to get Sage when he was in Miami. He brought him to Minnesota when he thought his only competition was Tarvaris Jackson. When it was clear Brad Childress was enamored with Joe Webb, Spielman traded Rosenfels for a draft pick. When it was time to shove Donovan McNabb under the oncoming bus, he orchestrated the double-release of McNabb and Rosenfels to assure the Vikings could claim him. He was one of the first free agent signings in March. They have a history – not always pretty, but most relationships (professional or otherwise) aren’t.
If Spielman is the master tactician/smartest guy in the room that he is often portrayed as being, releasing Rosenfels may have been a brilliant business masterstroke. The story you are about to read may very possibly be true. We may never know. But, just as I learned “Greenspeak” – the National Treasure-style clues Denny Green would drop to allow the intrepid theorist to decipher, I offer this scenario for your consideration.
By releasing Rosenfels, the organization saves about $1 million. They’re still on the hook for the guaranteed portion of his contract (a hefty half-million bucks), but, if he returns to the team, nobody will care. They will get him at the league minimum for a player with his tenure (another half-mil) and save a half-million in the process. But, as with most things, timing is critical and the devil is in the details.
The only thing that could have botched the plan was if Rosenfels had signed by another team. He hasn’t yet. If Spielman owns a cat, he would be stroking it now and emitting one of those “boo-wa-ha-ha-ha!” type of laughs typically reserved for comic book scientists. So far, so good.
What makes this scenario palatable (and possible) is that, had Rosenfels been on the roster Week 1, his entire salary for 2012 would have been guaranteed. By waiting until after Week 1 to consider re-signing Rosenfels, the Vikings have the hammer and are paying him on a weekly basis. If they fear someone is interested in McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Rosenfels can be jettisoned in a hurry and MBT stays in the fold.
You may be asking yourself, “Why wouldn’t the Vikings just try to slide MBT through waivers?” That wouldn’t be brilliant. This scenario would. First, the Vikings get Rosenfels back to mentor Christian Ponder at a reduced, non-guaranteed price. Second, by the end of Week 1 of the regular season, teams are not only focused on the job at hand with the 53 guys that are on the roster, they have already selected their practice squads. If someone makes a waiver claim on Bethel-Thompson after Week 1, he would have to be placed on that team’s 53-man roster. If he clears waivers, he can sign with anyone who wants to put him on their practice squad.
It’s all just conjecture with the backing of the Spielman-Rosenfels history. If Bethel-Thompson were to clear waivers mid-week next week, it would be difficult for another team that assembled its own practice squad largely comprised of in-house talent with upside to make a run after an outsider like him. The competition would be significantly reduced if not all but eliminated.
There’s no conclusive evidence to prove that this is the plan being hatched in the air-conditioned offices of Winter Park, but it makes too much sense not to be on the table. It’s a “win-win” scenario in which the Vikings have allowed other teams to protect their own project quarterbacks and close the door on making any rash knee-jerk decisions on an outside unknown.
The facts of the matter are pretty straightforward. When Ponder looks at the photos of the defense he saw on the previous drive, Webb and Bethel-Thompson will be no help, unless you consider slacked jaws and shrugged shoulders as help. They’re less experienced in NFL game action than Ponder is. Rosenfels could be the player/coach type that could actually make sense of what Ponder is seeing for the first time and provide veteran insight that will be a learning tool for the new franchise QB. Given the fawning over Ponder’s intelligence that has been a primary selling point, learning is a good thing and would lead one to speculate that he wouldn’t make that same particular mistake again.
It makes too much sense. Will it happen? Give it a week or so and we’ll see. But for the ones of you that have Rosenfels jerseys, don’t toss them out just yet.
LABOR DAY NOTES
Maurice Jones-Drew dominated the weekend headlines by reporting to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday and ending his 38-day holdout. But the Vikings may be victim of a quiet tweak when the league voted last week to change the rules concerning injured reserve and extending the trade deadline. The silent addendum could impact the Vikings markedly. Prior to last week, if a player came off the physically unable to perform list or as a holdout, the new collective bargaining agreement called for a three-day minimum before the player could practice in full pads and take contact. Adrian Peterson had to adhere to that policy. MJD doesn’t. Until the new rule, he can practice today and get a full week of practice time. Under the old rule, he couldn’t have practiced until Thursday and likely would have been inactive. Now? Things could be significantly different in the game-planning process.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.