It’s widely believed that each of the three Vikings veteran quarterbacks will become unrestricted free agents in March. One of them still may not.
As PFT first explained in May, the Collective Bargaining Agreement states in clear and obvious terms that a contract tolls for any player who, in the last year of his deal, is physically unable to perform through the sixth game of the regular season. Bridgewater, who was on the PUP list to start the season, ultimately was physically unable to perform through Minnesota’s sixth game.
Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman tiptoed around that issue during a subsequent visit to PFT Live.
“We know the rule very well,” Spielman said last May. “We’ve talked to the Management Council, we understand everything that’s involved with it, but again it’s something from a contractual standpoint that I’d rather not comment on. But there are specific rules there, and we’re quite aware of what the rules are.”
If the Vikings are “quite aware” of the rule, they’re the only ones; despite the plain language of the CBA, some believe that the contract for a player like Bridgewater would toll for a year only if he had missed the entire season. Because he didn’t miss the full season, but did miss six games, a squabble could be looming over whether he’s free to leave — or whether the Vikings can keep him for another year at a base salary of $1.354 million.
Spielman and Vikings president Mark Wilf visited PFT Live at the Mall of America on Thursday and, frankly, I’d forgotten about the issue. Fortunately, others who had a chance to talk to Spielman on Thursday did not.
“Right now, he’s technically ready to become a free agent,” Spielman said, via Judd Zulgad of 1500espn.com. “With the tolling, I know you guys wrote about all that, if it goes into that area, it’s not a Minnesota Viking [decision], that’s an NFL and player union [issue] that will have to decide that area.”
Reading between the lines, it sounds like the Vikings are considering the tolling route, while also staking out the ability to blame it on the NFL, if/when it comes to that. Either way, the situation seems to be destined to end with a grievance, if the NFL harps on the plain language of the labor deal (which favors tolling) and the NFL Players Association focuses on the past interpretation of it (which doesn’t favor tolling).
If the situation will be going the way of a grievance, the process needs to get started soon. Both sides will benefit greatly from getting Bridgewater’s status resolved before the free-agency period opens on March 14.