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Old 03-09-2006, 08:36 PM   #1
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Default Vikings step up efforts to deal unhappy Culpepper

Upset by Daunte Culpepper's public attempts to force a divorce, Minnesota Vikings officials have determined to trade the unhappy quarterback and have ratcheted up their dialogue with possible suitors.
League sources said that the Vikings, shortly after a Wednesday e-mail that Culpepper sent to several media outlets in which he acknowledged that he has requested to be traded or release, began calling clubs they feel might be interested in acquiring the seven-year veteran.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports the Vikings are determined to trade Culpepper before the league's free-agency period begins at 12:01 ET Saturday.

One team believed to have discussed the possibility of dealing for Culpepper is Oakland. The Raiders last week released starting quarterback Kerry Collins, then rescinded the move when the league delayed the start to the free agent signing period. Collins' status with the team remains in limbo, in large part because of a prohibitive salary cap figure for 2006 that the Raiders would prefer to reduce.

In his Wednesday e-mail, the fourth he has sent to Twin Cities and national reporters since last month, Culpepper wrote: "Now that I have confirmed that the Vikings have been seeking to trade me, I have asked for permission to speak to the interested teams. The Vikings have denied my request. If a trade does not happen, then I am asking the Vikings to terminate my contract as soon as possible."

Minnesota was scheduled to pay Culpepper a $6 million roster bonus on March 17 as part of a contract enhancement new owner Zygi Wilf added to the quarterback's existing deal last summer. That date for the execution of the bonus is expected to be pushed back because of the delay in beginning the league year. Culpepper is due a base salary of $2 million for 2006.

But the contract, which runs through the 2013 season, is just one of the several elements complicating any potential Culpepper trade.

Culpepper, 29, continues to rehabilitate his right knee and, while he is said to have made substantial progress in his recovery, the injury was a severe one. Culpepper tore three ligaments in the knee in an Oct. 30 game at Carolina and has been rehabilitating in the Orlando, Fla., area. First-year head coach Brad Childress would prefer that Culpepper continue his rehabilitation at the team's facility.

In addition, Culpepper still faces misdemeanor charges related to the so-called "Love Boat" scandal of last September, an incident allegedly involving some Vikings teammates. And, finally, Culpepper split during this offseason with longtime agent Mason Ashe, and has been representing himself. Any team interested in trading for Culpepper almost certainly would want to rework his contract. Culpepper's base salaries for the seasons after this one rise dramatically, to $5.5 million in 2007 and $6 million each for 2008-2009.

If the Vikings are successful in dealing Culpepper, they could go with Brad Johnson, who took over for the second half of last season, as the starter. Or Childress, the former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator who has been charged with rebuilding the team's image on and off the field, could seek to sign a veteran as a free agent. Because the Vikings are nearly $30 million under the NFL's new salary cap of $102 million for 2006, there is no urgency to resolve Culpepper's status, and it is doubtful the club will release him.

A first-round pick in the 1999 draft, Culpepper has appeared in 81 games and started all but one of them. He has completed 1,678 of 2,607 passes for 20,162 yards, with 135 touchdown passes and 86 interceptions.

The former Central Florida star has also rushed 454 times for 2,476 yards. He has been chosen to the Pro Bowl on three occasions.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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Old 03-09-2006, 09:20 PM   #2
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Default Re: Vikings step up efforts to deal unhappy Culpepper

League sources say the Vikings don't believe that Culpepper was orchestrating his own exit out of Minnesota, and instead cite his immaturity level and wounded pride as the impetus behind his at times bizarre behavior.

Where do the cap-rich Vikings go from here on the quarterback front, once Culpepper is dealt? For now, Childress is very comfortable turning over the starting reins to veteran Brad Johnson, who played superbly in Culpepper's absence last season, winning his first six starts and going 7-2 overall.

Minnesota also has some interest in exploring the market for San Diego starter Drew Brees, who is set to become the most sought after quarterback in free agency. Brees, however, has a rehabilitation of his own to contend with, having torn up his throwing shoulder in the Chargers' final game of the 2005 season. That makes the Vikings somewhat wary of pursuing Brees, who is thought to be Miami's top priority in free agency.

The Vikings are probably more likely to pursue former Cardinals starter Josh McCown in free agency, or consider using a second or third-round pick on a quarterback, grooming him to take over for Johnson in a year or two. If McCown would join Minnesota, the Vikings could still use a second-day draft choice on a young quarterback prospect
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