Yancey Thigpen was more lucky than good, cashing in on the NFL's new television windfall to become, surprisingly, the league's highest-paid receiver.
Cris Carter and the Minnesota Vikings expect that to change in the next few weeks.
The Vikings have offered their five-time Pro Bowl player a $22 million, four-year contract extension. The deal's $5.5 million average would blow away the $4.2 million average of Thigpen's deal with the Tennessee Oilers.
But that might not be enough to lock Carter up for several more years. He is believed to be after a deal worth at least $6 million a season.
"Realistically, we've got some work to do," Vikings vice president Jeff Diamond said Wednesday. "Deals aren't easy, but clearly we want to try to get an extension done. Both sides are motivated to try to do something."
Carter and Diamond expect the deal to be completed by the time the Vikings open training camp July 26.
"We believe the Vikings will fulfill the promise that they made to extend my contract," Carter told the Star Tribune.
The existing offer would make Carter the second-highest-paid Viking behind defensive lineman John Randle, who averages $6.5 million a year. It also would be the fifth large contract the Vikings have given one of their own players in the last six months.
Along with Randle, offensive tackle Todd Steussie (five years, $22 million) and running back Robert Smith (five years, $25 million) signed this off-season after the NFL negotiated its $17.6 billion TV deal. Receiver Jake Reed (four years, $13.6 million) also signed an extension in December.
Carter has restructured his contract three times in the past to help the Vikings with cash-flow and salary-cap concerns, including during Reed's negotiations.
He is seeking a deal that includes substantial guaranteed money; in return, he would give the Vikings the option of buying out the last two or three seasons of the deal.
The Vikings have indicated they would like to get a deal done by July 1, efore the owners accept final bids to buy the team. That probably is unrealistic, Diamond said.
"I don't think there's any way this thing gets done before July 1," he said. "My goal is to get something done by training camp, and I think that's Cris' goal."
Meanwhile, the Vikings signed sixth-round draft pick Matt Birk to a three-year contract Wednesday. Birk, an offensive lineman who played at Harvard after a high school career at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, will earn the rookie minimum salary.
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