When San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle and Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson signed their recent enormo-deals, it was assured that those new contracts would be the table-setters for deals eventually extended to Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Now, the table has been very well set for both players.
On Saturday morning, the Steelers and Vikings each announced that they have agreed to terms on contract extensions with arguably the most important players on their franchises.
Terms for Polamalu's extension have not been announced (though he's expected to earn more than $9 million per year), but Peterson's deal is reported to be for seven years and $100 million, with $36 million guaranteed.
That's $6 million more guaranteed than Johnson got, and a pretty good deal for the player who's taken the Vikings from the Tarvaris Jackson, to the Brett Favre era, and now to the transition between Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder. Since 2007, when the Vikings took him in the first round out of Oklahoma, Peterson has never rushed for fewer than 1,298 yards (which he did last year as the Vikings' passing offense fell apart), and he topped out at 1,760 yards in 2008.
"Adrian's performances on the field have given fans so much excitement since he first joined us as a rookie," Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said in a team-released statement. "His talent and determination are remarkable and we are proud to have him be a part of the family for years to come."
Peterson was set to earn $10.72 million this season, and he would have been a free agent in 2012.
For Polamalu, there's a three-year extension that takes him through the 2014 season — he was set to make $6.4 million in 2011, and he would have been a free agent without a new contract. Little chance that would happen — the Steelers were so hot on getting the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year re-signed before the team faced the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday, they actually had Polamalu sign the deal at the Pittsburgh International Airport.
In August of 2010, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau told Yahoo! Sports just what Polamalu has come to mean to the team since they selected him with their first-round pick in the 2003 NFL draft.
"Troy probably has the most versatility of any of the backs I've coached - he can literally do anything," LeBeau said. "You ask him to blitz, he's going to be a great blitzer. If you ask him to cover [the opposing team's] best wide receiver, he's going to do a good job there. If you ask him to play in a linebacker area and chase down the runner, he'll do that well. And he can coordinate the coverage - he has a great knowledge of the defense. So, I couldn't really find a weakness in Troy, and that's a true blessing from a defensive coordinator's standpoint. He opens the playbook to pretty much anything you want to do - it's just a matter of how far off the diving board you want to go."
In 2010, Polamalu "went off the diving board" for a career-tying seven interceptions in just 14 games, but mere numbers have never told the story. Polamalu is so special because he can play anywhere on the field, and he has a ridiculous feel for the way to stop a big play in ways that other players at his position could only imagine.
Since the end of the lockout, the Steelers have also locked up linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons to long-term deals. The only frontline player not tied to the team past 2011 right now is receiver Mike Wallace, who would be a restricted free agent in 2012 without a new contract.
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