Bennett Parameters Being Set

With less than a month to go until training camp, the terms of a contract between the Vikings and running back Michael Bennett are starting to take shape in the early stages.

Signing Michael Bennett is a priority of the Vikings this month and, if history means anything, the sooner he gets in, the better for both sides. The initial word we're being told is that the team is looking to lock Bennett up for five years — a new posture — for something in the neighborhood of $5 million to $ 6 million.

Seeing that Randy Moss is at the end of a four-year, $4 million deal, the conventional wisdom around Winter Park is that Bennett will likely be seeking a little more than that, since he was drafted later in the first round (but three years later). The key to the deal could well be the signing bonus -- which VU has been told will be a minimum of $2 million and more likely $2.5 million. With that money in the bank to start his career, Bennett and the Vikings could well sign a five-year, $6 million deal, because his cap number for 2001 would only be about $750,000.

The Vikings could play hardball with Bennett, because the team still has confidence in Doug Chapman as being a potential every-down back, but, when you use your top pick on a RB you expect him to be the goods and the Vikings know that Bennett and his agent will be seeking a deal in keeping with that standing.

INDEPENDENCE DAY NOTES

* An interesting factoid to come out of recent conversations is that the Vikings want to get Bennett signed before the Saints hook up with Deuce McAllister — a running back taken four picks before Bennett in April's draft. Any contract signed by McAllister before the Vikings can lock up Bennett could increase his asking price, since players at the same position are often clumped together when it comes to contract talks — unless you're Randy Moss and you're expected to set the standard by which future contracts are devised.

* VU has been told the Vikings are interested in starting preliminary talks with Daunte Culpepper about a long-term deal. In light of the recent signing of Steve McNair, who agreed to a contract in the $7 million a year range, the Vikings would be happy to get a similar deal done with Culpepper before the price of QBs goes insane.

* There has been almost no movement on the rookie signing front. With the exception of Atlanta, which has already signed all of its draft picks, the only other player from the first or second round that has signed a contract is Pittsburgh linebacker Kendrell Bell.

* The only Vikings rookie to have signed is seventh-round draftee Brian Crawford. The offensive tackle signed a three-year deal for $925,000 and has a cap value for 2001 of $218,667 -- that number only applies if he makes the team.


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