While the Vikings brace for signing undrafted free agents and their own veteran free agents today and into the coming days, they also enter the period where they need to sign their own draft picks before they report to training camp on Sunday.
In past years, the Vikings have had a few player holdouts or late arrivals to camp because rookies weren't signed, but with the new collective bargaining agreement and a rookie pay scale in place, the process should be much easier and, more importantly, quicker.
Even first-round pick Christian Ponder is expecting a fairly easy and structured signing, despite being drafted in the first half (No. 12 overall) of the first round and being a quarterback.
"I don't think it will take long. I don't know how much negotiation room we'll have with this new rookie scale," Ponder said last week. "We'll see, but I want to get in and play and get to practicing right away."
The Vikings have 10 draft picks to get under contract before Sunday and are eighth in the NFL's rookie allotment with a maximum of $5,990,486 to spend in 2011 cap money on their draft picks. It's the highest total among NFC North teams, with Denver leading the entire NFL with a $8,118,404 rookie allotment for 2011.
As a first-round pick, Ponder is the easily going to be the Vikings' top-paid rookie this year. With a maximum figure of $1.847 million and minimum of $1.2 million, that's more than twice as much as second-round pick Kyle Rudolph, but it's also less than half of what Cam Newton, the quarterback and top overall pick in the draft, will receive. Newton is slotted to earn up to $4 million in NFL money this year.
Rudolph, a tight end, will likely make close to his maximum $841,791 this year. Second-round picks can't earn less than $583,533 in allocated money.
Without a third-round draft pick, after Rudolph, the salary commitment to the Vikings' other selections drop off significantly, to less than $500,000 in maximum allotment. Fourth-round pick Christian Ballard has a maximum of $491,888 attached to his rookie allotment and fifth-rounder Brandon Burton can't make more than $424,750 in cap money this year.
The Vikings' sixth-round picks – and the team has four of them to sign – will make no more than $405,000 this year and their two seventh-round picks will make around $390,000.
While the Vikings are hoping to get them all signed before Sunday's reporting date, Ponder made it clear last week that he would try to get involved at the team's Winter Park training facility as soon as the lockout was over. He reportedly arrived at Winter Park before 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
"Once this thing gets lifted, I'm definitely going to head straight to the facility, give [offensive coordinator Bill] Musgrave a call and sit down with him and hopefully talk some ball and keep this going until it ends," Ponder said last week. "Do everything I can until that day."
As long as he is signed this week, he will be able to keep that momentum going right into training camp.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings' rookie draft pick allotments set
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