Three Weeks To Sign

The Vikings normally wait until after the Fourth of July holiday to get into serious discussions with agents for their draft picks. This year again there have been no signings prior to the holiday.

It's after the Fourth of July. Do you know where your draft picks are?

The Vikings typically don't have draft picks signed before July 4, but after Bryant McKinnie¹s holdout until mid-season last year the hope was that they might start earlier this year.

From the indicators so far, talks haven¹t gotten serious yet. VU put in calls late this week to the agents of the only two draft picks that are likely to see starting roles -- Kevin Williams and Eddie Johnson.

Williams is represented by the well-known Tom Condon, who also represents the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft, Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich. Since the Vikings had the seventh pick and waited until the ninth pick to select Williams, that negotiation could have more hurdles than normal to overcome.

The Vikings' rookie cap was set at $3,703,686 by the league, so that would seem to indicate the league views Williams as the ninth overall pick. By comparison, the Jaguars (who moved into the seventh pick) have $4,523,643 and the Panthers (who moved into the eighth pick) have $4,125,852.

To add to the situation, Condon also represents Onterrio Smith, the Vikings' fourth-round selection, whom many felt was the steal of the draft. So, with limited funds set by the league, and two important Vikings rookies represented by the same agent, Condon plays a key role in the Vikings' ability to sign all seven of their draft picks before players report to training camp on July 25.

Usually, the later-round picks are signed first, and Eddie Johnson was the Vikings' sixth-round selection. He is expected to win the starting job at punter, so getting him under contract soon would seem to be a good step in the right direction.

However, his agent, Ken Harris, said beyond "cordial discussions" no specific terms have been traded between Johnson's side and the Vikings. Harris expects a three-year deal for Johnson, which is the norm among sixth-rounders. Harris also estimated that probably less than one-third of the sixth-rounders from this year¹s draft have been signed, so he's not concerned about the stage of discussions at this point.

Ironically, Harris also represents Paul Edinger, the Chicago Bears kicker whom the Vikings signed to an offer sheet before the draft this year. Harris said the Vikings presented a fair deal in that negotiation and he thought they could possibly end up with both of his clients, Edinger and Johnson, as he knew Minnesota had an interest in drafting Johnson.

"The Edinger thing wasn¹t just an overnight thing," Harris said. "It took some effort and focus on both sides. ... They (the Vikings) made a really good effort this year (at solving their kicking vacancies)."

With no draft picks signed yet, the prospects of getting each of them in camp might not look bright. But this seems to be the normal pace of discussions with the Vikings, and the McKinnie holdout was an exception.

They now have exactly three weeks to keep his holdout the exception rather than a trend.

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