Notebook: Sticking points remain with picks

Last week was a slow one in getting the remaining unsigned draft picks under contract. The Vikings have two picks unsigned and they remain part of a surrounding logjam for different reasons. Plus, we go around the league for a look at Michael Vick, the remaining franchise players, Alex Green, Josh Gordon and more.

Even with the signing of wide receiver T.J. Graham by Buffalo last week, there seemed to be little movement to break the logjam at the top of the third round where players and agents are attempting to maximize the "25-percent" rule for base salaries in the final three seasons of four-year contracts. Graham was the sixth player in the round, but the only prospect in the top nine to have a contract.

A similar impasse exists at the top of the first round, where the first eight players are still unsigned, and where the primary issue remains so-called "offset language."

Saturday was Bastille Day, the French equivalent of Independence Day and the day late NFL general manager George Young said most negotiations for rookies began, and club officials hope that the proximity to training camp report dates stirs some action.

Vikings players are scheduled to report on July 26, with their first practice on July 27. That leaves less than two weeks to complete the contracts of first-round pick Matt Kalil and third-round pick Josh Robinson. Each of them have experienced agents, and each of them fall into the separate aforementioned logjams at their respective draft positions.

  • During the debut of his new "V7" athletic wear clothing line this week, Michael Vick described himself as "excited" for the start of the Philadelphia Eagles' season.

    From talking to a few Philadelphia coaches, the sentiment was more than just words for Vick, who they insist has been working harder than in the past on some nuances of the game, and on grasping the totality of the Eagles' offense. There have been times when Vick's wondrous physical skills have almost been a crutch for him, when he has relied too much on those abilities to pull him through, and didn't work enough on some of the more cerebral pursuits.

    But Vick apparently has realized he's into his 30s now, and is aware the Eagles were one of the league's biggest disappointments in 2011, and has dedicated himself to reversing that. The club's "dream team" year wasn't quite a nightmare for Vick personally – he still established career bests for completions and yards – but it wasn't memorable, either.

    His interception total from the previous season more than doubled, his quarterback rating plummeted by more than 15 points, Vick turned the ball over at critical junctures of games and his decision-making was frequently flawed. And so he has spent considerably more time at the team's Nova Care facility this offseason, picked the brain of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg more than in the past, and led by example. It's a big jump from, say, some of his years in Atlanta, when Falcons officials worked hard to camouflage Vick's questionable work habits and reliability.

    Vick was rarely one of the first into the building or the last out, often showed up late or at the last minute, and for some responsibilities, didn't show at all.

    There was one occasion on which the Falcons were forced to cancel a press conference to introduce new uniforms because Vick, scheduled to be one of the models and whose promised presence was used to lure the media for the event, blew it off.

  • Just a reminder that the deadline for "franchised" players to sign multi-year contracts is Monday.

    New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who signed a five-year, $100 million deal with $40 million in the first year of the deal and $60 million in the first three years, is off the franchise player ticking clock.

    There are six other franchise players – wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City), tailbacks Matt Forte (Chicago) and Ray Rice (Baltimore), defensive end Cliff Avril (Detroit), safety Dashon Goldson (49ers) and kicker Josh Scobee (Jacksonville).

    And there are eight more players who signed only one-year tenders, most of whom are still negotiating for long-term contracts.

  • There are several second-year tailbacks being counted on by their respective teams to become big-time ball carriers in 2012.

    But few of them posted only three attempts, or gained a whopping 11 yards, as Alex Green did for the Packers in his debut season.

    Yet the former third-round draft choice from Hawaii, who appeared in just four games before a knee injury ended his initial NFL season, is regarded as an essential part of the Green Bay running game for ‘12. The Packers have not signed a veteran back, didn't invest a draft choice in a runner, and don't appear interested in re-signing unrestricted free agent Ryan Grant, the last Green Bay runner to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (2009).

    The carries might not be split 50-50, but Green is expected to share time with James Starks at tailback.

    "It really is kind of a vote of confidence," Green, who continues to rehab from his knee injury," said this week. "A lot of people might (view) last year as wasted, but I learned a lot about what it takes to play at this level, (and) I'm anxious to show it."

    The Packers' brass might be keeping the phone numbers of a few veterans on speed-dial, but for now the plan seems to be to go with Starks, Green, and perhaps Brandon Saine, an undrafted rookie in 2011, who logged just 18 carries.

  • One underrated factor in Cleveland's selection of wide receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft was the quick success, relatively speaking, that the Browns experienced with Greg Little in 2011.

    The too-frequent drops aside, Little progressed fairly well as a rookie, and did so minus the benefit of any offseason work, because of the lockout.

    It's clearly not the optimum situation, but Cleveland officials note that Mike Wilson did a nice job with Little last season, and that the wide receivers' coach learned from the experience of preparing a player without participation in minicamps and OTAs.

    The situation for Gordon and Wilson will be similar, with very little exposure, none on the field, to the Cleveland offense before camp starts for rookies July 24. Wilson, kind of the unsung guy in the Browns' rationale to aggressively go after Gordon, will be expected to ready the rookie the same way he did Little last season.

    Remember, because he was ruled ineligible by North Carolina officials for receiving improper benefits from agents, Little didn't play a single game the season before he was taken by the Browns.

    Gordon didn't play at all last season, after transferring to Utah, after he was dismissed by Baylor following a marijuana-related incident. Gordon was also said by Browns' officials to have been very impressive, and notably candid about a background he described as "spotty," during his two-day visit with the team.

    The Browns, who brought Gibson to Cleveland last Thursday and Friday, were the lone club to have him in for an official visit.

    While just about everyone agrees that Gibson needs plenty of work on his route-running, his football acumen, the ability to translate concepts while working "at the board" and to assimilate principles of the Cleveland offense, were said to be very high.

  • Baltimore Ravens officials still hold out hope that Ed Reed will be in camp on time, but the perennial Pro Bowl safety keeps making noises about not reporting, primarily because of his contract.

    Reed is in the final season of his deal, a six-year extension worth $40 million signed in 2006, and is scheduled for a $7.2 million base salary.

    The problem: Reed will be 34 less than two weeks into the season and, despite some public protests from coach John Harbaugh abut the 10-year veteran's play in 2011, the consensus seems to be that his performance slipped a bit.

    Plus, there are some injury issues, and the Ravens don't want to invest too much money for too many years for a guy who has flirted with retirement talk the last two seasons.

  • Six players with 10-plus seasons of NFL tenure, and 11 with seven years or more of league seniority, are projected as starting centers in 2012.

    So the position remains one steeped in longevity, anchored by greybeards such as Matt Birk, Brad Meester, Dominic Raiola and Jeff Saturday.

    But there are also 13 projected starting centers with four seasons or fewer of prior experience, and the young guys seem to really be coming on.

    "(Centers) have to be both strong and athletic, and you're starting to see the position develop more, and take on more (prominence)," said Pittsburgh standout Maurkice Pouncey. "It's not the same as it used to be."


  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Even with the signing of wide receiver T.J. Graham by Buffalo last week, there seemed to be little movement to break the logjam at the top of the third round where players and agents are attempting to maximize the \"25-percent\" rule for base salaries in the final three seasons of four-year contracts. Graham was the sixth player in the round, but the only prospect in the top nine to have a contract. A similar impasse exists at the top of the first round, where the first eight players are still unsigned, and where the primary issue remains so-called \"offset language.\" Saturday was Bastille Day, the French equivalent of Independence Day and the day late NFL general manager George Young said most negotiations for rookies began, and club officials hope that the proximity to training camp report dates stirs some action. Vikings players are scheduled to report on July 26, with their first practice on July 27. That leaves less than two weeks to complete the contracts of first-round pick Matt Kalil and third-round pick Josh Robinson. Each of them have experienced agents, and each of them fall into the separate aforementioned logjams at their respective draft positions.
  • During the debut of his new \"V7\" athletic wear clothing line this week, Michael Vick described himself as \"excited\" for the start of the Philadelphia Eagles' season. From talking to a few Philadelphia coaches, the sentiment was more than just words for Vick, who they insist has been working harder than in the past on some nuances of the game, and on grasping the totality of the Eagles' offense. There have been times when Vick's wondrous physical skills have almost been a crutch for him, when he has relied too much on those abilities to pull him through, and didn't work enough on some of the more cerebral pursuits. But Vick apparently has realized he's into his 30s now, and is aware the Eagles were one of the league's biggest disappointments in 2011, and has dedicated himself to reversing that. The club's \"dream team\" year wasn't quite a nightmare for Vick personally – he still established career bests for completions and yards – but it wasn't memorable, either. His interception total from the previous season more than doubled, his quarterback rating plummeted by more than 15 points, Vick turned the ball over at critical junctures of games and his decision-making was frequently flawed. And so he has spent considerably more time at the team's Nova Care facility this offseason, picked the brain of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg more than in the past, and led by example. It's a big jump from, say, some of his years in Atlanta, when Falcons officials worked hard to camouflage Vick's questionable work habits and reliability. Vick was rarely one of the first into the building or the last out, often showed up late or at the last minute, and for some responsibilities, didn't show at all. There was one occasion on which the Falcons were forced to cancel a press conference to introduce new uniforms because Vick, scheduled to be one of the models and whose promised presence was used to lure the media for the event, blew it off.
  • Just a reminder that the deadline for \"franchised\" players to sign multi-year contracts is Monday. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who signed a five-year, $100 million deal with $40 million in the first year of the deal and $60 million in the first three years, is off the franchise player ticking clock. There are six other franchise players – wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City), tailbacks Matt Forte (Chicago) and Ray Rice (Baltimore), defensive end Cliff Avril (Detroit), safety Dashon Goldson (49ers) and kicker Josh Scobee (Jacksonville). And there are eight more players who signed only one-year tenders, most of whom are still negotiating for long-term contracts.
  • There are several second-year tailbacks being counted on by their respective teams to become big-time ball carriers in 2012. But few of them posted only three attempts, or gained a whopping 11 yards, as Alex Green did for the Packers in his debut season. Yet the former third-round draft choice from Hawaii, who appeared in just four games before a knee injury ended his initial NFL season, is regarded as an essential part of the Green Bay running game for ‘12. The Packers have not signed a veteran back, didn't invest a draft choice in a runner, and don't appear interested in re-signing unrestricted free agent Ryan Grant, the last Green Bay runner to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (2009). The carries might not be split 50-50, but Green is expected to share time with James Starks at tailback. \"It really is kind of a vote of confidence,\" Green, who continues to rehab from his knee injury,\" said this week. \"A lot of people might (view) last year as wasted, but I learned a lot about what it takes to play at this level, (and) I'm anxious to show it.\" The Packers' brass might be keeping the phone numbers of a few veterans on speed-dial, but for now the plan seems to be to go with Starks, Green, and perhaps Brandon Saine, an undrafted rookie in 2011, who logged just 18 carries.
  • One underrated factor in Cleveland's selection of wide receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft was the quick success, relatively speaking, that the Browns experienced with Greg Little in 2011. The too-frequent drops aside, Little progressed fairly well as a rookie, and did so minus the benefit of any offseason work, because of the lockout. It's clearly not the optimum situation, but Cleveland officials note that Mike Wilson did a nice job with Little last season, and that the wide receivers' coach learned from the experience of preparing a player without participation in minicamps and OTAs. The situation for Gordon and Wilson will be similar, with very little exposure, none on the field, to the Cleveland offense before camp starts for rookies July 24. Wilson, kind of the unsung guy in the Browns' rationale to aggressively go after Gordon, will be expected to ready the rookie the same way he did Little last season. Remember, because he was ruled ineligible by North Carolina officials for receiving improper benefits from agents, Little didn't play a single game the season before he was taken by the Browns. Gordon didn't play at all last season, after transferring to Utah, after he was dismissed by Baylor following a marijuana-related incident. Gordon was also said by Browns' officials to have been very impressive, and notably candid about a background he described as \"spotty,\" during his two-day visit with the team. The Browns, who brought Gibson to Cleveland last Thursday and Friday, were the lone club to have him in for an official visit. While just about everyone agrees that Gibson needs plenty of work on his route-running, his football acumen, the ability to translate concepts while working \"at the board\" and to assimilate principles of the Cleveland offense, were said to be very high.
  • Baltimore Ravens officials still hold out hope that Ed Reed will be in camp on time, but the perennial Pro Bowl safety keeps making noises about not reporting, primarily because of his contract. Reed is in the final season of his deal, a six-year extension worth $40 million signed in 2006, and is scheduled for a $7.2 million base salary. The problem: Reed will be 34 less than two weeks into the season and, despite some public protests from coach John Harbaugh abut the 10-year veteran's play in 2011, the consensus seems to be that his performance slipped a bit. Plus, there are some injury issues, and the Ravens don't want to invest too much money for too many years for a guy who has flirted with retirement talk the last two seasons.
  • Six players with 10-plus seasons of NFL tenure, and 11 with seven years or more of league seniority, are projected as starting centers in 2012. So the position remains one steeped in longevity, anchored by greybeards such as Matt Birk, Brad Meester, Dominic Raiola and Jeff Saturday. But there are also 13 projected starting centers with four seasons or fewer of prior experience, and the young guys seem to really be coming on. \"(Centers) have to be both strong and athletic, and you're starting to see the position develop more, and take on more (prominence),\" said Pittsburgh standout Maurkice Pouncey. \"It's not the same as it used to be.\"
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