Sunday slant: Thank the CBA

Say goodbye to the old first-round holdouts like the Vikings experienced with Bryant McKinnie and many others. The new CBA is treating fans and salary-cap protectors right, taking the contract angst out of the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends.

Welcome to Memorial Day weekend, which is really just like the old Fourth of July in old NFL contract terms, only better.

The NFL has changed in big, bold and business ways a lot since the Players Association and the league came to terms on a collective bargaining agreement in 2011. In a world bent on delving out wins and losses, the league won that negotiation in a landslide of public opinion. The NFL got what it wanted in many aspects of the new CBA, but the perpetual pie continues to grow for all, even if it's not as quickly as the players would like.

The biggest CBA stop sign for players came in the way rookie contracts are handled. Sam Bradford was the last of the $50 million unproven picks, and that's a good thing. Getting rid of the huge rookie signing bonuses and the unrelenting pressure by first-round picks to garner the lion's share of the old rookie pool is so much better in so many ways.

The biggest benefit for fans: Resting easy and finding a bit more relaxing of an offseason between Memorial Day and the start of training camp because the contracts of the rookies have already been blowing past the finish line fast and furious, starting just days after the draft. Two weeks later, the Vikings' rookie "negotiations" are all but over.

So are the days of the first-round holdouts. It got particularly ugly in 2002 when the colliding worlds of a tight-fisted owner and an unbending agent met head on. The frugality of the Red McCombs era is still whispered about around Winter Park 10 years after selling the team to Zygi and Mark Wilf when McCombs decided that the team had little shot of getting a new stadium, something McCombs started politicking for upon his purchase from the Gang of 10 back in 1998.

But McCombs met his equal in stubbornness when it comes to the pursuit of a dollar when McKinnie had Drew Rosenhaus in his corner. McKinnie held out until midseason and word back then was that he finally got essentially what most believed he would be paid once his draft status was established. Ol' Red relented and Mount McKinnie got fair market value.

McKinnie was hardly the first and certainly wasn't the last of the first-round picks taking advantage of the pre-2011 CBA. Matthew Stafford will be remembered as the last to garner an immense bonus – $50 million – guaranteed in his rookie contract, long before he ever established himself as a mediocre starting option. While Stafford has never reached superstar status and likely never will, he's still a far cry from the loot JaMarcus Russell stole in his rookie contract. It wasn't as much as Stafford, but Russell wasn't even a serviceable starter.

As former agent, general manager and now analyst for Monday Morning Quarterback points out, before many of the pre-2011 first-rounders ever reached the end of their rookie contract, teams were begging them to renegotiate to hold off the sickle of the salary-cap reaper. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson are still getting the benefits of their initial contract through multiple renegotiations looking to delay the inevitable.

That's one of the great benefits of the current CBA for the Vikings. Christian Ponder was drafted in 2011 and therefore just missed the bonus bonanza of previous draft classes. While he hasn't grabbed hold of the starting position and is closer to being out the door than opening it for an extension, his drafting at No. 12 overall, while a mistake that the Vikings seem more willing to admit these days, isn't leaving an ink stain too overpowering on Rob Brzezinki's salary-cap ledger.

The reduced bonuses and guarantees for first-round picks has not only relieved the late-July (or worse) angst of fans wondering if their newest idol will sign soon, it has made it easier for them to move on from a potential bust. The Vikings didn't pick up Ponder's fifth-year option, something that is now standard in first-round contracts, meaning he may have damaged the hopes of fans more than the salary-cap structure of the Vikings.

The new terms for first-rounders have also made it easier for teams to trade their assets in the draft. By 2010, so few teams wanted to be locked into a big guaranteed contract for an unproven equity that it made it difficult to trade down from a top-10 pick. That's not the case any longer. The Vikings moved back one spot this year, and they have also wisely reaped the benefits of getting back into the first round each of the last three drafts, first for Harrison Smith in 2012, then for Cordarrelle Patterson last year and now for Teddy Bridgewater. If each of them them pan out as hoped, the team will likely exercise the fifth-year option on them, a tool that wouldn't be available if they were they were selected after the first round.

Prior to 2011, the old credo was that signings didn't typically start in earnest until after the Fourth of July. If one mid-round pick signed in May, it was a surprise. As the league closed for business prior to the Memorial Day weekend, about 65 percent of the draft picks have been signed, including eight of the 32 first-round picks. Fortunately for the Vikings fans intent on agonizing over their team daily, their team has signed nine of its 10 draft picks, including both first-rounders.

The days of the Bryant McKinnie holdouts are over. Enjoy your worry-free Memorial Day and thank the collective bargainers that the ugly, protracted holdouts that happened with regularity prior to 2011 are just a memory.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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