McKinnon caught in contractual confusion

Third-round RB Jerick McKinnon is the Vikings' only unsigned draft pick and there could be a good reason for it. The picks surrounding him don't follow a logical money progression.

With all of the big-name rookie signings that have taken place long before training camp, one player who remains unsigned is third-round running back Jerick McKinnon.

McKinnon spoke with Viking Update this week and, as the only one of the Vikings' 10 draft picks who has yet to be signed, he stands out in that regard. He acknowledged his stand-alone status, but was quick to say that his signing should come soon. Still, being unsigned makes him something out of the norm league-wide – unless you were drafted at the end of the third round, which was the end of Draft Friday.

Even though training camp is still almost two months away, a record 12 teams have already signed all of their draft picks – Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.

More than half of the first-round picks (18) have already signed, but there is something different about the back end of the third round. While it would seem that later-round picks would go earlier, there has been something of a logjam among those players who were selected at the end of Day 2.

McKinnon is one of 12 unsigned third-round draft picks, which has seemingly become the demarcation point in what contracts players are going to receive.

McKinnon was the 32nd pick of the third round, a pick acquired from Seattle that got the Vikings back into the second day of the day of the draft. Where the problem lies is that the picks around him have remained largely unsigned. The pick directly in front of him, Denver OT Michael Schofield, signed a contract Thursday for four years, $2.77 million.

The problem the Vikings face is that Baltimore might be the fly in the ointment. When agents look to sign contracts, they see what kind of a deal players around his client got. Here is the current status of those contracts:

No. 92 – Carolina guard Trai Turner: four years, $2.791 million.
No. 93 – Jacksonville guard Brandon Linder: unsigned.
No. 94 – Cleveland running back Terrance West: unsigned.
No. 95 – Denver offensive tackle Michael Schofield: four years, $2.777 million.
No. 96 – McKinnon: unsigned.
No. 97 – Pittsburgh running back Dri Archer: unsigned.
No. 98 – Green Bay tight end Richard Rodgers: unsigned.
No. 99 – Baltimore tight end Crockett Gillmore: four years, $2.907 million.

Turner's $2.791 million deal at No. 92 seemed to keep pace with Schofield's deal for $2.777 million. Under that formula, McKinnon should get a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $2.76 million.

But Gillmore's $2.9 million deal at No. 99 – more than what the pick at No. 92 received – could create its own set of problems. Contract negotiations, even those where the two sides are likely only about $100,000 apart over four years, can get sticky. The bigger issue may be how much of the money is guaranteed, but, once again, the team and agent can't be that far apart because many of the terms are already collectively bargained at each draft slot.

While Turner was the 92nd pick, his signing bonus was $539,800. The problem with that? Schofield at No. 95 got $621,200 guaranteed. Gillmore at No. 99 got $606,376.

McKinnon told VU that he isn't holding out and that he thought the only holdup was seeing what Schofield got. But, without a descending scale of either contracts or guaranteed money, it could turn into a back-burner stare-down between NFL teams and agents for picks at the end of the third round.

They will all get settled because the disparity of the numbers is so small, but nowhere in the draft – from the first round to the seventh – is there an area in which five of six consecutive picks are unsigned.

They will all get resolved at some point, but one has to wonder why a contractual line in the sand is being drawn so distinctly at the end of the third round.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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