Vikes, McKinnie Ready to Talk?

What will it take to get Bryant McKinnie signed? More than the Vikings have ever spent in team history on a rookie.

There are two givens about Bryant McKinnie. One is that he is going to be a rock on the left side of the Vikings offensive line. The second is that, to get him signed, the Vikings are going to have to back up the Brinks truck farther than they ever have in the past.

Call it success over a decade -- Denny Green would prefer that -- or never being lucky enough to get a true blue chip rookie where he SHOULD have been drafted -- Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss would prefer that -- the Vikings are in new territory. In the age of salary caps, this will be the first year that the Vikings have to shell out enormous money to sign a first-round draft pick. For example, Culpepper has a base salary of $1 million this year -- far below his market value and he was a No. 10 selection when drafted in 1999.

So, it begs the question -- as unaccustomed to negotiating enormous rookie contracts as the Vikings are, will signing McKinnie be more difficult than, let's say, a team like the Bengals -- accustomed to drafting in the top 10 -- would have? The answer is probably yes.

McKinnie is going to be a costly venture for the Vikings, which is why many of us at VU were happy Ryan Sims was off the board. Left tackles are as sure a draft bet as any position in the league. But now the debate comes to how much will McKinnie get?

The money at the top of the draft is insane -- last year, Carolina's Dan Morgan was the No. 11 pick and signed a five-year, $9 million deal. No. 1 pick Michael Vick had a signing bonus more than that.

There are tiers in the NFL and the top 10 picks are in that group. McKinnie will likely -- by force, not choice -- run the Vikings $15 million over five years with about $7 million of that up front.

Is that spendy for a guy who has never played a down in the NFL? Yes. Is he worth every penny? Yes. Protecting Daunte Culpepper's blind side is worth more than the team paid Todd Steussie before he was released and McKinnie is better than Steuss. Our advice? Ask what his agent wants, pay it and don't have a potential holdout. If the Vikes are to be successful in 2002, McKinnie will play an enormous role in that. Get it done.

* Minor rumblings have surfaced that, if too many teams with cap problems don't step up, the Vikings might make a run for LB Hardy Nickerson on a two- or three-year deal that could upgrade the Vikes defense a ton.
* From the "What the...?" Department comes this: the Vikings have signed 12 free agents in the off-season. The combined cost of those players is less than the contracts signed by Robert Griffith, Kailee Wong and Dale Carter to play elsewhere. While those players will be missed, you do the math -- 12 vs. 3. 12 wins every time.
* Although he's gone, Cris Carter's presence in the NFL will still be felt. He continues to run his speed camp in Boca Raton, Fla., but his Vikings compatriates run fewer now that he's no longer donning the horns.
* The Vikes have somewhere between $2 million and $2.5 million in cap money ready to give WR Derrick Alexander. While rumors have surfaced that the Vikings might get in the bidding for Keenan McCardell when he's cut loose from Jacksonville, his asking price will be higher and the Vikings are ready to wait around for the price to come down and play marketing games with a starting position of need.
* Carter apparently made good on his quest to become a partial NFL owner, talking with Red McCombs about getting a slice of the Vikes. But, when Red gave an asking price, Carter slipped out of the picture faster than he did in a signing scenario with St. Louis.
* The Vikings cap situation is getting better quickly. The same can't be said for the defending champion Patriots. In order to make deals to get rid of Terry Glenn and Drew Bledsoe, the Pats are forced to suck up a $7.5 million cap hit -- a lot of dead money for no return in 2002 when the bull's eye is on their back.
* One player the Vikes may not have to worry about this year (again) is Detroit CB Terry Fair. A VU source with the Lions said that Fair may have to have surgery on his still-injured foot and that could result in him missing all of the 2002 season. Just when you think things can't get worse for Detroit, they do.

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