McKinnie Encourages Proactive Contract Talks

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie had difficulties getting signed by the Vikings as a rookie in 2002 under different ownership, but he doesn't recommend the Vikings wait until the end of the season to sign him to an extension.

Bryant McKinnie didn't seem too concerned about his contract status following the Vikings' recent minicamp, but he wouldn't advise the team wait too long before signing him to an extension if they want to retain him beyond the 2006 season.

The 6-foot-8, 335-pound wall between 37-year-old quarterback Brad Johnson and a pass-rushing defensive end is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2006 season. He signed a five-year deal as a first-round draft choice in 2002.

"From what I heard, they were going to start (negotiating) after the draft, but they haven't started yet," McKinnie told Viking Update of potential talks between the Vikings and his agent, Ben Dogra. "I haven't heard anything yet."

McKinnie has been a mainstay for the Vikings at left tackle since he signed that first contract midway through the 2002 regular season. Back then, things were a little more contentious with Red McCombs in charge of doling out the dollars.

Initially, the Vikings weren't willing to offer a contract representative of the No. 7 overall pick from the previous season, Andre Carter, and more than a month into his rookie holdout McKinnie called the Vikings' offer a "slap in the face."

Times have changed since then. McKinnie eventually ended a 99-day holdout and signed a five-year deal worth $13.3 million, including $9.3 million in bonus money. And now Zygi Wilf, with a pocketbook more committed to winning than McCombs', is the one signing off on contract deals.

Although the Vikings could wait until just before the start of 2007 free agency and still maintain exclusive negotiating rights with McKinnie, he doesn't recommend that approach.

"If we can get it done, we get it done. If we wait, that's not going to be a good thing," he said earlier this week. "I don't recommend to wait for the season to end. For them, I wouldn't want them to go all the way through the season."

If history is their guide, the Vikings don't have to be overly concerned about signing McKinnie to an extension and then having an injury sidetrack his career. He has started every game but his first as a Viking, and that first one was coming off his three-month holdout. Since then, he started seven games in 2002 and all 16 regular-season games each of the next three seasons. In fact, he was the lone starter on offense to start every game in 2005.

While he hasn't been named a Pro Bowl player yet, McKinnie was praised as being on the cusp of that recognition by last year's coaching staff. He and Hall of Famer Ron Yary are the only Outland Trophy winners in Vikings history, and Yary, a No. 1 overall draft choice in 1968, is the only offensive lineman drafted higher by Vikings than McKinnie.

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