Smooth Signings Could Be Difficult

The Vikings typically don't start signing their draft picks until July, but this year could present more hurdles than usual, an agent for one of their picks confirmed this week. See what challenges all the teams face and why the Vikings are in a unique position.

The Minnesota Vikings annually face challenges in signing their draft picks on time for them to make it to the first practice of training camp. This year, that task could be even more difficult.

So far, the Vikings haven't signed any of their draft picks, and Steve Kauffman, the agent for second-round center Ryan Cook, said the process was just getting started late this week.

Kauffman confirmed that there are a number of factors creating additional challenges this year, most of them caused by issues surrounding the new collective bargaining agreement.

Challenge one: The first 16 picks in the 2006 draft can sign deals for a maximum of six years and picks 17 through 32 can sign deals for a maximum of five years. The rest of the drafted players selected in rounds two through seven can sign deals for a maximum of only four years.

That last bit of information is an especially big obstacle because, in general, agents like to get their clients a 5 to 10 percent increase in pay over the same slotted selection last year. However, with fewer years in which to spread out the signing bonus, that bonus money could actually go down.

"We probably wouldn't have wanted a five-year deal anyway, but that takes away from how far away they can amortize the signing bonus. That's one big factor," Kauffman said.

Challenge two: The numbers don't add up. Besides the decrease in years to spread out signing bonuses against the salary cap, the rookie signing pool, the amount allotted to each team to sign its draft picks, increased a modest 5 percent this year. Considering the minimum base salary for a rookie went up $45,000, or almost 20 percent, it makes it more difficult for teams to match last year's signing bonuses, increase the non-guaranteed minimum base salary (which they are required to do) and still be able to stay within the league-imposed rookie pool.

"That's another big factor. You could arguably say that it's the biggest factor. You've got all these things going on," Kauffman said.

"The minimum went up a lot and that affects Ryan and Chad (Greenway) and the others, but everybody is bumped up by that, so that affects your rookie pool," Kauffman said. "Your sixth- and seventh-rounders, you have to put that in there. That affects the numbers."

The Vikings' rookie pool this year is $3,708,617.

Challenge three: The Vikings are in a unique situation after becoming masters of maneuvering on the draft's first day. They ended up with a first-round pick (linebacker Chad Greenway) and three second-round picks (cornerback Cedric Griffin, Cook and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson).

"In the case of the Vikings specifically, it's not rocket science, but we all know they've got a first-round pick and they have three second-round picks," Kauffman said. "I'm not saying it hasn't happened before, but that's a little bit of an unusual situation when you're dealing with signing bonuses."

In fact, it would seem that it is becoming more difficult for teams to sign their draft picks. According to the NFL Players Association, only 19 of the 32 first-round draft choices in 2005 were signed before Aug. 2 last year. It was actually worse in 2004, when less than 44 percent of the first-round draft picks were signed before Aug. 2.

The percentage of rookies signed by that date the last two years gets increasingly higher as their selected rounds go up. In 2005, 75 percent of second-rounders, 89 percent of third-rounders, 91 percent of fourth-rounders and all the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-rounders in the NFL were signed before Aug. 2.

This year, Vikings rookies and select veterans report to training camp on July 27. How many will be signed before then? The Vikings always want that answer to be 100 percent, but odds say there will be one or two missing when head coach Brad Childress blows his whistle for the first time in Mankato.

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