Vikes Lock Up McKinnie

The Vikings took advantage of opportunity and necessity Friday, signing left tackle Bryant McKinnie to a long-term contract extension.

Somewhere in the depths of the Seahawks business office, there is a capologist who is truly Sleepless In Seattle.

When the Vikings signed Steve Hutchinson to an offer sheet this spring, one of the poison pills in the deal was that he had to be the team's highest paid lineman in 2006. Having just signed Walter Jones to a monster deal, Seattle couldn't match the terms.

That signing left the question of what would be the fate of Bryant McKinnie, the next free-agency eligible member of the Vikings offensive line? That question was answered Friday.

VU has been told that the Vikings have agreed to terms with McKinnie on a seven-year contract extension that kicks in next year. The deal is said to be worth $48.5 million -- only slightly less than the deal Hutchinson agreed to. But, the contract includes $18 million in guaranteed dollars, which is slightly higher than the guarantee on Hutchinson's deal.

McKinnie, who has showed considerable improvement over the last year-plus as far as "getting it" when it comes to being a consistent blocker on pass-rushing defensive ends, has been in the sights of the Vikings cap people for several months. Getting a deal done before the start of the 2006 season is beneficial in two ways.

First, it takes one potential headache away from the Vikings -- the possibility of forcing the franchise tag on McKinnie (like the Seahawks did with Jones for three straight years) and having a preseason holdout hurt the team. Second, it keeps the team's salary cap shape sound. When the Vikings signed Antoine Winfield in 2004, he was given a huge first-year cap number that went off the books. The same was done with Fred Smoot in 2005, potentially opening up $8 million in cap space for this year. When Hutchinson was signed, he assumed all of that cap space -- leaving it open for 2007. When McKinnie's contract kicks in, his first-year cap number will be abnormally large -- upwards of $14 million -- but more than $10 million of that will evaporate for the 2008 cap.

The business of football moves on and, as the Vikings prepare themselves for a three- to four-year run for the Super Bowl, they keep themselves in a comfortable salary cap situation that will allow them to keep passing the big hits from one signing to the next.

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