When the Vikings selected offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie with the seventh pick in the 2002 NFL draft, they never envisioned that in the week leading up to the regular season that they would be without him.
Upon hearing his name called in New York City that early afternoon, McKinnie was ready and eager to start his professional football career.
Going to Minnesota may have been a little shocking to McKinnie. He fondly enjoys the South Florida scene. The weather, the atmosphere, and certainly his closeness to the University of Miami football program.
Never a workout warrior, McKinnie starred because of his tremendous physical talent. He is thought of in league circles as the next great dominant offensive left tackle in the NFL.
Many people within the league have their impression on what went wrong in negotiations to leave McKinnie on the sideline as the regular season commences for the Vikings against the Chicago Bears next Sunday.
"The guys at SFX (agents Jim Steiner and Ben Dogra) have a reputation as tough, but very fair negotiators. They have one objective, that is to secure a contract for their client that works within the scope of the player's value," a league source said. "From the numbers that have been reported, it appears that they (Steiner and Dogra) are looking to gain an increase for the player selected in his draft slot that easily surpasses the percentage increase over any other draft slotted player."
"The rumors going around are that the Vikings are being very hard-line in all the negotiations they have conducted this year, not just with McKinnie. These negotiations have been rocky at best, and right now neither side trusts the other."
At times during the negotiations it appeared that progress was being made. About four weeks ago talks were progressing so well that there was a genuine belief that an agreement was close in the making, a source close to the situation informs The Insiders.
"There was a time about a month or so ago when it appeared that the deal would get done. Talks had progressed to the point where Bryant McKinnie was told to get ready to go to Minnesota," the source said. "When breaking down the details of the offer, the terms changed somewhat, throwing the entire process into a tailspin."
"Voidable years, buy-back years and total compensation over a specific period of the contract were and still are issues that remain unresolved."
With any prolonged holdout, the parties involved generally bunker down, draw a line in the sand, propose a final offer, etc. This situation is certainly no different than other player holdouts. It isn't that McKinnie doesn't want to play in Minnesoa. He does, but his representatives do not believe that the Vikings are willing to compensate the player accordingly.
On the other hand, the Vikings have made numerous offers that easily surpass the contracts signed by players selected with the seventh choice in the draft in prior years.
The game plan being utilized by McKinnie's representatives is a rather easy one to follow. They are keeping this young, talented individual out of camp, looking to secure a contract based on the talents of their client, rather than accepting a deal that falls in line for a player selected where he was in the draft at his position.
Both sides have reached a point in these negotiations where they know something has to give to get the player in camp. On the other hand, neither party has appeared ready to offer concessions to get talks started again in the past weeks.
A league source tells The Insiders that there are indications that representatives for McKinnie may be willing to lower their demands, but not to the level of the what the Vikings have called their final offer.
"Steiner has a history of getting his players into camp before the season starts. Remember, the Bengals drafted Justin Smith, he held out the entire training camp and there appeared to be absolutely no hope of getting him signed. Out of nowhere a deal was completed. At that time Cincinnati had a very bad reputation in regards to compensating players. They were not easy to get a deal done with."
"I wouldn't say that the Vikings have been difficult or as stringent as the Bengals were at that time, but they haven't shown any desire to push the envelope and get a deal done either. Knowing Jim (Steiner), he will get something done with Minnesota done very soon and just prior to the season opener wouldn't be a shocker."
Bryant McKinnie isn't talking much these days, but recently added, "Lets hope that something gets done soon. I'm ready to go."
For the Vikings, soon should have been long ago and not soon enough.