Speculation this past week was at a fever pitch once again regarding the status of offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie.
Widespread indications were that the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns had been working on a deal that would land the rookie in Cleveland and the Browns in turn would send defensive end Courtney Brown to the Twin Cities.
As reported here at VU and in other media outlets, this proposed, rumored deal is not going to happen. Not this year, and most likely never. Not in the capacity that has been stated.
There isn't much of a doubt that the Browns continue to have more than a lingering interest in McKinnie. Speculation is that interest could lead to a legitimate trade offer down the line. However, such a deal would not involve Brown.
In the case of Courtney Brown, ironically it is the contract he signed in 2000 when he was the first player selected in the draft that will keep him out of the rumored deal. An incorrect rumor I may add, sources tell this column.
"It would take a lot of creative workings for the Browns to trade Courtney Brown. The salary cap hit would be tremendous (5.7 million) and almost assuredly would cause them serious issues," the source said. "Furthermore, then they would be taking on another contract, which would also have significant upfront monies paid. It just isn't going to happen."
"Now, if Minnesota can't get McKinnie signed by Nov. 12, he may never play a regular-season game in a Vikings uniform."
Irresponsible rumor mongering in the media fueled the latest wave of McKinnie speculation, much in most part coming from sportstalk-radio in Cleveland. Not knowing that a trade is impossible during the season and the ramifications for both teams, the spewing of unsubstantiated talks persisted.
Remaining the only 2002 draft choice without a contract, McKinnie was the seventh player selected in the 2002 NFL draft. The NFL collective bargaining agreement states, unsigned draft picks cannot be traded after 30 days prior to the beginning of the regular season.
This was put in place to help prohibit rookie players from either holding out or forcing a trade. Generally, once a player holds out into the regular season, he will have lost 1/16 of his salary, once he is signed. August 6th was the latest date that a team could trade a drafted player.
Vikings owner Red McCombs issued a statement Friday that the team has "absolutely no interest" in trading McKinnie at any time and basically questioned irresponsible handling of negotiations by McKinnie's representatives, Jim Steiner and Ben Dogra."
Contract talks between the parties have not progressed at all over the past month. Both sides in these contract negotiations have offered modified proposals, but neither side is close to budging on their demands, a source close to the McKinnie camp maintains.
"Bryant wants to be playing right now. That is what his dream has been and worked hard to get to this point. But, I don't see him walking into Minnesota and signing a contract right now that doesn't pay him correctly," the source stated. "There is a structure and slotting in the pay-scale in the NFL. This isn't about Bryant not wanting to play or being greedy, it is all about the Vikings wanting to get off lightly. It's about getting what he deserves according to his draft position, and respect.
"Bryant and his representatives have openly stated that they want a deal that is fair to their client, a deal that pays him for where he was drafted, as the seventh player in the draft. No more, no less."
Circle the date of Nov. 12. If McKinnie is not signed by that date, he is forbidden to play in the NFL the rest of the year.
Needless to say, if he remains unsigned, things will get interesting and there are only a few options.
McKinnie could go back into the 2003 draft and Minnesota would lose his rights as well as not having anything to show for the pick. Don't expect Minnesota to let this progress to that point, a team source tells The Insiders.
"If he (McKinnie) isn't signed, the odds are that he will never play with the Vikings. Already, there has been some talk about what to do about this issue. The cards have been laid on the table," the source said. "The Minnesota Vikings are not going to increase their offer to him, they may begin to decrease the offer, and they want him in camp but are prepared to go on without him."
"There is only one certainty to this issue, the Vikings will not come away from this with nothing to show for the pick, whether it be now or after the season."
Minnesota would have the opportunity to trade McKinnie beginning on March 1, up to the draft, which is in mid-April.