Where Do I Sign?

The Vikings are one of 27 NFL teams that has yet to sign their first-round draft pick, as the annual process of dragging on negotiations and not handing over the signing bonus money continues to keep the top talent in the draft out of training camps as they open around the country.

What gives?

With as many things as the NFL does right, getting its top rookies signed and into training camp has never been one of them. As of early Wednesday morning, the Dolphins were close to signing Ted Ginn, Jr., the ninth overall selection in April's draft. If they get Ginn signed today, he will be the highest draft pick of the 2007 draft to date to get signed and under contract.

As it currently stands, just five first-rounders have signed – Lawrence Timmons (No. 15, Steelers), Robert Meacham (No. 27, Saints), Joe Staley (No. 28, 49ers), Craig Davis (No. 30, Chargers) and Greg Olsen (No. 31, Bears).

While there can be many reasons cited for this lack of activity, especially at the top, the reality of the situation is that teams wait until the 11th hour to get draft picks signed – even those who claim they simply want to get a deal done and get to training camp on time. That was the case with Chad Greenway last year, who instructed his agent in no uncertain terms that he wanted a deal in place by the start of training camp – even if it meant that he would be the first in his cluster of first-rounders to sign.

It's not unusual to see one or two players set the bar for everyone in and around his pick. Of the five players who have signed, four of them came within the five picks at the end of the first round (picks 27-31). With Timmon signed, it can be expected that the players from Nos. 13-17 will follow suit. The same could happen if Ginn signs today – opening up the market price for players like Adrian Peterson at No. 7 down to the players between Ginn and Timmons.

One of the reasons being cited for the annual delay in signing first-rounders is the huge bonus money that gets thrown out for those players. Peterson, for example, will likely see about $10 million in instant money to sign and $15 million in guaranteed money written into his contract. Nobody likes to throw away that kind of cash, so it might be understandable that some owners want to hold on to that money as long as they can before they dish it out. But, at the same time, isn't there an advantage to getting a player signed early, getting him into the training-camp practice facility to work out with his veteran teammates and simply getting him ready for his rookie season? These teams made their big investments on draft weekend to pick those players, so it doesn't seem to make sense that suddenly they are unwilling to pay the player what most have figured out almost immediately is the window in which their salaries should fall.

Don't be surprised to hear that deals with Marcus McCauley and Sidney Rice are finalized in the next day or two and then Peterson talks begin in earnest. It's a bizarre system, but one that doesn't show any signs of changing any time soon. Once a couple of key players go off the board, look for first-round signings to explode like popcorn – a half-dozen signing over each of the next few days, leaving just a handful of players unsigned by the end of the weekend.

It's a messed up system, but one the NFL shows no signs of changing any time soon.

* Although nothing has happened as of this writing, it is likely that both Rice and McCauley will be signed, sealed and delivered to Mankato by Friday's 9 a.m practice and that Peterson will likely get his deal done by the end of the weekend. * Falcons coach Bobby Petrino said Tuesday that, despite the problems the Falcons are currently embroiled in with Michael Vick, the team has no interest in signing Daunte Culpepper.
* Jon Kitna's guarantee of a 10-win season for the Lions took a hit Wednesday when Kevin Jones was put on the physically unable to perform list with Lisfranc surgery to his foot, an injury suffered when the Lions played the Vikings at the Metrodome last year. Although he can run in a straight line at full speed, there are concerns about whether he can make the cuts needed for the RB position. As it currently stands, Lions officials are putting the percentage at about 50-50 that he will be ready for the start of the regular season.
* In what may be viewed as a lesser blow, the Lions placed former Vikings wide receiver Marcus Robinson on injured reserve, meaning he will miss the entire 2007 season.
* It should have come as no surprise that the Vikings didn't take anyone in the supplemental draft two weeks ago. In the 30-plus years of the supplemental draft, the Vikings have taken one player – wide receiver Ryan Bethea in 1988, using a fifth-round draft pick to select him. No team has used a first-round pick on a supplemental selection since the Giants used on to take QB Dave Brown – which may explain why nobody has used one since.

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