Sunday Morning Minnesota

The heat turns up in the McKinnie talks. ... What about the Randy-Ratio and his subpar season, and the fall of Daunte Culpepper without a wealth of talent surrounding him?

Over the past few weeks, the negotiations between the Minnesota Vikings and representatives for Bryant McKinnie have heated up, talking almost daily. It appears that the Vikings have decided to make a concerted effort to sign the first-round draft selection, as soon as possible. The parties must agree to a deal by Nov. 12, after that date, McKinnie would be ineligible to play this season and most likely would be traded by the Vikings after March 1.

Seeing the state of an offensive line that really needs a player of McKinnie's potential, the Vikings have given some ground on their contract stance, which has now lasted well into its third month. According to sources close to the team, the Vikings are willing to raise the signing bonus, which has been a sticking point since negotiations started. Originally, the Vikings were looking at a contract offer of approximately 13.3 million dollars over five years, which included a signing bonus of 8.1 million dollars. McKinnie's representatives have been staunch in their bid to secure a signing bonus of $9.3 million for the seventh player selected in the draft.

Within the past week, numbers have been flying at a record pace for these negotiations. The Insiders has learned the Vikings are looking to lock McKinnie up for seven years, while accepting to dole out approximately $9 million as a signing bonus. Some of the incentive money that was a sticking point would be modified, all in exchange to get the player under contract for a longer duration, while spreading the bonus money out over a longer period of time for salary cap record purposes.

This isn't a done deal, but it is much closer to a resolution than has been perceived at any time during this negotiation.

The Randy Moss factor is a factor, but a negative one. Getting the ball into the hands of Moss in the past meant a high yards per catch average, a deep threat in the passing game, an explosive receiver that could change the complexion of the game at anytime.

What the Moss-factor has been in 2002 is a season of disappointment.

Moss has been the intended receiver on half of quarterback Daunte Culpepper's 12 interceptions. The explosive threat has been quieted as Moss' per catch average is more that 7 yards per catch off his career average and he is gaining no yardage after the reception. Minnesota's offensive woes could be blamed on injuries, a lack of a running game, etc., but one factor is that the Vikings have targeted their own player, but too much emphasis Randy Moss' production and ability to win.

About Culpepper, well Culpepper fans won't like the latest coming out of the Vikings front office. The Vikings are extremely concerned that Culpepper is a product of great talent surrounding him when successful. At a time such as the Vikings are struggling through, Culpepper has not shown the ability to rise above mediocrity, the team goes as he goes, according to a source close to the team.

Thoughts about a contract extension have been shelved for the present time as the team struggles. Culpepper will be evaluated as the season progresses before a contract extension is revived.

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