First-rounders mostly still waiting

Two top-five quarterbacks have already signed their contracts, but the rest of the first-round picks are still waiting, including WR Percy Harvin at No. 22. The Vikings should have an idea of general parameters for Harvin from last year's numbers, but most likely other first-rounders will need to sign before heavy negotiations begin.

These could be the salad days for NFL rookies. With the final year of the salary cap looming, owners and players are making the preliminary signals of digging in their heels – one wanting to maintain its position (the players) and the other looking to improve its spot (the owners). If there is a sticking point in which both sides can likely agree, it would be shifting money from highly drafted rookies to those of veterans who have already paid their dues. You can expect that there will be a rookie salary cap imposed for the next collective bargaining agreement, making this year's first-round signings all the more interesting and challenging.

It could lead to a drawing of a line in the sand for agents who feel like their clients will become guinea pigs in the war between the players union and management. Getting deals done may be more difficult, as agents wait to see if the bar is going to be set considerably higher once the signings begin. This waiting game could have an impact on the Vikings attempting to get first-rounder Percy Harvin signed and under contract.

To date, there have only been two first-round signings, but both were significant. The Lions locked up first overall pick QB Matthew Stafford six years, $72 million, with $41.7 million guaranteed. Fifth overall pick QB Mark Sanchez of the Jets signed a five-year deal valued at $60 million with $28 million guaranteed. While quarterbacks are typically paid more than other position players, Stafford's deal was nearly identical to the six-year, $72 million deal third overall pick Matt Ryan signed in 2007 – but Ryan had $34 million in guaranteed money.

Other than that, none of the other 30 first-round picks have signed on the dotted line.

Whenever you try to gauge what a rookie will sign for in a given year, the standard operation is to look back at the previous year and add 10 to 15 percent or so to arrive at the basic numbers to start from. The biggest problem is that the contract signed by the 22nd pick in last year's draft likely doesn't hold much water in Harvin negotiations.

In 2008, Dallas running back Felix Jones was the 22nd pick. He signed a five-year deal for $10.5 million, including $8 million in guaranteed money. While his guaranteed money was more than the two picks that followed him – running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson – the total value of the deal was less. All three played the same position and all three got five-year deals. But while Jones got $8 million in guarantees, both of the others got bigger contract numbers – Mendhall for $12.56 million and $7.13 million guaranteed, and Johnson for $12 million with $7 million guaranteed.

A player like Harvin has many of the same qualities that guys like Jones and Johnson brought to the NFL as rookies last year – they're explosive players who can make game-changing plays. So where does that leave Harvin? If history repeats itself, something on the order of a five-year deal worth about $14 million with $9 million in guaranteed money.

Several factors will come into play in the final numbers. Harvin and his agent could opt for more in the way of incentives that would reward him if his game-breaking ways continue, but hurt him if he turns into the Vikings version of Reggie Bush – who, while talented, is a borderline bust as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft. Or they could go the common route of taking a lower base number, but a higher guaranteed money total. Either way, until some names come off the board in or around a given spot in the draft, the wait will likely continue.

However, as it always seems to do, once some basic numbers at key draft slots are determined, the rest will fall in place pretty quickly. The Vikings have a history of getting deals done on or before the start of training camp, so there is no reason to believe the same won't happen this year. But, until somebody sets the bar that isn't a quarterback, it's going to take some time for the picks to start coming off the board for the second time this year.


Viking Update Top Stories