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Holdout over

First-rounder McKinnie finally reaches terms with Vikings

Posted: Friday November 01, 2002 5:54 PM
Updated: Saturday November 02, 2002 2:37 AM
  Bryant McKinnie As Bryant McKinnie headed to Minneapolis, the Vikings departed for Tampa Bay. Al Bello/Getty Images

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- First-round draft pick Bryant McKinnie ended his 98-day holdout Friday, reaching contract terms with the Minnesota Vikings.

The All-American offensive tackle out of Miami was the seventh pick of the first round. He became the only first-round pick not to agree to terms when defensive tackle Wendell Bryant, the 12th overall pick, signed the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 12.

Sports Illustrated's Don Banks reports that McKinnie's five-year deal is worth $13.55 million, and includes a two-tiered signing bonus of $9.35 million. With another $250,000 minimum playing time bonus scheduled for either this year or next year, McKinnie's bonus dollars effectively peak at $9.6 million.

McKinnie, who will be paid for the entire 2002 season despite missing half of it, left for Minnesota on Friday and will sign the contract Saturday. He'll be at practice on Monday.

"I'm elated with this contract," he said. "I know this has taken some time, but ... I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to put on a Vikings uniform. I feel like my dream is just about to begin. I can't wait to play in my first game."

McKinnie's agent, Jim Steiner, confirmed some of the details of the contract and said the NFL and the NFL Players Association have resolved the union's collusion investigation that centered on McKinnie's negotiations with the Vikings and No. 6 pick Ryan Sims' with Kansas City.

SI's Don Banks
Earlier this week, the Vikings' plan for McKinnie was to start playing him sparingly once his conditioning comes around in a couple of weeks -- maybe a series or two more every game -- and then work him into an increasingly larger role in the season's final month. Everything would be geared toward developing McKinnie as the starting left offensive tackle for 2003, rather than the Vikings seeking this year to get much return on their belated investment.

Of particular concern is how much of Minnesota's offensive terminology still remains familiar with McKinnie. Left tackle is a complicated position, especially for a rookie who hasn't had any exposure to the NFL since the Vikings' final mini-camp this spring. The last thing Minnesota head coach Mike Tice wants to do is run McKinnie out there too quickly and wind up getting quarterback Daunte Culpepper killed from the blind side.

Still, Tice is the team's former offensive line coach and is said to be hopeful that McKinnie can be rock solid in two or three weeks. That's probably optimistic, even though the former University of Miami standout is an obvious talent who was the draft's seventh overall pick.

Look for Tice to make McKinnie his personal project in the coming weeks. He'll tutor him before and after every practice, take him under his wing, and put the rookie on the same schedule he keeps. In short, McKinnie will become Tice's shadow.

McKinnie may not be able to help Minnesota much this year, and the team will be careful about the situations it puts him in. But at 6-8, 344 pounds, he'll add an imposing physical presence to the team's offensive line just by finally being in uniform. The Vikings current starter at left tackle, Lewis Kelly, has been overmatched physically at times this season. 
As part of the settlement, the NFL management council will reiterate to all 32 clubs they can't communicate with one another about rookie contract negotiations.

"We're very pleased McKinnie has signed and is going to be playing," NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen said. "McKinnie doesn't desire to seek any damages, and this settlement answers our concern so we're dropping the case."

The NFLPA had alleged the two teams may have had knowledge of the signing bonus offered to a player picked after Sims and McKinnie -- which is not permitted -- and subsequently offered the two players a lower amount.

McKinnie's signing bonus of $9.35 million is larger than that of Dallas safety Roy Williams, the No. 8 pick. That impasse was a major sticking point in negotiations between McKinnie and Minnesota.

The Vikings had until Nov. 12 to sign McKinnie -- otherwise he would have been ineligible to play this season.

"It's been a long, difficult process," said Rob Brzezinski, Minnesota's vice president of football administration and lead contract negotiator. "We kept working toward a mutual goal and tried to find a compromise that worked for both parties."

Agent Ben Dogra credited Brzezinski for working hard over the past 10 days to help make the agreement happen. The agent also praised his client for remaining patient through the ordeal.

"Bryant is a very determined individual," Dogra said. "It was really more a matter of principle than bottom-line dollar. I think the same traits that came out of the negotiations are the same traits that will allow him to be a really good player for the Minnesota Vikings for years to come."

McKinnie was widely considered the best pass-blocking lineman in the draft, and head coach Mike Tice said he planned on McKinnie protecting quarterback Daunte Culpepper's blindside for the next 10 years.

Culpepper has been sacked 16 times this year, although the Vikings didn't allow a sack in a 25-7 victory over Chicago on Sunday.

McKinnie didn't allow a sack in college or high school. He won the Outland Trophy last season as college football's best lineman.

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