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Thursday, July 24
Updated: July 25, 8:38 AM ET
 
No snafu in contract negotiations

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

For the second year in a row, the Minnesota Vikings suffered an embarrassing first-round snafu, botching their initial selection when the 15-minute time limit lapsed and the team was then forced to exercise a rare "pass" on its choice.

But give Vikings management credit for this: At least this time around, Minnesota didn't compound its faux pas by butchering the subsequent contract negotiations.

ESPN.com has learned that the Vikings reached contract agreement Thursday evening with first-round defensive tackle Kevin Williams, the ninth player selected overall, and avoided the kind of acrimony and holdout that marked their 2002 negotiations. Last year, first-round pick Bryant McKinnie held out for nearly 100 days, and the former University of Miami offensive tackle missed virtually half his rookie campaign.

Minnesota officials were determined such an impasse would not occur again and ensured that by making a very aggressive proposal to Williams and agents Ken Kremer and Tom Condon, and then agreeing with the onetime Oklahoma State star on an impressive deal.

Williams will sign a seven-year contract that will void to five years simply if he reaches minimum playing time benchmarks. He will receive an initial signing bonus of $4 million and a second-tier option bonus of $4 million. The $8 million total represents a gaudy 21.4 percent increase over the bonuses awarded to Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle John Henderson, the ninth player chosen in the 2002 draft.

In a year when the rookie allocation pool is "flat," and increases have been modest, that is a dramatic jump.

The five-year value of the contract is worth up to approximately $12.5 million.

The Vikings had been seeking a defensive tackle to pair with standout three-year veteran Chris Hovan and Williams, a very active interior player whose stock rose greatly during his postseason workouts, probably will fill that role. Minnesota coaches certainly expect him to start as a rookie and to bolster a young defensive front.

A four-year starter in college, Williams totaled 160 tackles, 18 sacks, eight pressures and four fumble recoveries. Williams had career bests in tackles (61) and sacks (seven) in 2002 and his natural strength and rare quickness allow him to move occasionally outside to end. He is strong enough at the point of attack, but pursues the ball very well, and is not easily knocked off his feet.

On draft day, the Vikings owned the seventh overall choice in the first round, but were involved in trade talks with two teams for that pick. Because the trade talks went so long, the Vikings missed the 15-minute deadline. Instead of choosing seventh, they wound up with the ninth pick instead, but noted that Williams was the player they wanted all along.

The botched pick was reminiscent of the '02 draft, in which the Vikings also missed the clock on a first-round deal, and failed to land defensive tackle Ryan Sims, the player they most wanted.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.





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