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The team's first-round choice in the 2002 draft, and the seventh player selected overall that year, McKinnie is beginning to fulfill his potential as a dominant weakside blocker and is emerging as one of the top left tackles in the NFL. McKinnie, 26, came into the league as a polished pass protector and he has steadily improved his performance as a run blocker.
Contract negotiations with McKinnie's representative, Ben Dogra of CAA, have been ongoing for much of the offseason. The size of the contract is always an element of bargaining, of course, but was even more so in McKinnie's case.
Minnesota signed guard Steve Hutchinson away from the Seattle Seahawks this spring as a transition free agent, rewarding him with a landmark seven-year contract worth $49 million. That contract stipulated that Hutchinson had to remain the Vikings' highest-paid blocker in terms of per-year average, or his entire deal would have become guaranteed, essentially unheard of for an offensive lineman.
So team officials had to strike a deal with McKinnie that kept his average under that of Hutchinson, even though tackles generally earn more than guards in the NFL. Of course, they didn't keep it much below the Hutchinson deal, with McKinnie's contract just $500,000 shy of that of the standout guard.
The contract includes $17.25 million in new guarantees. Because he is a vested veteran, McKinnie's base salary of $900,000 for 2006 becomes guaranteed this weekend. That pushes the guaranteed money in the contract to $18.125 million. McKinnie can earn nearly $5 million in additional bonuses if he reaches certain performance levels.
The former University of Miami star has appeared in 56 games and started all but one. He missed half his rookie season because of a lengthy contract impasse, and he appeared in just eight games in 2002. McKinnie, who played much of this preseason with a broken bone in his left hand, has started in all 16 games in each of the past three seasons.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.