Signings starting earlier than usual

The Vikings joined the parade of NFL teams that have begun signing their draft picks in June. Typically, the team doesn't sign many draft picks until the week or two before training camp.

Over the last couple of years, NFL franchises have broken from the longstanding tradition of waiting until the last minute to get a deal done. Under the recently time-honored tradition, the first picks sign about a week before training camp – typically even going in order. On Monday, you get a seventh-rounder. Tuesday brings home the sixth and fifth. Wednesday lands the four and third. Thursday locks down the second and, after some tense moments, on Friday before the start of camp, the first-round pick signs.

That trend has changed recently. For the last several weeks, teams have been signing lower- and mid-round picks to contracts – with more than a month to go before the start of training camp.

The Vikings got on that bandwagon Monday, signing seventh-round safety Jamarca Sanford to a four-year contract. Sanford is likely to find himself battling incumbents Husain Abdullah and Eric Frampton for two roster spots behind starters Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson. Even without veteran Darren Sharper, there is a good chance the Vikings will keep only four safeties on the roster, which may have played into Sanford signing on the dotted line well before the start of camp.

The Vikings have four remaining rookie signings – first-round wide receiver Percy Harvin, second-round OT Phil Loadholt, third-round CB Asher Allen and fifth-round LB Jasper Brinkley.

An early look at the anticipated Vikings depth chart could find a spot on the roster for all five picks. Harvin and Loadholt could be regulars from Day One on the Vikings offense, Allen is likely battling for the top backup spot with Marcus McCauley , Charles Gordon, Benny Sapp and Karl Paymah, and Brinkley is already being penciled in as the top backup at middle linebacker to E.J. Henderson.

The signing of Sanford could be a signal that the Vikings want all their ducks in a row before any perceived "big announcement" coming in the next few days or weeks. The rookie class of the Vikings may not be big in numbers, but all five have a more-than adequate shot of making the final roster.

In what looks to be a refreshing change, Sanford can officially get his NFL career in the sights and ready to go, instead of waiting another month to sign days before the start of training camp. Maybe the rest of the picks will come just as easy and as early as possible.

TUESDAY NOTES

  • The Packers are apparently close to announcing that they have signed star wide receiver Greg Jennings to a contract extension. Word out of Green Bay is that the deal could be worth about $8 million a year. Jennings is one of several players that find themselves in a bind with the unresolved collective bargaining agreement. If a new CBA isn't struck before March of 2010, Jennings wouldn't be an unrestricted free agent. If no deal is in place, he would be a restricted free agent for the next two years because of language in that states in the "final league year" of the current CBA players wouldn't become free agents until six accrued season, as opposed the four seasons it currently takes. In this case, if the money is right, discretion is the better part of valor.

  • Commissioner Roger Goodell, according to SI.com, sent a pretty salty letter to all 32 NFL teams in the aftermath of the plea deal made by Donte Stallworth. In the letter, Goodell reasserted his position that he will treat any NFL employees with stiff discipline if they get in alcohol-related misconduct.

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