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Monday Morning Mailbag: Draft Signing Timeline & 2021 Schedule Hypothetical

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Vikings Team Reporter Eric Smith usually handles the Mailbag, but he's on vacay this week, so I'm happy to pinch hit.

Curious as to what is taking the Vikings so long to sign their draft picks? If it's based off draft status on what they get paid, it should be set in stone and done by now correct? Thank you.

— Cory in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Cory, thanks for checking on this and supporting the Purple while living in the home of Minnesota's road Border Battle destination.

You're right that there's a general structure for compensation based on order of selection.

Because COVID-19 shifted the the offseason program to a virtual experience with no on-field workouts, the draft picks did not come to Minnesota. A few formalities still need to occur, such as undergoing a physical by the team's medical staff, before officially putting pen to paper.

We don't yet have an official start date for Verizon Vikings Training Camp, but we will be sure to bring you that information and coverage of the action when we can. There could be a flurry of signing announcements once it is go time.

The good thing is that the rookies were able to participate in the virtual offseason program and should be able to hit the ground running.

View images of all of the Minnesota Vikings 2020 NFL Draft picks.

I was brainstorming options for the eventual 17-game schedule, if the NFL decides to go with one in 2021 and beyond. I came up with a format that you and others might find interesting.

First, the baseline assumptions: each team will play an 8-home/9-away or 9-home/8-away schedule that alternates every year. This cycle will match up with the new 3-game preseason schedule and continue to result in a total of 10 home games per year, the way things have been done for quite a while.

So, my idea for a 17-game schedule is as follows:

4 interconference games (2 home and 2 away) against one of four divisions in the other conference in the existing rotation — unchanged from current practice

4 intraconference games (2 Home and 2 away) against one of three divisions in the same conference in the existing rotation — again, unchanged from current practice

4 more intraconference games against the remaining 2 divisions within the conference that are not matched up already in the standard intraconference divisional matchup (2 home and 2 away). These four games would be determined based on the previous season's standings as follows: the first and second place teams face off against each other in each of the 2 remaining non-rotational divisions. Likewise, the third and fourth place teams would face off. One home and away game in each non-rotational division

That totals 12 games so far.

The final 5 games would be divisional games where each team in a division plays 2 of their divisional rivals twice (one home and one away). The fifth divisional game is the lone matchup for the season against the remaining divisional team. That game would be either home or away and alternate each year both from an opponent perspective and a location perspective. It would be this 5th divisional game each year that would determine whether the team was playing 9 home and 8 away, or vice versa, for that season. The single-matchup team would not rotate on a 2-year cycle, but would change each season. This results in a 6-year cycle for divisional matchups that actually is pretty well-rounded. Here is an example for Vikings divisional opponents using my idea:

Year 1: 2 games each with Bears and Lions; Packers away

Year 2: 2 games each with Lions and Packers; Bears at home

Year 3: 2 games each with Packers and Bears; Lions away

Year 4: 2 games each with Bears and Lions; Packers at home

Year 5: 2 games each Lions and Packers; Bears away

Years 6: 2 games Packers and Bears; Lions at home

I think this formula allows for more and better matchups within a conference each year. The value and importance of the lone game against a divisional opponent would be huge — and not negatively impact tiebreaking procedures either. Currently, 6 teams are not played each year within a conference. This format reduces that to only four teams not played and results in more big conference matchups.

Combining the 17th game with a reduction of one divisional game results in a more balanced and interesting intraconference schedule. And in my opinion does not degrade the division schedule all that much.

— Jeff Ludwig

As Jeff mentioned, you may remember that the Collective Bargaining Agreement for 2021-30 was approveded in mid-March. Included in the agreement is the option for a 17th regular-season game as early as 2021 and possibly reducing the preseason to three games.

I'd think that the baseline assumption for the number of home and away games (rotating between eight and nine each year) is probably on good footing because it seems the most equitable approach. Although it's not an apples-to-apples, if teams hosted nine regular-season games, they could wind up with just one preseason home game to keep that number at 10.

His idea for how to handle the odd number of games by taking away a division game and applying it and the extra game to create more conference games is interesting for a couple of reasons.

I love the idea of not having to go through multiple tiebreakers to crown a division winner, and an odd number of games could help avoid that. I also like the idea of having so many conference games now that the playoffs have been expanded to seven teams per conference, a change set to apply in 2020.

A possible drawback, however, is teams might lament not getting to play every division opponent at home and away in a season. Much of the passion is built on divisional rivalries.

I'll have no say what so ever — it's between NFL Owners and the NFL Players Association — but I wouldn't mind seeing an additional interconference game on a rotational basis. As it is right now, an NFC team only hosts an AFC team every eight seasons, which reduces the opportunity to see some marquee players in person to just once — or maybe twice in some rare cases — in their entire career.

NFL Owners and the NFLPA have some more urgent matters for 2020, but I really appreciate the hypothetical from Jeff.

The following suggestion for the Vikings was submitted via Twitter instead of the Mailbag, but why not include?

Bryant has three Pro Bowls, nearly 7,500 career receiving yards and 73 touchdowns to his credit, but he hasn't played in a game since the end of the 2017 season.

There are definitely some household names on the free-agent market, and it will be interesting to see the dominoes fall at a time when rosters have usually been set.

Can you name the three Hall of Fame WRs that were with the Vikings in 1998? Trick question.

Hint #1: One WR isn't in the HOF yet. But he will be.

Hint #2: One WR wasn't on the active roster and never actually played for the Vikings.

Answer: Cris Carter — veteran, Randy Moss — rookie, Larry Fitzgerald — ball boy

All were 'with' the Vikings in 1998.

Skol!

— Jeff Kilty in Sacramento, California

Many people automatically think "3 Deep" quickly when they reminisce about 1998 because of what Carter, Moss and Jake Reed were able to do to defenses, but that season was so special that even a ball boy is bound for Canton.

Talk about a quality internship of sorts for Fitzgerald, who turned 15 that August. One could even qualify it as advanced degree. I love the old photos of Fitzgerald roaming the practice field, combined with what he's been able to achieve to join elite company.

The trio of Carter (eight), Moss (six) and Fitzgerald (11) have combined for 25 Pro Bowls, and Carter and Fitzgerald each earned Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year awards.

Fitzgerald now ranks second on the all-time receiving yards list with 17,083. Moss is now fourth at 15,292, and Carter is 13th with 13,899.

The understudy is also second all-time with 1,378 catches. Carter ranks sixth at 1,101, and Moss is 15th at 982.

As far as touchdowns, Moss ranks second with 156, Carter is fourth with 130, and Fitzgerald is sixth at 120. That's a lot of playmaking in the paint.

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