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Culpepper goes from top to bottom in no time

It's stunning how fast things fell apart for Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota.

A year ago Culpepper was near the top of the quarterbacking world. He had just made his second straight Pro Bowl, and in 2004 posted the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL history -- 110.9.

Now Culpepper is recovering from three shredded ligaments in his knee after an awful seven-game season in 2005 in which he threw 12 interceptions and six touchdowns. And he's set to get a fresh start because a trade by the Vikings appears imminent.

New Vikings coach Brad Childress, the former tutor of Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia, wasn't counting on this turn of events when he took over for Mike Tice in January. Childress figured he had his franchise quarterback in Culpepper, who is only 29.

But Culpepper balked at rehabilitating his knee back in Minneapolis. In fact, Culpepper left Minnesota last October after his injury and essentially only returned once, to ask for up to $10 million in guaranteed money in a reworked contract. That was despite his bad year, his injury and the fact his reputation was tarnished by his involvement in the "Love Boat" scandal from last summer.

Childress, meanwhile, is installing a West Coast offense, and even the biggest Culpepper supporter has doubts about whether he can run a West Coast offense. Culpepper does not have a reputation as a film-room junkie.

It all adds up to a big change of course for the Vikings, who opted not to pay megabucks to someone who isn't fully devoted to the program.

The Vikings will start Brad Johnson, who turns 38 in September. And they soon will be searching for a new franchise quarterback.

It's questionable whether Culpepper's knee will be ready for the start of the season. Culpepper would be well advised to act like an intensely motivated choir boy in order to rehabilitate his career.

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MVP's early signing

League MVP Shaun Alexander signed a contract extension with Seattle just a week before the league extended its collective bargaining agreement and funneled $240 million more cap dollars into the system for 2006. Bad timing for Alexander? Not really. He got a good deal, and not a lot of teams are lining up to pay 29-year-old running backs. Alexander turns 29 in August. So Alexander took a contract that will pay him handsomely over the next three or four years. He probably couldn't have gotten a better one had he waited until this week.

The deal was reported to be for eight years and $62 million. But those are false numbers. Seattle paid an $11.5 million bonus, which amounts to a $2.785 million proration a year given the four-year prorating period locked into the deal. That is not a lot for Seattle to swallow. It's really a four-year $28.5 million deal at best. Alexander will never see the last four years of the deal. In fact, Seattle can cut him after three years and take only a $2.8 million cap hit. They take no cap hit if they cut him after four years.

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Nate extension

The Bills have more time to negotiate an extension with Nate Clements, but don't count on it happening.

Before the new labor deal, the Bills were essentially prevented from negotiating a long-term deal with Clements between March 17 and July 17, due to the fact he has a franchise tag. Any deal struck in that window, under the old rules, meant that the tag was stuck on Clements for the life of his contract and the Bills couldn't use it again on someone else over that span.

Due to a rule change under the new labor deal, the Bills now have the entire offseason to try to work out a long-term deal without losing the chance to use the tag on someone else next year. The Bills have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal, and they get the tag back if they do so. If Clements signs a long-term deal after July 15, the Bills get to keep the tag only if Clements signs a one-year deal.

So July 15 is the new deadline to reach a long-term deal.

It still will be a giant upset if the Bills strike a long-term contract with Clements.

He was seeking a bonus that would put him among the top-paid players at cornerback before the deal. That meant perhaps $12 million or $15 million or more. Champ Bailey got the top cornerback bonus, of $18 million.

But now there is 19.5 percent more revenue in the salary cap pool for players. The cap has gone up $16.5 million, from $85.5 million in 2005 to $102 million.

So if an agent was asking for a $12 million bonus when the cap was $85.5 million, that agent is likely to be looking for $14.3 million with a cap of $102 million.

The cap is going to go up again next year to $109 million. That very well could give Clements the motivation to play 2006 under the favorable terms of the tag, count on enjoying a good season, and hitting the free-agent market next year with even more money in the market.

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Onside kicks

The minimum salaries for players have gone up $40,000 across the board. They now are: $275,000 for a first-year player; $350,000 for the second year, $425,000 for the third and $500,000 for the fourth. For years five through seven, it's $585,000. For years eight through 10, it's $710,000. In years 11 and beyond, it's $810,000.

A couple of Bills hit escalators in their contracts last year that increased their base salaries. Kelly Holcomb's base went from $875,000 to $1.125 million. Mike Gandy's went from $1.25 million to $1.8 million.

The collective bargaining extension is a sigh of relief for teams in terms of the draft. High first-round draft picks might have considered sitting out and re-entering the 2007 draft if their deals had to be squeezed into a four-year span, which is what transition rules would have called for if there were no extension. Teams in the top half of the first round were looking at long holdouts, at the least. Now the contracts for rookies drafted in the first 16 selections in the first round can be spread out to a maximum of six years. The maximum length for a rookie in the second half of the first round is five years. Players drafted after the first round can't get a contract more than four years in length.

On the ballot for the first time for the College Football Hall of Fame are ex-Bills Ahmad Rashad (Oregon) and Bruce Smith (Virginia Tech), along with Emmitt Smith (Florida). Darryl Talley (West Virginia) and Dick Jauron (Yale) are among the many others on the ballot. The inductees are selected by an 11-member board, headed by Gene Corrigan, former Notre Dame athletics director and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner.

Ex-Bill Ted Washington is helping coach with the Cologne team in NFL Europe. Washington, soon to be 38, was cut by the Raiders but still would be a smart pickup by some contending team looking for a part-time run-stuffing boost.

For what it's worth, here are some of the reported scores of quarterbacks from past Wonderlic tests: Brian Griese scored 39, Drew Bledsoe 37, Steve Young 33, John Elway 30, Troy Aikman 29, Cade McNown 28, Brett Favre 22 and Dan Marino 16. J.P. Losman scored 31. As the scores of Favre and Marino show, the Wonderlic isn't exactly a definitive indicator of success.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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