Bonus for CFL wide receiver forces Vikings to get creative

A change in NFL rules put the Minnesota Vikings in a tricky position as they set out to sign undrafted college free agents Monday night, and it was through no fault of their own.

Back before the lockout set in the Vikings added some depth to a wide receiver corps that could be losing Sidney Rice by signing Emmanuel Arceneaux, a Canadian Football League veteran who made the rounds back during the winter with workouts for eight teams. The Vikings won bidding for his services, signing him to a three-year contract that included a $75,000 signing bonus on Jan. 22.

The move hasn’t handicapped the Vikings as they pursue undrafted free agents, who can be signed beginning at 10 a.m., but it has made it more challenging, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

That’s because in the new labor agreement, the NFL now counts Arceneaux’s bonus against the pool the team is allowed to pay undrafted players. Per league rules, clubs are allowed to spend a maximum of $75,000 in bonuses for undrafted free agents. So all of that $75,000 was eaten up by the one player, something the Vikings couldn’t have foreseen when they signed Arceneaux, a 23-year-old who caught 130 passes for 1,972 yards and 12 touchdowns over the last two seasons for the B.C. Lions.

What have the Vikings done? They’ve gotten creative, per our source. Some clubs guarantee a portion of base pay, known as paragraph five pay. The Vikings are also believed to be offering “reporting bonuses.” That is believed to be money that will count against the team’s rookie pool, meaning a small portion of money earmarked for draft picks will be funneled to undrafted players.

We’re not talking about a lot of money to sign these undrafted players. Typically, an NFL team will have at least 12 and maybe more undrafted players. With a total bonus pool of $75,000 -- which some teams don'tr come close to hitting -- you can see these players don’t average much in the way of bonus pay. But the Vikings have adjusted on the fly and now everyone will know that signing a CFL player will count in a new way for bookkeeping purposes.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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