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Takk McKinley to Garrett Bolles, NFL draft moments to remember

(Takkarist McKinley holds up a picture of his grandmother at the NFL draft)

The NFL draft has a way of getting football players all choked up with emotion. It’s the realization of hopes and dreams, and quite frankly, even the media enjoys going along for the ride.

The 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia brought a few of those tear-jerk moments. None was better than Takkarist McKinley, drafted 26th overall by the Atlanta Falcons, bursting with pride.

Vikings Mock Draft: Pick by pick

Standing on stage holding a picture of his late grandmother, Takk put his heart out there for everyone to see and feel.

“I made a promise to her and I stuck to it,” he said in an outburst of passion. “I told her before she passed away, I was going to live my dream…This is who I do it for, man!” Then there was Garrett Boles, an offensive lineman out of Utah who was taken 20th overall by the Denver Broncos. He brought his infant son on the stage with him ….

… then proceeded to share a message of encouragement to kids who could use his life as an example of perseverance.

Boles, 25, has dealt with drug addiction and a host of other issues, and described himself as a “lost kid” before he connected with people who put him on a path to success.

“Those kids that struggle with anything,” he said after being drafted. “I’m reaching out to those kids and saying you know what — It does not matter where you start, it matters how you finish. Find what you want, find what you believe in and dig deep and get through it, and if you ever need anyone to talk to you can hit me up on anything and I’ll make sure I’ll be there for you and walk you through.”

Ah, the NFL draft. They’ll make their millions. Some will make teams and become All-Pros. Some won’t last a year. But for the moment, there is nothing but props to these guys.

ESPN report: Vikings likely to decline Bridgewater's 2018 option

TEDDY_BRIDGEWATER

With still no guarantee that Teddy Bridgewater will ever be able to return to full health, the Vikings are not expected to pick up their 2018 team option for the quarterback by the May 3 deadline to do so, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who cited an unnamed source.

If so, that would technically mean that 2017 is the final year of his contract.

But, as pointed out by NFL Networks' Ian Rapoport, if Bridgewater starts training camp on the physically unable to perform list, which is the expectation at this point, and is not activated from that list during the season, his contract would toll, adding another season of team control.

The Vikings did not immediately respond for comment on today's news.

Bridgewater last week joined his Vikings teammates at Winter Park for the start of the team’s offseason program and he continues to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee at the practice facility. On Tuesday, General Manager Rick Spielman again praised the 24-year-old quarterback for the way he has attacked his rehab.

“[Bridgewater] has been incredible,” Spielman said. “He's been in here working as hard as anyone, fighting his way back. I wouldn't put it past that kid how quickly he can comeback. But it's still unknown.”

That uncertainty when it comes to Bridgewater’s long-term prognosis could ultimately discourage the Vikings from picking up his expensive team option for 2018, especially if they know that he will still be under contract if he is unable to return to the lineup in 2017.

The Vikings traded back into the first round in 2014 to get Bridgewater, in part because first-round picks now come with an option for a fifth year of contractual control for the team. But those fifth-year options, which teams must exercise before the player’s fourth season, are guaranteed for injury.

Last spring, the Vikings exercised their fifth-year option for defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, a 2013 first-round pick. Floyd had knee surgery in September and remains sidelined due to complications from that surgery. When he couldn’t pass a physical by the start of the league year, his $6.8 million salary for this season became guaranteed.

If something similar were to happen with Bridgewater, and he was not medically cleared by the start of the 2018 league year, the Vikings would be on the hook for a little over $12 million guaranteed.

In his report this morning for ESPN, Schefter quoted an unnamed source that said “the injury guarantee makes it tough to do.” Bridgewater suffered his career-threatening knee injury last August.

On Tuesday, Spielman was asked about his cloudy quarterback situation. Coach Mike Zimmer has already declared Sam Bradford his starter in 2017. But Bradford is in the final year of his contract and the quarterback said Tuesday that the Vikings had not reached out to his agent about an extension. The Vikings, while they wait for more answers on Bridgewater, might be reluctant to commit to Bradford for the long term.

Nothing is concrete. No decisions have been made,” Spielman said Tuesday.

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