Vikings ink second-round pick Cook for four years

Updated: July 20, 2006, 2:55 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Minnesota Vikings have reduced their list of unsigned draft choices to two, signing second-round choice Ryan Cook, a center from New Mexico, to a four-year, $3.12 million contract.

Cook is the middle of the Vikings' three choices in the second round and the fourth of the team's six-player draft class to come to contract terms. Minnesota must still sign first-round linebacker Chad Greenway, who is the lone rookie likely to start in 2006, and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, the last of the Vikings' three selections in the second round.

Earlier this week, the Vikings signed defensive back Cedric Griffin, the first of the team's trio of second-round selections.

The 51st choice overall, Ryan received a $1.2 million signing bonus and minimum base salaries for all four years of his deal. He can pocket an additional $306,385 in a so-called "not likely to be earned" incentive.

An unusually tall center (6-foot-6, 328 pounds), Cook might some day play tackle in the NFL. For now, he probably will serve as the backup center and perhaps be groomed as the eventual replacement to current starter Matt Birk. A four-time Pro Bowl performer, Birk missed the entire 2005 season after hip surgery and has battled injury problems the last two years.

Birk has recovered and is expected to participate fully in training camp, but the Vikings might view Cook as an insurance policy against the veteran's recent injuries.

Cook began his career at New Mexico as a walk-on and, after one redshirt season, moved into the lineup midway through the 2002 campaign. He started in 32 of his 38 appearances and recorded an amazing 303 "knockdown" blocks, according to the Lobos' coaches. On the system used at New Mexico, he registered a 96 percent career grade for carrying out assignments, and an 87 percent grade for technique.

Over his final two seasons, Cook surrendered only 1 sacks and he never allowed the player that he was assigned to block to record more than three tackles in a game.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.