The Vikings have signed all of their 2013 draft picks, except for their three 1st round selections. They are also back up to 90 players on the roster (the limit for training camp) after signing linebacker Stanford Keglar. According to Tom Pelissero, the Vikings have approximately $7.13 Million of cap space left. So, how much will it take to sign all three rookies, and how much will be left for any remaining free agents? Let's take a look!
First off, according to overthecap.com, the Vikings have an estimated Year One Rookie Salary Pool of about $6,849,791. This is the maximum amount of money that they can spend on their draft picks, but they are not required to spend all of it. Think of it like a salary cap within the salary cap. According to Spotrac, $624,107 will count against the overall cap for the draft picks they have already signed (Hodges, Locke, Baca, Mauti, Bond, and Dawkins). This means they should have $6,225,684 left in the Rookie Salary Pool for 2013 to sign their remaining three rookies.
So far only four, 1st round draft picks have signed a contract in the NFL: picks 5, 14, 15 and 20, while twenty 2nd round picks have signed, including overall picks 35 and 36. This is normal as teams tend to sign their cheaper, later round picks first. This is actually pretty helpful though to project what kind of contract the Vikings 1st round picks might sign as they will all fall somewhere between the contracts of pick 20 and pick 35. Pick 15, safety Kenny Vacarro, signed a 4-year $9.4 Million deal ($2.35/year). Pick 20, guard Kyle Long, signed a 4-year $8.3 Million deal (averaging $2.1/year). Pick 35, tight end Zach Ertz signed a 4-year $5.4 Million deal (averaging $1.3/year) and Pick 36, cornerback Darius Slay signed a 4-year $5.3 Million deal ($1.3/year). So, if we're looking for yearly average salaries to apply to 2013, an estimate for our draft picks will fall somewhere between $2.1 and $1.3 Million/year, with it being closer to $2.1 for Shariff Floyd and Xavier Rhodes, and closer to $1.3 for Cordarelle Patterson. Now, obviously, Rob Brzezinski, our Vikings cap wizard will likely end weight the contract and spread out the cap hits with signing bonuses, incentives and other guarantees to lower the cap number in the first couple years of the contract. So, it's likely that the cap number will actually be less than the simple average/year number for 2013.
Picks 14 and 15 happen to be $0.18 Million apart in overall salary, while picks 35 and 36 happen to be $0.09 Million apart in overall salary. If you extend the deviation of picks 14 and 15 over 5 more picks to pick 20 you would expect pick 20 to be roughly $0.9 Million less overall than pick 15. And it's pretty close. Kyle Long's contract is exactly $1.1 Million less than Kenny Vacarro's contract at pick 15 ($9.4 Million over 4 years). The average standard deviation from pick 15 to pick 20 then is $0.22 Million. So taking those two standard deviations and averaging them together gives us a new one of $0.2 Million. If you look at the deviation between picks 35 and 36 though, you'll see that the deviation gets smaller as the contracts get smaller. In other words, the lower the draft pick, the less difference there is in overall contract size. So, the scale is not exactly perfect from one pick to the next. But for these draft picks which are close together, it should suffice for an estimate. That means, we could expect rookie salaries to be pretty close to this for our three first round picks:
Estimated 2013 Salaries
Pick #23, Shariff Floyd: $7.7 Million over 4 years ($1.93/year)
Pick #25, Xavier Rhodes: $7.3 Million over 4 years ($1.83/year)
Pick #29, Cordarrelle Patterson: $6.5 Million over 4 years ($1.63/year)
Total Yearly Average: $5.39 Million
If you extend the standard deviation of $0.2 Million from my estimate of Patterson's deal to pick #35, that would give you a salary of $5.3 Million. And Zach Ertz signed a contract of $5.4. So, while the above contracts are only estimates, I believe they will be pretty darn close to what we can expect for contracts for our 1st round draft picks. And even better, they have plenty of money left in their Rookie Salary Pool to sign the remaining draft picks based on this estimate.
This last part is where it gets tricky, because as I said above Mr. Brzezinski is a cap wizard, and who knows how the total contracts will be broken up in terms of signing bonuses, guaranteed money and how it will be weighted year to year. For example, Kenny Vacarro's cap number for 2013 is $1.7 Million, even though his average yearly salary is $2.4, giving his cap hit to average salary a difference of $0.7 Million. Similarly, Kyle Long's cap hit is $1.5 Million, even though his average yearly salary is $2.1 Million (a difference of $0.6 Million). The difference for Zach Ertz's cap hit to yearly average salary is $0.32 Million for his contract. So the lower the salary, the smaller the difference in cap hit versus yearly average. So, I think it's probably safe to assume a difference of $0.5 for Floyd and Rhodes, and maybe $0.4 for Patterson. That means the estimated cap hits for our three draft picks would be:
Estimated 2013 Cap Hits
Floyd: $1.43 Million
Rhodes: $1.33 Million
Patterson: $1.23 Million
Total: $3.99 Million
If you're still with me this far, I'm going to round up the cap hits to $4 Million to make it easier (and be more conservative). All of this is to say that, we will likely have to use up about $4 Million of our $7.13 in cap space to sign the remaining three, 1st round draft picks, leaving us with about $3.13 Million for remaining free agents. Did I just do all that math to confirm something MarkSP18 mentioned weeks ago? Yes. Yes I did. But now we have details!
After looking over various roster breakdowns and analysis on this site over the past several weeks there are two general trends I've seen. First, we're not convinced that Erin Henderson is the answer at middle linebacker. Second, we're not convinced that Cook, Robinson and Rhodes are the answer at cornerback. Cook has missed more games than he has played and Robinson hasn't even played in the slot before...ever (not even in college!). Meanwhile Rhodes is obviously an untested rookie. So, here are some possibilities still remaining in free agency:
File this under being potentially insane. Brooking has played 15 years in the league and he's 37 years old, and has a lot of wear and tear on him. He had 10 years in a row of over 100 tackles for the Falcons before playing for the Cowboys and eventually the Broncos last year. There's not much left, if anything for Brooking who has seen his tackle total decline the past three seasons from 94 to 50 and then 54. That said, he played 16 games last year for the Broncos and recorded 54 tackles and a sack. As a rotational player and backup mentor, we could do worse. Even better, his contract last year was for $1 Million. He could be had for the vet minimum.
He's a 7-year veteran and former draft pick of the Eagles. He showed promise in 2007 with over 100 tackles, but then regressed in 2008 and only played 5 games in 2009 after injury. He was ineffective in 2010 after the injury and the Panthers signed him in 2011. He injured his knee with the Panthers before signing on with the Raiders this past year. He would be an extremely cheap option as he played for the vet minimum last year with Oakland, and would likely be nothing more than a veteran backup/special teamer.
Weatherspoon is an 11-year veteran, aged 32 who has been highly productive for the Panthers, Rams and Titans. He is primarily a middle linebacker who was playing the Will in Tennessee. He was benched against the Vikings last season, and then injured his hammy. Like the options above, Weatherspoon would be cheap as he played for only $3.5 Million in base salary last year ($4.5 cap hit with signing bonus).
Brown is a 34-year-old, 11-year veteran. He was highly productive for the Eagles, and has had three good years for the Browns since. Last year he had 60 tackles, 1 sack and an interception and could be a veteran replacement for Antoine Winfield. Last year he played for a $3.7 Million base salary ($5.4 cap hit with signing bonus), and could likely fit under our salary cap. On a 1-2 year deal he could mentor Robinson, Rhodes and Cook as well as provide much needed insurance.
Mathis is a 32-year-old, 10 year vet of the Jaguars. He's dealt with injury issues the past several years, but was once a highly productive CB. He played on a 1-year vet minimum deal for Jacksonville last year and only played in 9 games after tearing his ACL the year before. He very well may be done in the NFL, but as a veteran backup, could provide valuable experience for our young guys.
A 29-year old, 8-year vet who had a great career early on for the Dolphins. He spent 2 years with the Texans, and was on a 1-year deal with the Bengals last year. He was injured last year and only played in 4 games. He would be a very cheap option as he was on a vet minimum deal last year as well.
And that's all I got. Are there any other free agents still out there that we could spend the remaining salary cap on? Should we just save it for next year? Maybe there's another position to explore? Defensive Tackle? Guard? Let me know in the comments!