Now that we're in full off-season mode, one of the things people have been looking at is the Vikings salary cap, and who might or might not be a good candidate for the unemployment line.
According to Spotrac, the Vikings are sitting $18,545,501 under the cap, which is good for 17th in the NFL. It's not terrible, and to get the Vikings in position to be aggressive in free agency, Peterson's name always comes up as a potential salary cap casualty. His $15.4 million cap number is pretty big, and cutting him gives the Vikings all the room they need to maneuver to get guys they feel would make the Vikings better.
But consider: The Vikings usually enter free agency somewhere around $25-$30 million under the cap, and that number, although not hard and fast, allows most teams to be as aggressive as they want to in free agency while still having money left over for the draft.
And if the goal of free agency is to make your team better...is cutting Adrian Peterson a move in that direction? The Vikings are one of the better salary cap managed teams in the NFL, and never have to make draconian cuts just to get under whatever the cap number is going to be. Also take into consideration that the $18 million and change figure is based on a projected salary cap of $140 million for 2015, and that number could increase.
So let's look at some cuts the Vikings could make, not including Peterson, and see how their cap situation stands then.
Chad Greenway, LB ($8.8 million cap hit, $1.7 million in dead money): When you look at the totality of Greenway's situation, I just don't see the Vikings carrying his cap number into 2015. He's 32, he's had a couple of significant injuries the last two years, and guys like Gerald Hodges played well in his absence last year. When you consider his age, recent injury history, and drop in production...as much as I love what Greenway has done for the Vikings both on and off the field, I just don't see him back.
$18.5 + $7.1 = $25.6 million.
Charlie Johnson, G ($2.5 million, zero dead money): Charlie Johnson was brought in as an emergency left tackle after Bryant McKinnie went all Grimace the McDonald's character when he showed up for training camp in 2011 and was cut. He moved to guard in 2012, and has been meh to bad for his tenure inside. The Vikings need a tune up on the offensive line, and Johnson is the first position I think they'll address, along with depth.
$25.6 million + $2.5 million = $28.1 million.
Cut those two players right there, and the Vikings are now almost $30 million under the cap. All the other players that people are talking about cutting (Captain Munnerlyn, Matt Cassel, Greg Jennings, etc) ain't happening. Jennings has been Minnesota's best WR the last two seasons, and having a veteran the caliber of Jennings is essential in the continued development of Teddy Bridgewater. For Munnerlyn, I think the Vikings will get another CB, either in free agency or the draft, to play opposite Xavier Rhodes, and move Munnerlyn into the slot, if not exclusively, a vast majority of the time.
For Cassel, yes his cap number is high, but that's pretty much the going rate for a backup quarterback in the NFL these days. And if you want to cut him and save maybe half a million bucks, okay. But take a look at the list of potential free agent quarterbacks and tell me who you'd rather have. And hey, if the Vikings can get a guy like Brian Hoyer for cheaper than Matt Cassel, okay. I just don't think it'll happen.
Now, there will be other cuts, but my point in all of this is to say the Vikings don't have to do a lot to get to their free agency wheelhouse number. And they won't have to touch Peterson's contract to do it.
So, let's address a couple points about Peterson and his status.
"RAWR RAWR RAWR BUT $15 MILLION IS A RIDICULOUS NUMBER TO PAY A RB RAWR RAWR RAWR"
Um...so what? Is it your money? No, it isn't? Okay, then. If the Vikings have the cap room to do everything they need...and they will...what does it matter? The Vikings paid out Jared Allen's contract in full, which was an astronomical $17 million against the salary cap. Did Allen's contract prevent the Vikings from doing what they wanted in free agency or the draft? No, it didn't. The Vikings aren't afraid to pay out contracts if the player earns it, so cutting Peterson just to cut him doesn't seem like something the Vikings will do.
When you add in the fact that Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner have expressed a desire for AP to return, and Mark Wilf saying they'd 'love' to have him back...insert RonPaulItsHappening.gif here.
"RAWR RAWR RAWR THE VIKINGS NEED HIS $15 MILLION TO BE FREE AGENCY PLAYERS TO GET BETTER RAWR RAWR RAWR"
Okay, so I've just showed you that with two cuts, the Vikings are sitting at $30 million in cap space. There's no one in free agency...NO ONE...that is worth throwing a huge contract at, and $30 million allows the Vikings to go after anyone they want, at any position. It also allows Rick Spielman to wheel and deal on draft day, like he almost always does, to draft two first round picks again, if he so desires.
It looks more and more like the road is being paved for Adrian Peterson to return to the Vikings, and I'm here to tell you his contract isn't going to create any potholes if the Vikings want to drive their car in that direction.