We know that Minnesota Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman likes to do his share of wheeling and dealing during the NFL Draft, and I don't expect this year to be any different. However, this year the Vikings have something extra with their pick, the eleventh in the first round, to potentially entice teams to move up to their spot.
Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, players selected in the first round receive four-year contracts, with an option for the team to add a fifth year at their discretion. In addition, as John Holler at Viking Update points out, things work a little differently once you get outside of the top ten picks in the first round.
For players selected in the top ten selections of the first round, the salary amount for their fifth-year option is equal to the transition player salary for the position they play. The transition player salary is an average of the top ten highest salaries at their position. For players picked between 11 and 32 in the first round, the salary figure is the average of the third through twenty-fifth highest salaries at their position, a markedly lower number.
Holler points out the example of Kansas City Chiefs' defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who just had his fifth-year option picked up yesterday. Because he was the 11th pick in the first round, Poe's salary for that fifth year will be approximately $6.1 million. Had the Chiefs taken him at #10 rather than #11 and picked up that option, his salary for that fifth year would be $9.3 million, the transition salary figure for defensive tackles in the NFL.
The Vikings are currently facing a similar decision on tackle Matt Kalil. Because Kalil was taken in the top ten selections of the 2012 NFL Draft, the cost for the Vikings to pick up his fifth-year option would be around $11.1 million. In comparison, the fifth-year option figure for Riley Reiff, the offensive tackle that the Detroit Lions selected at #23 in the same draft, is reportedly going to be around $8 million.
Keep in mind that fifth-year options are only guaranteed in case of injury. So unless Kalil got injured this coming season to the point that he wouldn't be able to play in 2016, the Vikings could still cut him after this season without incurring a dead money hit on their salary cap if the team picks up his option and he continues to struggle.
With that condition being in place, it's easy to see a team wanting to jump up to the #11 spot if a player that is projected to go in the top ten picks should slide out of that area. Of course, in the four drafts since that rule was instituted, starting in 2011, the team that's held the #11 pick has stayed right where they were. The Vikings have traded back into the first round from the second round in each of the last three drafts, and we've heard that the right to that fifth-year option has at least a little bit to do with that.
Will the Vikings be the first team under these new salary slotting rules to move out of the #11 spot? Or will a player that everyone thinks is destined for the top ten drop into their laps instead? All in all, it appears that the Minnesota Vikings hold one of the more interesting placements in the first round of the NFL Draft. In just five days, we're going to (finally) get to see exactly what they do with it.