As we’ve seen over the course of the 2016 NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings have had to deal with a ton of injuries. Yes, it’s the National Football League and every team has to deal with injuries, but it seems like it’s been worse in Minnesota than it has been in most places.
At least one prominent source is in agreement, as the folks from ESPN have put together their list of the five NFL teams that have been the most affected by injuries this season. They’ve placed the Vikings at the top of the list, and it isn’t just because of the early-season injuries to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Adrian Peterson.
It's remarkable the Vikings have won six games after losing their quarterback in August, their best player in Week 2 and both starting offensive tackles by Week 4. (Not to mention their offensive coordinator, who resigned in Week 9, and head coach, who had emergency surgery on a detached retina in his right eye Wednesday and did not coach against the Cowboys on Thursday night.)
The Vikings were genuine Super Bowl contenders with Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil and Andre Smith on the field. Without them, they're on the periphery of the NFC wild-card race.
That’s just an excerpt from the article. Check out the whole thing.
I know that, on the surface, it sounds like a stretch to say that losing Kalil and Smith has hindered this team, but at least with those two guys in the lineup the Vikings got occasional competence from the offensive tackle spot. “Competence” would be an enormous step up from what we’ve seen recently.
The players that the Vikings have lost this season have had a huge impact on this team not just because of the quality of the players, but the salary figures they carry. According to Spotrac, four key pieces that the Vikings currently have on injured reserve. . .Peterson, Kalil, Smith, and Bridgewater. . .carry a combined salary cap figure of a shade over $28.4 million, or roughly 18% of the team’s salary cap space. If you throw in defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd making about $2.6 million to do whatever the heck it is he’s done since the season opener, that’s $31 million in (essentially) dead money.
That makes it hard to sign any sort of reasonable replacements to the roster. We saw the sort of salary cap gymnastics they had to do to bring in offensive tackle Jake Long, including altering the contract of another player in the midst of a lost season in offensive lineman Mike Harris. As it stands now, according to the same Spotrac page linked above, the Vikings have less than $350,000 in salary cap space remaining. That’s not enough to do much of anything.
The fact that the Vikings are still in contention at all at this point (at least mathematically), and early in the season were considered to be one of the NFL’s top teams, is pretty miraculous given the circumstances. The foundation has been set for this team to be successful for a while based around the talent and relative youth on the defensive side of the ball. If this team can get some actual injury luck for a change, the Vikings are going to be a very good football team going forward. Granted, that doesn’t do much for this season, but after the past couple of months, it’s damn sure nice to have something positive to look at.