Edit: Please note that this post is continued in part two: Navigating the Salary Cap Storm.
step 1)Add placeholder contracts for the next 3 years of 1M per player until you have a 53man roster.
doing so leaves the following salary cap situation
11M in 2017 (can be used in extensions for some cap relief)
37M in 2018
56M in 2019
76.5M in 2020
step 2) resign Kendricks, Hunter, Diggs and Barr and see how much is left.
Projected annual cost: Barr 15M, Kendricks 10M, Diggs 11M, Hunter 17.5M.
Since these players still have some money against the cap in 2018 the extension money is the added money in total over the additional years added to the contract... for instance Hunter has about 1M against the 2018 cap so if you want to give him a 5year extension plus his 2018 contract worth 87.5M or 17.5M a year you could add about 15M per year on 2018 and leave 72.5M left to be paid or pay him about 14.5M a year in addition to the 16M in 2018. Even though the value of the extension is 17.5M per year it only costs around 15M per year in total. Let's do 5 year deals all around.
Hunter 15M/yr against cap. Barr 14.5M against cap. Kendricks 8M against cap. Diggs 9M against cap. Total 46.5M per year
2018 9.5M OVER the cap
2019 13.5M Under the cap (after y add 4M because you replace 4 of the filler 1M players)
2020 34M under the cap.
Keep in mind this is before we resign ANY of our 2018 free agents including a QB which will be very expensive.
Step 3 move some cap around
now you'll note one thing is that we did not do any backloading the final year of the contract which can save some money so let's not only backload let's also use some of the 2020 cap. If we use 20M of the 2020 cap we will have
2018: 10.5M under the cap
2019: 13.5M under the cap
2020: 14M under the cap
step 4 find additional cap relief
in 5 year contracts it probably wouldn't be too unreasonable to have an extra 5M in the final year of the contract with roster bonuses allowing us to free up any obligation to that year. Doing so would save 1M per year per contract for every other year in the 6years total under contract as part of the 5 year extension or it would save a total of 4M per year.
2018: 14.5M under the cap
2019: 17.5M under the cap
2020: 18M under the cap
This is a more realistic look at our cap room for resignings and free agents (I didn't tack on Trae Waynes 5th year option onto 2019 though)
Even so, this is hardly enough cap room to sign a $20-$25M a year QB and keep all of our pieces much less ADD to the team in any way that seems to signal a definite improvement. We could backload the final year more aggressively and even have a mild increase in contract size each year to save a little bit more room and every player we sign we get to replace the 1M placeholder so we add a little bit each time and you could even add some cap room with low priced rookies making the rookie minimum but the bottom line is it is going to be a very, very difficult task.
Step 5 look at some alternative options
Let's look at a few unconventional approaches.
1)Backload aggressively. If Drew Brees was available I would be fine backloading significantly with more dramatic increases each and every year knowing full well that more and more significant changes would have to occur each year and probably a rebuilding period at some point in the future. that may even mean you don't get to keep one of the above players we otherwise would want to lock up to a long term deal or at least not for very long.
2)Trade FOR a QB at a financial discount. For example Ben Roethlisberger can be had for a net cost of around 17M a year over the next two before restructuring. Restructuring can backload but you also save on the cost of not having a 1st rounder to pay plus whatever else it costs to get a vet QB with playoff experience. That isn't a TON of room to make resignings but if you do some more aggressive backloading the final year and maybe have a contract or two that increase by 7% per year along with the expected cap increases or even 14% per year instead of flat structure you can create a lot of room by borrowing from 2021,2022 and 2023.
3)Trade one of the key players. It kind of is sad to draft a player like Diggs, watch him develop into a star and trade him away but we did it with Harvin to avoid paying him $13M a year and we ended up with Rhodes and McKinnon long after Harvin has retired. Even if Harvin had panned out for the Seahawks there is still a time in the future where your roster and salary cap is better off because of trades like this. The reason a move like this feels more painful now is because the Vikings are kind of in position to win in the 2017-2018 season and if you keep them together or can improve they'll have another good chance to win it all (again) in 2018-2019... but if you are realistic in looking at the situation it may make a lot of sense to take a step or two backwards to take several more forward in the future.
For instance, would you Trade Hunter for the #1 overall pick rather than pay him 17.5M a year? We could, and then if we use the cap room intelligently to create more room for the future and keep everyone else. Then we could also trade down in the draft similar to how the Browns have the last few years only we have a much better team than they did when they started trading and a better history of drafting and developing and we'd only have to trade one player to do it.
This type of move is more of a system based move rather than a results based moves. You are relying on what moves like this means over a long long period of time and that is that you get younger, you free up cap, you continue growing the future salary cap situation and accumulating future draft picks that continue to pay dividends long afterwards. The salary cap situation we are in today certainly could have been a lot worse if we didn't trade Harvin and as a result the team probably wouldn't be as talented. Similarly we can take leaps forward in the future but it will be painful in the present.
4)We can simply not pay a QB big money.... looking to find another bargain like Keenum was... (Kurt Warner type situation) and/or looking to draft a steal and/or a bargain cap wise like Russel Wilson or Tom Brady was. If you fail you are still trying to win like the Buccs did with Brad Johnson, the Ravens did with Trent Dilfer (and to a lesser extent Joe Flacco), the Broncos did with a Peyton Manning that played like garbage at the last year of his career or like many of today's well known QBs played very early in their career before they were what they are today. Even a moderately decent QB like Eli Manning can win with the tools around him. And if you aren't just looking at superbowls you can look at the perennial playoff Vikings in the 90s and early 2000s who went through all sorts of journeymen QBs and still made the playoffs,
And in the process we are freeing up probably the same kind of money over several years as we would if we traded Hunter... the benefit of not paying a QB is you get to develop a monster of a defense...
if it all fails as long as the Vikings add value and push cap space into the future it's only a matter of time before a much more talented QB falls into their lap and they don't have to force a rebuild or lose talent anywhere else to get that QB.
I was totally in the camp of resigning our guys until I looked at the cap then I was for trading for say an Andrew Luck or even an Alex Smith or Eli Manning but after looking at the cap more closely I don't think that will be enough to manage the cap the way I want us to on it's own. Perhaps a combination of trading for a player like that and ALSO trading away a young core piece for an early draft pick is a more balanced approach that can help us compete now and possibly improve if the QB play is there, keep enough cap room to keep the rest of the team and focus on developing some prior draft picks and not end up sacrificing much and perhaps even gaining some draft value in the process.
The patient and prudent decision is probably to trade away a key piece so we can sign Teddy or even trade away a piece AND go without a big time QB. We could perhaps have a down year without a good QB and after trading away a key piece and maybe even scrapping some older veterens and get some higher draft capital and due to having such a strong young core and favorable cap situation and draft picks as a result of these decisions we can come back stronger in 2-3 years in a way that will last.
Considering how well the Vikings have proven their "next man up" philosophy can work at times it wouldn't be prudent to keep as many key players as possible and get compensation for those we can't and ensuring the future remains brighter and brighter. What would our record have been this year without both Diggs AND Hunter? I feel like we still would have won most of our games but even if the year are as important as they seem with multiple really early draft picks and a lot more future cap room we can make a splash in free agency and possibly have extra draft capital for years to come If done right.
just some options to think about!