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Vikings Potential Salary Cap Casualties?

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings-Training Camp Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings look to have some healthy competitions going at a number of positions this training camp. They’ve also been busy signing core defensive players to some big extensions. And with a $20+ million QB salary on the horizon, one way or another, along with more core players coming to the end of their rookie deals in the coming years- guys like Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Trae Waynes, and Danielle Hunter to name a few- the Vikings need to be more wary of their salary cap situation down the road.

That could impact the competition at some spots when pink slips are issued in early September. Here are a few guys whose salary cap could factor in the decision to keep them or not this year.

Emmanuel Lamur, LB

Lamur is in competition with both Ben Gedeon and Edmond Robinson, both of whom make just over $600k this year. Lamur is a $2.75 million salary cap hit, in the last year of his contract, and with no dead cap. Would you pay $2m more for an older guy who, at this point, doesn’t look appreciably better- and may be worse- than Gedeon or Robinson? That may be a tough sell for Lamur, especially with both Robinson and Gedeon faring well in camp and pre-season so far.

Datone Jones, DT

When Jones was acquired this off-season, he looked like he would fill the 3-tech position nicely. But so far, he has been somewhat underwhelming- taking perhaps more time than expected to re-learn an interior line spot he played in college. There is still time for him to make his case, but Jones also carries a $3.7m salary cap hit, with a $1.6m dead cap on his one-year deal. Cutting Jones if he fails to distinguish himself would save over $2m in salary cap space.

Tom Johnson, DT

TJ currently sits atop the depth chart at DT, but has continued to struggle in run defense as he has since entering the league. At age 33 this month, it doesn’t seem likely that will change. His $2.35m salary cap hit, with no dead cap, in his last year of his contract may weigh in the decision to retain his services. Particularly if one or more younger guys prove they can do as well and/or have more upside.

Shamar Stephen, NT

Stephen is another interior D-lineman that has been underwhelming since joining the Vikings. His $1.8m salary cap hit, with only $16k dead cap, also the last year of his contract, may also weigh in the decision to keep him. Jaleel Johnson had a relatively good game at Buffalo, and with the number of guys the Vikings acquired to bolster their interior defensive line, the writing may be on the wall for Stephen, who has had nothing but poor overall ratings from PFF since entering the league.

Ryan Quigley, P

While Quigley’s $775k salary is small potatoes in NFL salary cap discussion, the punter competition is pretty close right now, and Taylor Symmank is $310k cheaper.

Overall

While salary is not likely to take precedence over the performance on the field for any of these players, in close competitions it may be an important factor. If the Vikings feel they can get equal or better performance in these positions while cutting these players, that saves them about $9m in salary cap this year- which would allow them to keep one more top, core player for another year.

Next Year Too

Next year there may some other Vikings veterans whose salary cap may come into play as well. A few names:

Alex Boone, LG

Boone has no dead cap next year, and a $6.7m salary cap. Boone has been one of the better performers along the offensive line, so he may earn that salary, but if one of the younger interior linemen takes hold and/or Boone’s performance drops, he may be at risk. Unlikely at this point, but something to think about.

Andrew Sendejo, S

Sendejo also has zero dead cap next year, and a $3m salary cap, so if the younger guys at safety can step up, the Vikings could save some salary cap $$ here as well.

Latavius Murray, RB

Murray’s contract is structured to allow the Vikings an early out if they choose. Murray has a $6.35m salary cap hit next year, but only $1.2m in dead cap if they chose to cut him. Jerick McKinnon is also in the last year of his contract. It may be that in acquiring Murray prior to the draft, the Vikings wanted a solid replacement for Adrian Peterson who fit with Pat Shurmur’s offense. But now with Dalvin Cook looking to become the starter, Murray may become a high priced backup. It may be that the Vikings choose to keep McKinnon instead, and go with a draft pick or another free agent to round out the RB corps after next year.

Bottom Line

In the Not-For-Long NFL, players have to continually earn their keep. And increasingly for the Vikings, salary cap will become a bigger consideration as they continue to extend their top players for big money. That will force them to make some decisions on how they’re gonna manage their salary cap this year, and in the future, beginning in just a couple weeks.