The second day of the Vikings OTAs concluded today, and all but two Vikings took part. One who didn’t was Jeff Badet, who had an ankle issue, and the other was Anthony Barr, who didn’t have an injury issue.
Mike Zimmer said during his press conference today that Barr had spoken to him and told him he wouldn’t be there, and it remains unclear if it was just today, or the rest of OTAs as well. Zimmer said he wasn’t sure if it had something to do with his being in the last year of his contract or not.
While it’s too early to conclude this is some kind of hold out or Barr expressing dissatisfaction with his contract situation, it’s worth looking into the complications for the Vikings to extend Barr.
The first thing is the Vikings no longer have much salary cap space to work with. After Brian Robison agreeing to a $2 million paycut, the Vikings have $17 million in cap space, and three key guys to extend: Danielle Hunter, Stefon Diggs and Anthony Barr. All three should command 8-figure/year deals. Diggs perhaps well into 8-figures. Rob Brzezinski, who Rick Spielman said could re-sign all three, now admits there is a lot of pressure to get these deals done, seemingly hinting it may not be so easy.
Having already extended Eric Kendricks, it seems the Vikings may be more focused on Diggs and Hunter for their next deals.
But Anthony Barr is still a guy the Vikings seemingly want to extend.
The problem is this:
It’s gonna be tight from a salary cap perspective to sign all three remaining guys: Hunter, Diggs and Barr. I’m guessing the market value for Diggs is in the $13 - $16 million/year range. Hunter will likely command at least $10 million/year, and Barr at least that much.
And here’s the added difficulty with Barr:
As a strong side linebacker in a 4-3 alignment, his value is probably closer to $10 million/year. But as an OLB/Edge rusher in a 3-4 alignment, his value maybe $3-4 million/year more than that. Doubtless his agent has made him aware of this.
The other issue is what position Anthony Barr wants to play going forward, and where he is best suited. Looking at his PFF grading, his grades as a pass rusher are much better than either his coverage or run defense grades - and pretty much always have been since he entered the league. That strongly suggests he’s better off in a 3-4 alignment as an OLB/Edge rusher - something Mike Zimmer doesn’t run. At least not yet.
I’ve thrown it out there that the Vikings defensive front may be better suited to a 3-4 alignment, with Sheldon Richardson and Everson Griffen at each DE spot, Linval Joseph at NT, and Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr as the two outside linebackers/edge rushers, and Eric Kendricks the 3-down LB and Ben Gedeon the base LB, coming out for the nickel corner in 3WR sets.
To me that’s an extremely formidable defensive front capable of being one of the most disruptive defensive fronts in the NFL. It puts Hunter and Barr in a better position to do what they do best, and equally so with Griffen, Richardson and Joseph.
But what do I know.
Anyway, given the money differential between being a strong side LB and an OLB/Edge rusher - and doubtless there will be 3-4 teams willing to pay more than the Vikings for Anthony Barr, it makes it an uphill battle for the Vikings to extend Barr - assuming he wants to stay with the Vikings and a 4-3 alignment, which may be doubtful given both the economics and what Anthony Barr does best.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but Anthony Barr, in his 5th year option as a 1st round, #9 overall pick, making $12 million this year, maybe in his last year with the Vikings.