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Vikings Salary Cap: Hard Choices Ahead

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Vikings front office will have to make some difficult decisions to meet the salary cap starting next year

NFL: Minnesota Vikings-Training Camp Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings have done a good job so far in keeping the band together - extending young, core players as they hit their prime - but the successful drafts of the past several years have led to good, homegrown players who get paid as their rookie deals end. It’s a good problem to have. But having one of the most expensive quarterbacks in the league on the roster takes it’s toll - along with expensive extensions of really good players - means the day of reckoning is coming soon for the Vikings.

Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but there are definitely some difficult decisions the Vikings front office will have to make going forward in order to stay under the salary cap.

Let’s have look.

Current Salary Cap Situation

Based on current numbers over at overthecap.com, the Vikings have just over $10 million left in salary cap space in 2018 after extending Stefon Diggs.

Looking at 2019, including all current contracts on the books and assuming a $190 million salary cap, the Vikings have just under $6 million in salary cap space - 3rd lowest in the NFL. That number represents the maximum the Vikings will have available next year with current contracts, and may likely go down to the extent incentive clauses are reached in current contracts. My guess (and hope) is that some of those incentives will be reached - but that could take that number down to zero or even negative.

Keep in mind also that Anthony Barr is not currently under contract for 2019, nor is Sheldon Richardson.

So what can the Vikings do if they want to extend guys like Barr and Richardson - both $10 million+ / year contracts? Here are some choices.

First, they may have enough cap space this year that they could extend Anthony Barr, but that may not happen until some cuts are made later this month or early September, depending on how much of a signing bonus they might offer Barr. In addition to the $10 million in cap space they currently have, there are a few players that could conceivably be cut or restructured to gain more cap space. A few more likely names:

1. Kai Forbath. If he loses the kicker competition to Daniel Carlson and the Vikings cut him, that saves $800k in cap space.

2. Marcus Sherels. If the Vikings decide to go with Mike Hughes as punt returner as well, and find they can go without Sherels’ services, that saves another $900k in salary cap.

3. Nick Easton. He currently has a $2.9m salary cap number, which is about 5x higher than most of his competitors, on a one-year deal with no dead cap. He has been pushing for an extension, but that cap number is definitely something he needs to earn by way outperforming competitors at the guard/center position. I’m not sure he can. He may be open to a lower cap number guaranteed with an extension, but I’m not sure the Vikings see him as a long-term guy or not. We’ll see, but his cap number is worth considering here.

4. Tavarres King. If he doesn’t make the roster, that saves $630k in cap space. Cutting Kendall Wright would save $600k.

5. Tom Compton. If the Vikings decide to keep Easton, perhaps that makes Compton’s services redundant, saving $650k in cap space.

6. If Mack Brown, Stephen Weatherly or Josh Andrews didn’t make the roster, that would save $630k each.

7. If Antwione Williams got cut, that would be a $492k cap space savings.

Not all of these individual contract cap savings would flow to the bottom line as other, lower salary guys would get added to the top 51 contracts, adding to the salary cap total.

But bottom line, after roster cuts are made, that could free-up another $5 million or so in cap space, which would likely be enough to extend Anthony Barr.

But that would also leave the Vikings with basically no cap space in 2018 or 2019.

It’s not just Sheldon Richardson and Anthony Barr in the last year of their contracts this year either. Anthony Harris, Latavius Murrray, Trevor Siemian, Nick Easton, Rashod Hill, Ryan Quigley, Mack Brown, David Parry and CJ Ham are also in the last year of their deals. Half of those guys will probably cost more to extend than they’re making now too - and none of them are included in salary cap totals past 2018. I left out Terence Newman and Brian Robison, as they’re both retiring after this year - but still guys that need to be replaced.

Beyond that, 2019 is the last year in contracts with Trae Waynes, Kyle Rudolph, Jayron Kearse, David Morgan, Andrew Sendejo, MacKensie Alexander, Kentrell Brothers, and Stephen Weatherly.

So, not including Anthony Barr, that’s 18 players the Vikings may want to extend over the next two years - and no money to do so assuming they extend Barr.

Hard Choices

The Vikings are not going to be able to keep all 18 of those players. A few they may not want to keep. But most of those players are good and young players I’m guessing they’d like to extend if they had the salary cap space.

Assuming the Vikings extend Barr with a $15m signing bonus leaving basically nothing left in cap space this year or next, the Vikings would have to shed some players next year to make more cap space to extend some of them.

Here are some more probable candidates:

1. Andrew Sendejo. Releasing Sendejo, who would be 31 next year, saves $5.5 million in cap space. It may be that Anthony Harris or Jayron Kearse are ready to step into a starting safety role next year - could even be the case this year. Sendejo is coming off his best season, so I don’t see the need to part ways now, but next year it’s a consideration.

2. Riley Reiff. He’s got a big contract for an average left tackle with a $11.7 million cap hit in 2019. Rookie Brian O’Neill could be ready to play left tackle next year, allowing the Vikings to clear Reiff’s contract from their books. Releasing him pre-June 1st would save $5.1 million in cap space, while creating $6.6 million in dead cap. A post June 1 release designation would free up $9.5 million in cap space by pushing $2.2 million in dead cap onto 2020 and 2021 salary cap books. That’s a pretty big dead cap hit to swallow, but also significant cap savings. But if O’Neill proves ready to take over the starting LT spot, and perhaps be an upgrade, it doesn’t make sense to keep then 31 year-old Reiff’s big contract on the books.

3. Mike Remmers. His contract is more reasonable with a $6.35 million cap hit in 2019, but if another of the recent draft picks is able to step up next year as a starting guard, or perhaps a top draft pick is used, Remmers’ contract becomes an unnecessary burden. The Vikings could save $4.55 million in cap space with only a $1.8 million dead cap hit.

Adiosing these three contracts may be enough to extend Richardson and Waynes, but it would be tight and probably a little optimistic.

But even assuming it’s enough to sign those two guys, what about the other 15 remaining?

Looking down the list of contracts, there is only one that could be cut that offers significant cap savings next year: Everson Griffen. Linval Joseph is another, but there isn’t a good replacement for him on the roster at this point.

Cutting or trading Everson Griffen, who will be 32 late next year, would save almost $11 million in cap space next season, and allow the Vikings to extend maybe 3-4 more from the list of guys with expiring contracts - but that’s about it. If the Vikings parted ways with Griffen, I imagine Hunter would take his spot and Tashawn Bower move up to the left end spot.

The rest will have to be let go, unless other trades are made. Or guys like Richardson, Barr and Waynes must be allowed to walk.

But if those guys are priorities, then this could be the last season as a Viking for guys like:

  • Everson Griffen
  • Andrew Sendejo
  • Latavius Murray
  • Riley Reiff
  • Mike Remmers
  • Nick Easton
  • Anthony Harris

And next year could be the last year for guys like:

  • Kyle Rudolph
  • MacKensie Alexander
  • David Morgan
  • Jayron Kearse

I could see a guy like Mike Boone or Roc Thomas stepping up to replace Murray, and Mike Hughes replacing Alexander, Brian O’Neill replacing Reiff, Hunter replacing Griffen, perhaps Tyler Conklin or a draft pick replacing Rudolph, Harris or Kearse replacing Sendejo, and other guys replacing Remmers on the OL, and so on....

But looking ahead with the salary cap situation brings into perspective that the Vikings roster will be turning over in the years to come, and unlike previous years there will be some guys that are allowed to walk that you really don’t want to see leave.

All this just underscores how important drafting and developing players is to be successful in the NFL. And let’s not duck a key catalyst for this situation: It also underscores the impact of Kirk Cousins’ contract on the Vikings ability to retain talent on the roster.

Poll

How do you feel about the prospect of losing some key/long-time vets in the next year or two?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    Turnover is part of the business of the NFL
    (1464 votes)
  • 18%
    Cousins’ contract isn’t worth losing those guys
    (352 votes)
  • 2%
    Happy to see most of them go
    (40 votes)
1856 votes total Vote Now