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NFL Free Agency: Decisions on key players fast approaching

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The Vikings have some big time decisions coming up with some big time players. What will happen?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings enter the off-season with, basically, the same three things facing them every off-season: Retain core talent, sign talent in free agency, and draft good players. We’ll get to the latter two things in different posts, so for now let’s focus on some key dates coming up for the Vikings, some of their core players, and contract guarantees.

I ran across this tweet earlier from Sean Borman over at Vikings Territory, and it’s some some big money attached to some big names, with some key dates:

As you can see, the Vikings are going to be facing some tough decisions. Let’s take a look at some of these players, and what options Minnesota has. Before we get into that, though, let’s break down the salary cap room for the Vikings. I looked at two different sites, Over The Cap and Spotrac. Over The Cap has a current cap space of about $6.9 million for the Vikings, while Spotrac says $5.7. Because math is hard, let’s just average out that number and round it to an even $6 million, and work from there. Cool? Cool.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get into some of these numbers.

Andrew Sendejo: Of Sendejo’s $5.5 million salary, he has no guaranteed money, and no dead cap money if the Vikings cut him. With the way Anthony Harris played while Sendejo was out with injuries most of the year, I’ll be surprised if the Vikings bring him back.

Prediction: Released. Projected cap space is now $11.5 million.

Trae Waynes: One of the things I find...irritating...amusing...irrimusing...is the willingness of some fans to just throw Xavier Rhodes or Trae Waynes out with a ‘hey, let’s trade him and see what we can get’ attitude. The thinking is that Waynes has finally developed, so let’s get something in return. Or for Rhodes, he had one down year, so time to move on. For Waynes, I chuckle because for three years people didn’t like him because of the fact he wasn’t developing fast enough. Now he’s turned into a good CB and it’s all ‘hey let’s get rid of him because he’s finally doing something we were pissed he wasn’t doing.’ Um...I don’t get it. Sorry, not sorry.

Prediction: He stays. He’s on his fifth year option and is scheduled to make $9.1 million. I think they look to redo his contract, with an extension so he won’t lose any guaranteed money, but a lower cap hit. He’s averaged just over $3 million in guaranteed money a year over his rookie contract, and although he’s improved, he’s not CB1 on the team. I’m thinking a cap number of $5-6 million for 2019 when all the smoke clears and a new deal is done. So let’s call it $5.5 million and split the difference. Projected cap space is now at $17 million.

Everson Griffen: There’s a slew of contracts that become guaranteed on the 15th of the month, none bigger than Everson Griffen. Griff is one of my favorite players, and one of the most popular guys on the team, both in and out of the locker room. With all the issues he had last season, everyone wants to see him back, better than ever, and have a monster year. But that said, the NFL is a cruel business, and he’s scheduled to make $11.7 million next year, but only has $1.2 million of dead money if the Vikings release him. He’s over 30, and in 2018 he had 5.5 sacks, his lowest number since 2013.

Prediction: I think he wants to come back, and I hope the VIkings want him back, but it’s not going to be at $11.7 million. Stephen Weatherly played well when Grff was out last year, so there’s a guy ready to step up and take over. As much as I hate it, I think he gets released, saving the Vikings $10.5 million in cap space. Projected cap space is now $27.5 million.

For what it’s worth, I really hope I’m wrong on this one, and they re-do his deal to lower his cap number. I’d love to see him have a big bounce back year with the VIkes.

Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph, who was completely jobbed in the Walter Payton Man of the Year voting, isn’t in Sean’s original tweet, but I want to talk about him as well. He’s due to make $7.6 million, and like Sendejo, he has no dead cap money if the Vikings move on. I can see the Vikings re-doing Rudolph’s deal in a similar manner to Waynes—more guaranteed money spread out over a couple seasons, but a lower cap number for 2019.

Prediction: As promising as David Morgan is as a blocker, I don’t think there’s a ready made replacement for Rudolph like there is for Sendejo. Rudolph still has a lot of football left in him, and I think a re-worked cap number of $4.5 million with more guaranteed money seems like something that can be done. If that happens, new projected cap space is right at $32 million.

The bottom line in all this is that the Vikings have a lot of decisions, and a lot of options before them to get some breathing room under the salary cap in time for free agency. And like they do every year, when free agency rolls around, they’ll have somewhere close to $30 million to play with, which will be enough to do what they want to address needs (COUGH OFFENSIVE LINE COUGH) in free agency.