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The Vikings and lower-tier free agents

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Why the way the Vikings have handled the offseason makes sense

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the offseason, we knew that the Minnesota Vikings were not going to be able to make a whole lot of noise in free agency. Sure, they saved Anthony Barr from going to the New York Jets and signed Josh Kline and Shamar Stephen, but a lot of their moves have been minor.

Among those minor moves has been the signings of five players. . .all on defense. . .that were a part of the Alliance of American Football prior to them shutting down operations.

  • S Jordan Martin
  • LB Greer Martini
  • DE Karter Schult
  • S Derron Smith
  • CB Duke Thomas

They’ve also made some other minor additions along the way.

Because of the top-heavy nature of the Vikings’ current roster. . .let’s not forget that this team is still awfully stacked at most positions, talent-wise. . .and the salary cap situation, it’s hard to fault Rick Spielman and company for the way they’ve handled things.

As of today, the Vikings only have 66 players under contract. The folks from Over the Cap only have 63, but I don’t see anything on there for Martin, Martini, or the recently-signed Jordan Taylor. If Spielman does his thing on draft day and gets to his magical number of 10 draft choices, that puts them at 76, meaning that there are still 14 spots on the 90-man roster that need to be filled.

Rather than filling all of those spots with undrafted free agents, the Vikings have instead chosen to take a few fliers on guys who, until recently, had been playing professional football. . .regardless of whether it was at a lower level. I know that there were plenty of you out there that were watching the AAF, and probably already know that the guys that the Vikings signed from that league, particularly Derron Smith and Karter Schult, were very good in that league. The AAF gave teams an opportunity to find players they might not have found otherwise, and perhaps could continue to develop in Minnesota.

The other thing that it’s important to remember is something that our friend Andy Carlson pointed out on the Twitters the other day. I can’t find the exact tweet, so I’ll just link his account. He’s someone you should be following if you’re a Vikings fan anyway.

It’s important to remember that, when it comes to the NFL’s salary cap, there’s a rule called the “Top 51” rule. That rule dictates that only the 51 highest salaries on your 90-man roster count towards the salary cap. According to the Over the Cap page linked above, the cut-off point for the “Top 51” for the Vikings is a salary of $570,000.

So, in effect, if the Vikings can sign a free agent for less than $570,000, they’re basically giving them a free tryout. If they’re impressive enough, they will stick, and if they’re not, then it doesn’t cost the Vikings anything. Not in terms of the salary cap, anyway.

Of the five AAF free agents that the Vikings have signed, Smith is the only one that is above that cut line with a salary of $725,000 (because, apparently, the Vikings really liked him). Schult is at $497,500, while Thomas is at $500,000. I can’t imagine that Martin or Martini is above that mark, and I wouldn’t think that Jordan Taylor would be, either. None of the undrafted free agents are going to break that $570,000 barrier, unless things get a little weird.

The Vikings have to get their roster to 90 players somehow, and given their current situation, it would appear that they’ve handled their offseason about as well as they could have. And who knows. . .maybe some of these lower-tier guys could end up being significant contributors going forward for the team. Most of the top of the roster is pretty solidified, but as we go through the offseason activities and mini-camps and on to Training Camp, there are going to be a lot of hungry players at the bottom of the roster that are going to be fighting for spots, and that will make things pretty exciting to watch, in my opinion.