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Minnesota Vikings News and Links: March 17, 2020

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Hey, there are actual football happenings to share. Yippee!

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

As of 3:00 pm yesterday, the new league year officially began, and along with the new league year comes........real things happening! Yes, there is now some actual news to report. The constant speculation, the attempts to foresee a player’s intentions based on a tweet, and the pure guess-timation of future trade scenarios are all going to be pushed aside for a while in order to make room for the reporting of things that have actually happened. You can expect to see links to stories about football people making football transactions, reports of players being signed or contracts being voided, which all leads to fans’ jubilation/dismay regarding said transactions.

The Vikings have been fairly busy thus far in the new league year. Key transactions include terminating the contracts of Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph, inking Cousins to a back loaded two-year extension, and also signing CJ Ham to a four-year extension. These moves all create some much needed cap space for the Vikings, as they work to fill areas of need that were already on the roster, and also fill additional needs that were created when releasing guys who started last year. The Rhodes cut didn’t surprise me, and doesn’t cause me any heartburn. The team has younger talent already on the roster, and frankly, it won’t be hard to replace the production that the team has gotten from Rhodes over the past two years, and they will likely find equal or better production for a lower cost.

The Joseph cut did surprise me a little, and it does concern me a little for now. I felt that the defense took a notable step backwards, especially against the run, when Joseph was not on the field or when he was not playing at 100%. I also believe Joseph’s limitations or absence due to injury was one of the more significant contributing factors to the defense’s inability to make a stop on third down last year, which had been one of their strengths in years prior to last year. I hope the front office has a plan in mind to fill Joseph’s spot on the defense, or maybe they cut him in hopes of re-signing him to a deal that is more in line with the current market value for his position. I’ve been a big fan of Joseph’s since we signed him, and I hate to see him go, but the defense is aging, so decisions have to be made in order to maintain a unit that can continue to be a dominant force both now and into the future.

As of right now, and including Cousins’ and Harris’ extensions, the team has 51 players under contract with contracts totaling $179,371,678 along with 2020 dead money cap hits totaling $8,759,228, equaling total cap liabilities of $188,130,906, which puts the team under the $198,200,000 2020 NFL salary cap by $10,069,094 (overthecap lists the Vikings team cap space at $10,398,270, and they may be right, but the math didn’t work, so I used my calculations instead), so that’s a long way of saying that the Vikings, as of now, have $10,069,094 in cap space available for them to pursue free agents and to sign their draft picks. At their current position on the draft board, I estimate it will take between $3 million and $4 million of cap space for the Vikings to sign their draft picks. Take that figure with a grain of salt, I came up with that range based on the Vikings position on the draft board and in how they’ve historically structured deals they sign with draftees. The total amount could swing significantly higher or lower if the Vikings either move up in the first round (figure would go higher) or trade out of the first round (the figure would move lower), or if they structure deals differently than they have in the past.

Around the DN since our last open thread:

Another big move by the Vikings appears to be in the works, Ian Rapoport reports that the Vikings will place the franchise tag on Anthony Harris, per Chris. If they do this, it will be a major boost to the secondary, as Harris has been one of the best in the league over the past couple of seasons. Harris and Smith remaining together to roam center field for the Vikings next year should cause some serious heartburn for opposing quarterbacks.

The Vikings and CJ Ham agreed to terms for a four-year extension for the fullback, per Chris. Ham has played well here, and he provides versatility with his ability to block, run the ball, and catch passes out of the backfield. The contract is reportedly worth $12.25 million, with $4 million of that being paid out in 2020. So, they locked down a roster spot for the next several years at a fairly low cost, and front loaded the contract to free up space in future years, which is a wise way for teams to structure deals.

Chris has a Minnesota Vikings 2020 free agency tracker to help you stay current on all the team’s transactions during this busy part of the off-season.

From Chris, an update on the NFL Draft, which WILL take place as scheduled, but will NOT be held in Vegas. To me, changing the location would mean that the draft would actually NOT be held as scheduled, as the location is part of the event’s schedule, and that is being changed. To me, changing the location would mean that the event isn’t being held as scheduled, making the NFL’s statement both incorrect and contradictory. It’s like a TV provider saying that they won’t increase the price they charge customers for service, but that they do plan to increase their monthly rates by $10 a month. Seems wrong, but that’s just me, and nobody asked me, but I decided to throw my two-cent’s worth in anyway, which isn’t actually worth two cents, so nobody cares.

The Vikings have signed Kirk Cousins to a two-year extension, per Chris. The deal makes it a near certainty that Cousins will be under center for the purple and gold through at least 2022. I’m hoping he can build off the areas where he improved last year, and I also hope that the team will find a way to improve the O-line. I’d like to see Cousins playing at a level commensurate with his pay. I have no issue with paying a quarterback top 5 money if he’s producing at that level on the field.

Nick Shook at NFL.com reported that the Vikings placed the franchise tag on Anthony Harris, but Shook speculates the team may have tagged Harris so that they could trade him. Anything’s possible, I suppose, and it would be more beneficial than just letting him walk via free agency, but I don’t see it happening. It’s not something we’ve seen this team do in the past, but in recent years, they have been deviating from their established norms, so you never know.

Other Vikings/NFL news, and random oddities and annoyances:

Sports Illustrated has details of the Texans/Cardinals trade that swapped DeAndre Hopkins and David Johnson, and which also sent Houston’s fourth round pick to Arizona and Arizona’s second and fourth round picks in 2021 to Houston. SI thinks Houston made a bad deal. It is difficult to see the logic in this trade if you’re Houston, Hopkins was a huge piece of their receiving offense last year, he accounted for a third of Watson’s total passing yards and was a major factor in Watson’s success. Houston traded that significant piece of their passing game in exchange for a running back who is 2 years older than Hopkins and who has a similar cap hit, and Hopkins’ catching ability is astounding. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to an outsider looking in, other than to clear a small amount of cap space and provide future draft capital which had been depleted when they sent a ton of picks to Cleveland in order to dump the horrible contract they had signed with Osweiller. If you’re going to dump a bunch of picks, dump them in Cleveland; that way, the picks will never come back to hurt you, Cleveland will find a way to reduce each pick’s value to zero.

The start of OTAs is delayed indefinitely due to COVID-19, per NFL.com. It’s best to use ‘indefinitely’, which can mean as early as now or as late as never, with reality landing somewhere in between. Since nobody knows how long the situation will remain a situation, it’s good to keep all options open.

NFL.com has notable free agent additions and trades made by each NFL team.

We come to today’s media selection:

Let’s listen to Loudon Wainright tell us about that dead skunk in the middle of the road. Enjoy!

We all know the rules, but in case someone is new:

-No discussion of politics or religion
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-Speaking of which, if discussing a newer show or movie, please use spoiler tags|
-No pictures that could get someone fired or in serious trouble with their employer
-While navigating the open thread, just assume it’s sarcasm.
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With that, the beer light is on and the bar is open. Belly up & tie one on. Don’t forget to tip your waitress, and try the rocky mountain oysters.