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The salary cap implications of Michael Pierce’s opt-out

It does give the Vikings some relief

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Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Yesterday, we got the news that new Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce was electing to opt out of the 2020 seasons due to his COVID-19 concerns as someone with asthma. Yeah, it was news that no Vikings fan wanted to hear, but at this point we can all just hope that Pierce keeps himself healthy and is ready to return with a vengeance in 2021.

Looking at things from a football perspective, however, the Vikings will get some salary cap relief from Pierce not playing this season. Pro Football Focus took a look at how opting out affects the salary cap, and were kind enough to use Pierce’s case as an example.

Here’s what Pierce’s contract looks like now, courtesy of the folks from Over the Cap. You may click to embiggen, lest you think it’s a picture for ants.

Pierce still gets his $2 million prorated signing bonus for this year, plus his $350,000 high-risk stipend, giving him a full cap charge of $2,350,000. He was initially set to make $5 million for this year ($2 million in signing bonus + $3 million in base salary), so the Vikings will gain $2,650,000 in cap space for this year.

As OTC points out, it is unclear at this point whether the $350,000 stipend will count against the cap or will basically amount to a cash payout. If it is the latter, the Vikings’ cap gain from Pierce’s opting out would rise to $3 million.

Beyond that, the rest of Pierce’s contract will “toll,” meaning the whole thing basically gets rolled back a year. He is now, essentially, signed from 2021 to 2023 rather than from 2020 to 2022. His signing bonus will finish up over the next two years, meaning that he will have no guaranteed money coming for that 2023 season, as you can see from the breakdown above.

Will the Vikings do anything with the extra salary cap space? It might be enough to entice an Everson Griffen return. Of course, the Vikings now potentially have to do something as far as replacing Pierce, and there are some veteran options out there that the Vikings may have to look into in order to do that, too.

Losing Michael Pierce for this season stinks, but he’s doing what he feels is best for him and there’s no reason to not respect that, honestly. The Vikings will, however, get some financial relief as a result of it happening.