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Vikings’ Deal for Ngakoue Impacts Several Players

Washington Redskins v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

It hasn’t been finalized yet, but the Vikings’ trade for Yannick Ngakoue has set in motion a likely domino effect that could impact several players in the not too distant future.

Let’s take a look.

Riley Reiff

It didn’t take long after the Ngakoue deal was announced for the Vikings to approach Reiff with a salary cut ultimatum. Apparently yesterday the Vikings asked Reiff to take a pay cut or they would release him, saving $11 million in salary cap space this year, and $11.75 million next year. The Vikings gave Reiff until the end of the day today to make a decision. No word yet on what that decision is. Reiff has widely been seen as a primary target for salary cap relief because he’s the 2nd highest salary cap hit on the team this year, has been only an average performer, and doesn’t have much dead cap left on his deal.

Oli Udoh & Brian O’Neill

In the meantime, the Vikings wasted no time in moving Brian O’Neill to left tackle at practice yesterday, while elevating Oli Udoh to starting right tackle. Here at the DN we’ve been talking about these kinds of moves all spring and summer, only to find the Vikings coaching staff opting largely for the status quo. The Ngakoue deal has them looking at alternatives, which could actually end up benefitting the offensive line if Udoh, who’s had an excellent camp, is able to be as good as he was last year in week 17 as a regular starter. Brian O’Neill would also have to handle the move back to the left tackle position he played in college, which is primarily a matter of adjusting footwork.

Ifeadi Odenigbo

Odenigbo was preparing to be the starting right end for the Vikings, but the acquisition of Ngakoue will keep him as a backup, probably to both Ngakoue and Hunter. He’ll still get a lot of reps, but clearly if the Vikings sign Ngakoue to a long-term deal, Odenigdo’s prospects for a starting job are pretty much wiped out. He apparently expressed his dissatisfaction on twitter in this way:

Not sure how to interpret that exactly, but it doesn’t sound like he’s all that enamored with the deal.

Odenigbo will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, which will likely keep him with the Vikings for another season, but after that it would seem likely Odenigbo may look for a starting opportunity elsewhere if he continues to develop well.

Dalvin Cook & Anthony Harris

The Vikings spending $12 million on Ngakoue this year, with the prospect of him signing a long-term deal next year, would seem to make the prospect of the Vikings also extending both Anthony Harris and/or Dalvin Cook a lot less likely. Ngakoue’s likely salary cap hit would basically replace Reiff’s, if they were to release him, over the next two years, leaving the Vikings with next to nothing to work with in terms of salary cap to extend either Cook or Harris.

Shamar Stephen

One potential cut that would free up some salary cap space next year is Shamar Stephen. With Michael Pierce returning from his opt-out, and guys like Armon Watts figuring to rotate in at NT on passing downs, along with Jaleel Johnson figuring to start at 3T, Stephen’s $5 million salary cap hit seems expendable.

Kirk Cousins

This would be the case with or without any of the other moves, but Cousins’ $45 million 2022 salary becomes fully guaranteed on the 3rd day of the 2021 league year next spring. His contract will almost certainly be restructured in an extension, perhaps another 3-year deal, that could give the Vikings some additional salary cap space to extend Cook and/or Harris.

Bottom Line

The Vikings trade for Yannick Ngakoue has forced them to do some last minute shuffling, both in terms of players and salary cap. It may very well have a positive impact beyond just the defensive line, but there could also be some hiccups this close to the start of the regular season.

Stay tuned.