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Vikings 2022 Offseason Plan v1.0

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Philadelphia Eagles v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It is time to present my first “wannabe GM” offseason plan for 2022!

The offseason is off with a bang with serious changes with the GM and Coach being relieved or their duties. The search is underway.

Without knowing who will be running things this plan is premature which is something I have NEVER been accused of before, right?

But it does not deter me from my fantasy of running an NFL team.

Regardless of who is eventually hired to run the Mothership, they will inherit a salary cap that is already over the $208.2M maximum cap number by $11,076,179. The roster is top heavy with 10 players accounting for 79% of the cap (this includes 9.8M in dead money for Barr).

The first issue is to deal with the top two cap hits obviously.

Kirk Cousins

The top number belongs to Kirk Cousins who has a 45M cap hit which accounts for 21.6% of the cap. What should the team do and will it be acceptable to Cousins?

Option one - Add void year(s)

If they only want to keep him one more year (let him play out his contract) then they may ask him to add one or two void years to his deal and spread some of his salary out over two or three years. This would create dead money in 2023 (10M in dead money if they convert 20M of salary over 2 years or 15M of salary over 3 years). The question is why would he accept this offer? It would signal the team is not sure it wants to extend him beyond 2022 or that they might hope to get him for less one year from now. He would have to consider if he could get an extension from another team if he is traded and what would his value be in free agency one year from now.

Here is an interesting article regarding the Vikings situation with Cousins.

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/agents-take-vikings-face-kirk-cousins-conundrum-as-cap-strapped-franchise-prepares-for-tumultuous-offseason/

One tidbit that I did not know was that the team will not get a 3rd round compensatory pick (in 2024) if he leaves next offseason and signs a significant deal.

The compensatory draft pick the Vikings would potentially get in 2024 for losing Cousins in 2023 free agency wouldn’t approach the draft capital he should be able to command in an offseason trade. The most the Vikings would get is a fifth-round pick because Cousins would have 10 or more accrued seasons (years of service for free agency).

Option two - Extend

What is an appropriate contract for a QB who will turn 35 years old before the first season of his extension? The top 4 average annual value (AAV) deals were signed by QBs who were 27 or younger. Russell Wilson signed an AAV deal of 35M at age 30. Aaron Rodgers signed an AAV deal of 33.5M at age 34. Despite the nerd stats, I do not see how any team could get close to 35M an an extension for Cousins. Maybe the team will offer a two year 60M extension? Would this be rejected though? Lots of questions.

The one concern would be the development of Mond in an extension scenario.

Option three - Trade

Trying to find a team with cap space, draft picks, willingness, need, and a strong enough supporting cast (cough, offensive line, cough) to allow Cousins to feel comfortable is tough. The top 2 teams that have a need are Denver and Pittsburgh provided they do not sign a free agent like Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Jacoby Brissett, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, or Mitchell Trubisky. None of the free agents seem particularly comforting if these teams believe they can make some noise. These other teams could also attempt to trade for another QB like Wentz, Wilson, Mayfield, or Watson. The only one who is on the block for sure is Watson.

First, I expect that the Vikings will need to pay some of Cousins salary in a roster bonus before any other team would give a decent pick for him but I am often wrong.

Denver has pick 9, 40, 60, 75, 91, 112, 143, 150, & 240. I do not see Denver giving up a top 10 pick for one year of Cousins.

I think a trade of #40 plus a conditional 2023 3rd would be fair. Anything more would be great.

Pittsburgh has pick 19, 52, 84, 135, 176, 222, & 238.

I think a trade of #19 might be doable but probably the best we could hope for would be #52 and a 2023 2nd.

The other option is trading Cousins to a team like the Browns, Colts, or Panthers who would then have to trade their own starter somewhere, possibly even back to the Vikings. Darnold is a non starter. Mayfield is interesting to a degree but he has had some struggles.

Wentz would be unpopular but for some reason I am intrigued. Wentz would come with salaries of 28.3M, 26.2M, and 27.2M the next 3 years. He put up decent numbers and would have better weapons here but a worse offensive line (right now).

Indy has pick 47, 82, 119, 157, 178, 216, 236, & 237.

I think a trade of #47 and Wentz for Cousins sounds good (to Vikings fans) but maybe that is too much coming our way?

Bottom line, if they trade Cousins then a mini-rebuild is upon us and we would be in the hunt for a QB.

Danielle Hunter

The next major cap hit belongs to Danielle Hunter which is 26.12M. He is due an 18M roster bonus on the 5th day of the new league year in March. Hunter has only played 6 games the last two years but played very well.

Option one - Convert Roster Bonus

They could convert some or all of the 18M roster bonus and spread it over 4 years. The benefit of that would give the team another season to see him perform before deciding to give him a larger deal in 2023 when he will turn 29. One downside of spreading his 18M bonus out is that it creates more dead cap space. The team already has to absorb 5.36M of dead money in 2023 if he is moved. It has to absorb 2.24M in 2024 because these are the void years.

If they convert 14M of his 18M roster bonus and spread it over 4 years, his cap hit would lower to 15.62M which frees up 10.5M in cap space. In 2023, his dead money would rise to 15.86M and in 2024 it would be 9.24M. You get much needed cap space in 2022 but create another problem in 2023.

Option two - Trade

If he is traded they save 14.6M in cap space. This helps the team cap wise but creates a huge hole at defensive end. We saw how the defense performed this year and Hunter being out played a major part. It was much more than people are admitting (IMHO) because they wanted Zimmer to overcome the loss of an All Pro defensive end who produces double digit sacks and countless pressures.

Option three - Extension

An extension may be doable with a new regime but what would be fair? 5 year 100M? 5 year 110M? 5 year 125M?

Is that going to be worth it or is the risk too much?

There are other players with large cap numbers that the team could convert salary to create cap space. Players like Cook and O’Neill come to mind but those moves could wait until the rookies need to be signed.

Summary

In summary, let’s say they add two void years to Cousins deal which saves them 10M in cap space plus they convert 14M of Hunter’s roster bonus which creates another 10.5M in cap space. They would have created 20.5M in cap space but only have about 10.5M to sign any free agents. They could restructure Cook, O’Neill, and perhaps a couple of others but that is kicking the can.

I do not see how they can create a whole heck of a lot of cap space while keeping Cousins AND Hunter.

If they trade both they would create 49.6M in cap space which would be offset by the 10M they are over leaving 39M in cap space plus extra draft picks. Yes, you would have questions about whose playing QB and whose the primary edge rusher but this is what happens when you go all in and do not produce the desired results.

Plan

In this first scenario, I am going to trade Cousins and extend Hunter. I will do alternate plans where they extend Cousins and perhaps extend Hunter. This is just the first.

According to overthecap, the Vikings are starting off 11M in the red ...

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $221,028,598 : $209,952,419 : ($11,076,179)

2023 : $141,814,074 : $225,000,000 : $83,185,926

2024 : $89,412,731 : $256,000,000 : $166,587,269


Trade Cousins to Denver for #40 and 2023 conditional 3rd

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $186,028,598 : $209,952,419 : $23,923,821

2023 : $141,814,074 : $225,000,000 : $83,185,926

2024 : $89,412,731 : $256,000,000 : $166,587,269

I think that getting a 2nd and likely another 2nd is fair since they have to take on all 35M in this trade scenario.

They’ll have the chance to negotiate an extension (2 year 60M with one void year?) that lowers that number.


Give Hunter a 5 year 110M extension

He gets a 25M signing bonus, 18.5M option bonus in 2024, 2025, & 2026, per game bonus of 1M per season, and 100K workout bonus per season.

Salaries would be 1.9M, 15.4M, 1.9M, 1.9M, and 2.9M.

Cap hits would be 14.12M, 24.62M, 27.62M, 27.62M, & 27.5M.

Significant incentives would be included like if he gets 15 sacks in 2022, his salary increases by 1M in each subsequent season.

I would repeat this for 2023, 2024, & 2025.

If he makes All Pro then he can get a 1M bonus.

If the team makes the playoffs he gets a 500K bonus.

If they make the Super Bowl he gets a 1M bonus.

If you trade Hunter you only save 14.64M in cap space for 2022. In this extension you save 12M in cap space for 2022.

Not much difference and he is only 27 years old and turns 28 on Oct 29th.

Cameron Jordan has averaged 12 sacks per year (over 5 years) since he turned 28.

He looked to be 100% after his neck surgery and should recover from his torn pectoral muscle just fine.

The defense is a mess and having to get two EDGE rushers is a tall order.

Plus, his trade value could be higher next year.

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $174,028,598 : $209,952,419 : $35,923,821

2023 : $157,814,074 : $225,000,000 : $67,185,926

2024 : $114,792,731 : $256,000,000 : $141,207,269


Restructure 7M of Cook’s 2022 salary

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $168,428,598 : $209,952,419 : $41,523,821

2023 : $159,214,074 : $225,000,000 : $65,785,926

2024 : $116,192,731 : $256,000,000 : $139,807,269


These 3 moves give the Vikings about 41.5M in cap space to utilize in free agency. It could be less if they have to eat some of Cousins salary but since they are only getting two 2nd round picks, it does not seem fair (to me). There are a lot of holes to try and fill.

They could create another 6.5M in cap space by cutting or trading Michael Pierce but he played well once he returned. He has only played 8 games since he signed but he opted out of 2020 due to the pandemic. It could be foolish to throw the baby out with the bath water no (whatever that means)?

I wonder if Patrick Peterson would return since Zimmer has been let go. Zimmer was a main reason he signed here in the first place. It could cost a bit more now as well. I expect he will test the market out first. There is no other cornerback on the roster I would want to extend.

I do not believe Stephon Gilmore would be interested in joining the Vikings especially if the QB situation is “unsettled”. I think he wants to play for a true contender.

I believe Carlton Davis is likely getting the franchise tag from Tampa if they cannot agree to an extension.

I believe JC Jackson is not getting out of New England.

I think the team should set their sights lower.


Sign CB DJ Reed to a 3 year 21M deal with a 7.5M signing bonus

Salaries of 1.5M, 5.5M, and 6.5M.

Cap hits would be 4M, 8M, and 9M.

This contract is similar to what Chidobe Awuzie signed last year. Awuzie had more starts but it does not mean they were better.

Got to pay a bit more.

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $172,428,598 : $209,952,419 : $37,523,821

2023 : $167,214,074 : $225,000,000 : $57,785,926

2024 : $125,192,731 : $256,000,000 : $130,807,269


Sign LB Leighton Vander Esch to a 3 year 21M deal with a 7.5M signing bonus

Salaries of 1.5M, 5M, and 7M.

Cap hits would be 4.5M, 9M, and 10.5M.

This contract is similar to Nick Kwiatkoski. There are risks with Vander Esch but the reward could be worth it.

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $176,428,598 : $209,952,419 : $33,523,821

2023 : $174,714,074 : $225,000,000 : $50,285,926

2024 : $134,692,731 : $256,000,000 : $121,307,269


Sign Marcus Mariota to a 3 year 24M deal with a 7.5M signing bonus

Salaries of 2M, 6.5M, and 8M.

Cap hits would be 4M, 8M, and 9M.

This contract is similar to what Nick Foles signed in 2020.

Mariota is a career 63% passer but his early years in Tennessee did not provide him with much weapons. We’re talking Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, Rishard Matthews, and Delanie Walker. They did bring in a washed Andre Johnson and Eric Decker.

I’m aware that it is a massive step down but it does provide a decent backup at the worst.

He may be interested in a chance to start and he’ll get to play with the best weapons he has ever had in the NFL.

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $180,103,598 : $209,952,419 : $29,848,821

2023 : $183,714,074 : $225,000,000 : $41,285,926

2024 : $145,192,731 : $256,000,000 : $110,807,269


Sign TE David Njoku to a 3 year 22.5M deal with a 7.5M signing bonus

Salaries of 2M, 5.5M, and 7.5M.

Cap hits would be 4.5M, 8M, and 10M.

This contract is similar to what Tyler Higbee signed in 2019.

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $183,778,598 : $209,952,419 : $26,173,821

2023 : $191,714,074 : $225,000,000 : $33,285,926

2024 : $155,192,731 : $256,000,000 : $100,807,269

Note: this could be Conklin for a bit less but Njoku is the better blocker.


Sign S Malik Hooker to a 2 yr 4.5M deal with a 1M signing bonus.

Salaries of 1.25M and 2.25M.

Cap hits would be 1.75M and 2.75M.

This contract is similar to what Tyler Higbee signed in 2019.

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $184,779,863 : $209,952,419 : $25,172,556

2023 : $194,464,074 : $225,000,000 : $30,535,926

2024 : $155,192,731 : $256,000,000 : $100,807,269


Sign P Jordan Berry to a 3 year 5.55M deal with a 1.05M signing bonus.

Salaries of 1.25M, 1.35M, and 1.9M.

Cap hits would be 1.6M, 1.7M, and 2.25M.

This contract is similar to what Matt Haack signed in 2021.

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $185,554,863 : $209,952,419 : $24,397,556

2023 : $196,164,074 : $225,000,000 : $28,835,926

2024 : $157,442,731 : $256,000,000 : $98,557,269


Sign OC Mason Cole to a 2 year 4.5M deal with a 15M signing bonus.

Salaries of 1.5M and 2M.

Cap hits would be 2M and 2.5M.

This contract is simular to what Tyler Shatley signed in 2021.

Updated Cap

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space

2022 : $186,729,863 : $209,952,419 : $23,222,556

2023 : $198,664,074 : $225,000,000 : $26,335,926

2024 : $157,442,731 : $256,000,000 : $98,557,269

Greg Joseph is an ERFA and gets close to the minimum thus, it does not affect the cap by much.


After these transactions and before the draft, the roster looks like ...

QB - Marcus Mariota*, Kellen Mond, Nate Stanley

RB - Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu

FB - C.J. Ham

WR - Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Olabisi Johnson, Dan Chisena, Blake Proehl

TE - David Njoku*, Irv Smith Jr., Ben Ellefson, Zach Davidson

OT - Brian O’Neill, Christian Darrisaw, Blake Brandel

OG - Ezra Cleveland, Olisaemeka Udoh, Wyatt Davis

OC - Garrett Bradbury, Mason Cole*

DE - Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones II, Janarius Robinson, Kenny Willekes

DT - Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, Armon Watts, James Lynch, Jaylen Twyman, Jordon Scott

LB - Eric Kendricks, Chazz Surratt, Ryan Connelly

LB - Leighton Vander Esch*, Troy Dye, Blake Lynch

CB - Cameron Dantzler, D.J. Reed*, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand

S - Harrison Smith, Malik Hooker*, Camryn Bynum, Josh Metellus

P - Jordan Berry*

LS - Andrew DePaola

K - Greg Joseph


Onto the mock draft using the fanspeak Ultimate GM simulator ...

http://fanspeak.com/ultimategm/mtc/

Marcus Mariota (QB) accepted your 3 year offer for $8,000,000 per year

David Njoku (TE) accepted your 3 year offer for $7,500,000 per year

Leighton Vander Esch (LB) accepted your 3 year offer for $7,000,000 per year

D.J. Reed (S) accepted your 3 year offer for $7,000,000 per year

Malik Hooker (S) accepted your 2 year offer for $2,250,000 per year

TRADES

Trade Partner: Denver Broncos

Sent: QB Kirk Cousins

Received: Round 2 Pick 8, Future Conditional Round 3 Pick

Trade Partner: Houston Texans

Sent: Round 3 Pick 13

Received: Round 3 Pick 16, Round 6 Pick 31

Trade Partner: Dallas Cowboys

Sent: Round 3 Pick 16

Received: Round 3 Pick 24, Round 4 Pick 40

12: R1 P12 EDGE George Karlaftis - Purdue 6’4” 270

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Vanderbilt at Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

https://www.yahoo.com/now/george-karlaftis-2022-nfl-draft-170736657.html

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10021354-george-karlaftis-nfl-draft-2022-scouting-report-for-purdue-edge

https://gmenhq.com/2022/01/05/deeper-dive-ny-giants-draft-target-george-karlaftis/


40: R2 P8 CB Kaiir Elam - Florida 6’2” 192

Florida v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

https://www.yahoo.com/now/kaiir-elam-2022-nfl-draft-170038443.html

https://nflsapient.com/2022/01/13/cb-kaiir-elam-nfl-draft-profile-florida/

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10021315-kaiir-elam-nfl-draft-2022-scouting-report-for-florida-cb


46: R2 P14 G Kenyon Green - Texas A&M 6’4” 330

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10021378-kenyon-green-nfl-draft-2022-scouting-report-for-texas-am-iol

https://12thman.com/sports/football/roster/kenyon-green/9826

https://www.nfldraftbuzz.com/Player/Kenyon-Green-OL-TexasAANDM


88: R3 P24 LB Leo Chenal - Wisconsin 6’2” 260

Northwestern v Wisconsin Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

https://primetimesportstalk.com/2022/01/10/2022-nfl-draft-scouting-report-leo-chenal/

https://nflsapient.com/2022/01/08/lb-leo-chenal-nfl-draft-profile-wisconsin/

https://www.nfldraftbuzz.com/Player/Leo-Chenal-LB-Wisconsin


142: R4 P40 WR Alec Pierce - Cincinnati 6’2” 213

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Cincinnati at Navy Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

https://www.profootballnetwork.com/alec-pierce-cincinnati-wr-nfl-draft-player-profile-2022/

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10021508-alec-pierce-nfl-draft-2022-scouting-report-for-cincinnati-wr

https://nfldraftlounge.com/2022-nfl-draft-scouting-report-cincinnati-wr-alec-pierce/


155: R5 P13 TE Jeremy Ruckert - Ohio State 6’5” 250

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10021482-jeremy-ruckert-nfl-draft-2022-scouting-report-for-ohio-state-te

https://www.si.com/nfl/draft/nfl-draft/nfl-draft-hot-take-tuesday-jeremy-ruckert-extremely-underrated


184: R6 P5 CB Marcus Jones - Houston 5’8” 185

NCAA Football: Navy at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

https://www.profootballnetwork.com/marcus-jones-houston-cb-nfl-draft-scouting-report-2022/

https://www.draftdive.com/marcus-jones-scouting-report/


192: R6 P13 CB Tariq Woolen - UTSA 6’4” 205

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 29 UTEP at UTSA Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

https://www.profootballnetwork.com/tariq-woolen-utsa-cb-nfl-draft-scouting-report-2022/


207: R6 P28 EDGE Zachary Carter - Florida 6’4” 268

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Florida State at Florida Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

https://www.profootballnetwork.com/zachary-carter-florida-dt-nfl-draft-scouting-report-2022/

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10021332-zachary-carter-nfl-draft-2022-scouting-report-for-florida-dl


210: R6 P31 WR Skyy Moore - Western Michigan 5’9” 195

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 18 Western Michigan at Pitt Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

https://www.nfldraftbuzz.com/Player/Skyy-Moore-WR-WesternMichigan


230: R7 P11 G Lecitus Smith - Virginia Tech 6’3” 320

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10021382-lecitus-smith-nfl-draft-2022-scouting-report-for-virginia-tech-iol

https://nflsapient.com/2021/12/19/senior-bowl-preliminary-reports-g-lecitus-smith-virginia-tech/

https://www.pff.com/news/draft-2022-nfl-draft-board-big-board


You would think that extending Hunter precludes the team from taking another EDGE rusher. But you would be mistaken. You can never have enough and getting pressure improves the cornerback play tremendously.

I was forced to take a CB due to the fact I only signed DJ Reed but if they do not do so they can probably pick up a veteran for cheap after the draft or once cuts begin.

I think thet Kenyon Green is the most versatile lineman in this draft and has played everywhere but center this year alone.

Chenal could be a solid heir apparent to Kendricks and brings great size.

Even though I signed Njoku (could be Conklin as I said above), getting Ruckert provides good depth. I’d like to see Davidson take a massive step up but who knows with any of the rookies drafted last year.

Jones is a great return man and plays solid at corner.

Woolen is a bit of a project and probably wont last until the end of the 6th with his size.

They all likely wont last as long as listed here right?


An alternate mock of course ...

TRADES

Trade Partner: Denver Broncos

Sent: QB Kirk Cousins

Received: Round 2 Pick 8, Future Round 3 Pick

Trade Partner: Jacksonville Jaguars

Sent: Future Round 4 Pick

Received: Round 5 Pick 1, Round 6 Pick 9

12: R1 P12 WR Drake London - USC

40: R2 P8 G Kenyon Green - Texas A&M

46: R2 P14 QB Desmond Ridder - Cincinnati

77: R3 P13 LB Chad Muma - Wyoming

143: R5 P1 CB Mario Goodrich - Clemson

155: R5 P13 WR Alec Pierce - Cincinnati

184: R6 P5 C Dohnovan West - Arizona State

188: R6 P9 CB Tariq Woolen - UTSA

192: R6 P13 CB Marcus Jones - Houston

207: R6 P28 RB D’Vonte Price - Florida International

230: R7 P11 DL Otito Ogbonnia - UCLA

Well, there it is. I will do more just as hideous!