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Vikings 2022 Offseason Plan 2.0

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Stanford at USC Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Time for a new version even though we do not know who the coach will be and what is his philosophy.

One thing we do know is that none of what I fantasized and wrote here is going to happen.

I am still wondering why I keep doing these.

I am stubborn I suppose.

I did a lot of work in my first plan here to lay out the cap situation so I do not want to rehash a lot of it here.

Here is an interesting article written in 2018 that I found when I googled NFL Salary Cap Analytics ...

The cap, combined with the small, 16-game sample, has created the ultimate in uniformity. Among the country’s four major leagues — NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL — the NFL easily had the lowest correlation of year-to-year success.

Parity is the NFL’s best and worst trait (as it pertains to matters on the field, at least). Because your fortunes can so dramatically swing from season to season, every fan base this side of Cleveland begins a given season with renewed optimism and evidence for hope.

At the same time, outside of New England, building dynasties and long-term rivalries has never been more difficult. Even putting together two years of success is hard — of the top four teams in 2017’s DVOA rankings, three ranked 20th or worse in 2016, and of the top three in 2016, two fell to 13th or lower in 2017.

In his legendary 1997 tome Finding the Winning Edge, Bill Walsh wrote, “One aspect of the cap that is a major concern for all parties is the disproportionate amount of funds being committed to a smaller and smaller group of players.” He noted that in 1996, NFL teams spent 51 percent of their total cap allotment on their 10 most expensive players.

As it turns out, a lot of the best teams play a pretty dangerous game: the more you spend on your top 10 salaries, the better your team is going to be ... right up until you’ve spent too much.

The goal is apparently to get as close as possible to 60 percent without going over.

... I think this is very interesting and true. Many fans, here, argue that the Vikings lost some very close games this year and if they fix this or fix that then they should be really good in 2022. I think that is a hopeful mindset for the most part.

The Vikings currently have 11 players (including Barr’s 9.8M dead cap hit) that take up 164.3M of the cap or 78.9%. They are sky high in terms of the balancing that Bill Walsh was talking about and who Kwesi mentioned in his presser.

Even if you exclude Barr they are at 154.4M and 74.1%.

That is way too top heavy.

Another analysis done in June of 2021 describes the Vikings this way ...


Drafting a dozen players a year will always help for this exercise, but the Minnesota Vikings are clearly operating like a team that knows they need success … and fast. A complete revamping of their defense this offseason didn’t require them to break the bank, with interior defender Dalvin Tomlinson becoming the priciest addition at $10.5 million per year. Nevertheless, the focus here is on getting back to the NFC championship game or ideally even further.

... obviously the team fell short of expectations and the top two men responsible paid the price.

Another excellent piece here discusses the optimizing the allocation of the salary cap funds.

Based on past results, there was an indication that a more uniform salary structure would be found to be optimal rather than that which currently exists in the NFL. While, in general, it seems that teams with the best quarterbacks are those that win the most, Winsberg (2015) indicated that it is not optimal in terms of team performance to have a highly paid quarterback. However, once taking talent (win contribution) into consideration, an allocation strategy that is relatively far from uniform and does pay high salary to quarterbacks is found to be optimal.

Overall, there are three questions to answer. First, in general, what positions should a team invest money in to maximize expected wins? Second, what is the best way to measure talent (or win contribution) of players at every position? And, finally, how do different players at different positions compare, in terms of additional marginal talent (win contribution) from additional investment.

As discussed, it is likely that the univariate model provides the most optimal solution due to the fact that it completely maintains the association between salary paid to each position and the win contribution gained from the given position. In addition to paying for a relatively expensive quarterback, the univariate model suggests it is optimal to pay for elite players at guard, defensive tackle, and free safety, rather than at left tackle or edge pass rusher (defensive end or outside linebacker), as is commonly believed. The univariate model also supports the current trend throughout the league of paying lower salaries to running backs.

... this one was painful because it involved a lot of MATHS.

This paper says it is likely that the univariate model provides the most optimal solution for the optimization of salary cap allocations.

Here is the summary by position (multiplying the 2022 salary cap by the percentages from the paper) ...

2022 :
QB : $26,587,493 : 12.8%
RB : $2,527,491 : 1.2%
FB : $833,638 : 0.4%
WR : $17,134,719 : 8.2%
TE : $2,055,780 : 1.0%
LT : $2,160,832 : 1.0%
OG : $32,687,747 : 15.7%
OC : $3,164,590 : 1.5%
RT : $2,321,679 : 1.1%
DE : $16,265,959 : 7.8%
DT : $31,279,436 : 15.0%
ILB : $10,072,853 : 4.8%
OLB : $18,694,362 : 9.0%
CB : $21,990,180 : 10.6%
FS : $13,414,434 : 6.4%
SS : $2,886,589 : 1.4%
K : $1,775,038 : 0.9%
P : $1,743,778 : 0.8%
LS : $603,401 : 0.3%
SUM : $208,200,000

... here is how the Vikings actually look right now ...

QB : $47,012,140 : 21.2%
RB : $14,772,358 : 6.7%
FB : $3,450,000 : 1.6%
WR : $26,391,544 : 11.9%
TE : $3,564,958 : 1.6%
LT : $3,858,214 : 1.7%
OG : $4,331,955 : 2.0%
OC : $4,099,095 : 1.8%
RT : $10,140,223 : 4.6%
DE : $30,005,887 : 13.5%
DT : $24,947,220 : 11.2%
ILB : $15,170,575 : 6.8%
OLB : $12,989,439 : 5.9%
CB : $4,088,479 : 1.8%
FS : $14,232,047 : 6.4%
SS : $1,899,453 : 0.9%
K : $0 : 0.0%
P : $0 : 0.0%
LS : $1,035,000 : 0.5%
SUM : $221,988,587

... it is going to be tough to achieve the IDEAL cap allocation assuming you even believe in this conclusion from this paper.

I like to try and pummel you with information so that by the time you get to the plan you are numb.

Let’s get on with it.

overthecap has these figures for the Vikings and this is what we will use in this made up fantasy stupid silly plan.

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space
2022 : $224,323,598 : $208,917,819 : ($15,405,779)
2023 : $143,694,074 : $225,000,000 : $81,305,926
2024 : $89,412,731 : $256,000,000 : $166,587,269

First, we need to tackle the elephant in the room which is Kirk Cousins’ contract and 45M cap hit.

Warning: Some of you who are more sensitive than others my be offended by the suggested extension for Cousins. If that is possible then you may not want to continue.

Before we look at one possible extension for Cousins, let’s look at what the Vikings actually have paid Cousins in cash over the 4 years he has been here.

They gave him a 3 year 84M deal in 2018 with a 3M signing bonus. It was 100% gtd.

He had salaries of 22.5M, 27.5M, and 29.5M with a 500K workout bonus each year.

His cap hits were 24M, 29M, & 31M.

His take home cash was 26M in 2018 and 28M in 2019 for a 27M actual avg.

They extended him in 2020 with a 2 yr 66M deal which was a 33M per year avg.

What they actually did was take 20M of his 29.5M salary from the previous deal plus they added another 10M for a total bonus of 30M which they spread over 3 year (2020 thru 2022).

His new salaries were 9.5M in 2020 (plus the 500K workout bonus), 21M in 2021, and 35M in 2022.

His new cap hits were 21M, 31M, and 45M.

His take home cash was 40M in 2020 and 21M in 2021 for a new 4 year 28.75M actual avg.

To date the Vikings have only paid Cousins 28.75M per year.

Since his 35M is guaranteed in 2022 his total take home from 2018 thru 2022 will be 150M for a 30M actual avg.

You could argue that they gave him a 2 yr 27M deal and then a 2yr 66M deal showing that they did, indeed, give him a significant raise. You could argue that if they give him a new extension of 2 yr 70M deal it will be yet another raise. That has not happened yet and if he plays it out it will ultimately end up being 30M per year.

I do not care what other QBs have as their average annual value (AAV) or any other number. As I said previously, most are under 27 that are making 35M plus.

The Vikings have been much much smarter than we can ever dream to be when it comes to valuing Cousins.

So, Cousins and his agent were working on these actual average take home cash from the jump ....

Year - Cash - Running total - Average
2018 - 26M
2019 - 28M - 54M - 27M
2020 - 40M - 94M - 31.33M
2021 - 21M - 115M - 28.75M
2022 - 35M - 150M - 30M

Any extension likely has to give him at least the 35M take home but maybe it could be altered provided the following year or two make it up and are guaranteed.

Based on all of that and considering that the extension will actually begin when he turns 35, I still steadfastly believe that the value really should be closer to 28M regardless of percentage of cap and what other QBs are getting.

To me, his age is a critical factor. That is my logic and if you disagree then so be it. I would hope you would respect it at the very least.

Remember boys and girls. I am not doing this to PREDICT what the Vikings would do. I am writing what I would try to do.

Onto the plan.

Give Cousins a 2 year 62M extension (plus two void years) with a 40M signing bonus

Salaries of 4M, 24M, & 31M

Cap hits of 22M, 30M, 39M, and 8M in each void year

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space
2022 : $201,323,598 : $208,917,819 : $7,594,221
2023 : $173,694,074 : $225,000,000 : $51,305,926
2024 : $128,412,731 : $256,000,000 : $127,587,269

This is moving 16M dead cap to 2025 and it assume he and his agent would accept a deal without 2024 guaranteed in any way or early like the 2022 season which was guaranteed in March of 2021.

I think 31M is as far as I would go and is in line with what the team actually has been doing. He will have taken home 160M at the end of the 2022 season which is 32M per year since 2018. It goes down to 30.17M in 2023 and 30.29M in 2024.

Of course, if you are so inclined, you could insist that he gets paid another 8 to 12M and add 3 or 4M to each year’s cap (or less to 2022 and more in 2024).

Trade Hunter and a 2023 6th to the Jets for pick 35, 108 and a 2023 4th.

Frank Clark was traded for pick 29 in the 2019 draft and a 2nd round pick in 2020.

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space
2022 : $186,683,598 : $208,917,819 : $22,234,221
2023 : $165,074,074 : $225,000,000 : $59,925,926
2024 : $126,172,731 : $256,000,000 : $129,827,269

The case for trading Hunter has been made by many here so need to rehash but I will add that the top 4 highest paid Edge rushers did not see their team make the playoffs. The driving factor is Hunter has an 18M roster bonus due the 5th day of the new league year (March) and has only played 7 games the last two years.

Trade Cook to Dolphins for pick 93 and a 2023 5th

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space
2022 : $177,783,598 : $208,917,819 : $31,134,221
2023 : $157,175,347 : $225,000,000 : $67,824,653
2024 : $110,571,458 : $256,000,000 : $145,428,542

*note - post June 1 designation - cap savings of 8.9M wont be usable until June 1st and can be used to sign rookies

This will not be popular but if you check the rushing leaders the last 5 years or more, there are not too many 27 year olds near the top besides Henry, Gordon, Hyde, and McCoy. Plus, Cook has cap hits of 14.1M in 2023, 15.6M in 2024, and 14.5M in 2025. At the end of 2022 he will be done with all the guaranteed money as well. It is conceivable they do not do this and let it play out another year but next year the return in any trade (even if possible) will be worse. The team could just release him for nothing in return.

Trade Thielen and pick 192 to Raiders for 80 and Clelin Ferrell (with a $4,771,476 salary)

Season : Total Liabilities : Team Salary Cap : Cap Space
2022 : $175,885,074 : $208,917,819 : $33,032,745
2023 : $139,225,347 : $225,000,000 : $85,774,653
2024 : $92,071,458 : $256,000,000 : $163,928,542

The case for trading Thielen is made here.

The 31-year-old has been in the league for 8 seasons. The last time he played every game was in 2018. The past three years have involved him missing time for different injuries. During this timeframe, he has failed to clear 1000 yards receiving in a single season.

Getting back Ferrell who is a “bust” by most accounts may be considered foolish but he was solid against the run his first two seasons before falling totally out of favor last year. They have a new regime but getting veteran WR to pair with Carr and Renfrow could really help their offense. We help them out because they save that 4771M in cap space by being able to trade Ferrell. Is a 3rd too high for Thielen though?

Julio Jones and a 6th was traded by the Falcons for a 2nd and a 4th from the Titans

Mohammed Sanu was traded for a 2nd which was foolish

I think a trade of Smith might be on the table but his salaries in 2023 thru 2025 drive down his value. Plus, you may not be able to replace him with the 5.8M in cap savings. That can bring back Woods and they could role with Woods and Bynum but I like keeping Smith and then looking at the 11.4M in cap savings next year if he is moved.

Heading to free agency we have $24,132,745 in cap space to spend because Cook’s savings do not realize until after June 1st. What can they do with 24.1M and knowing that they have about 85.7M in 2023? Gotta replace Hunter, Cook, & Thielen somehow.

Free Agents

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

2022 : $178,990,074 : $208,917,819 : $29,927,745
2023 : $147,725,347 : $225,000,000 : $77,274,653
2024 : $102,071,458 : $256,000,000 : $153,928,542

Charvarius Ward (CB) accepted your 4 year offer for $11,000,000 per year

2022 : $182,165,074 : $208,917,819 : $26,752,745
2023 : $160,225,347 : $225,000,000 : $64,774,653
2024 : $115,821,458 : $256,000,000 : $140,178,542

Desmond King (CB) accepted your 4 year offer for $6,500,000 per year

2022 : $185,340,074 : $208,917,819 : $23,577,745
2023 : $166,725,347 : $225,000,000 : $58,274,653
2024 : $124,821,458 : $256,000,000 : $131,178,542

Jordan Berry (P) accepted your 2 year offer for $1,500,000 per year

2022 : $186,091,339 : $208,917,819 : $22,826,480
2023 : $168,225,347 : $225,000,000 : $56,774,653
2024 : $124,821,458 : $256,000,000 : $131,178,54

Malik Hooker (S) accepted your 2 year offer for $3,000,000 per year

2022 : $187,766,339 : $208,917,819 : $21,151,480
2023 : $171,725,347 : $225,000,000 : $53,274,653
2024 : $124,821,458 : $256,000,000 : $131,178,542

Greg Joseph gets the ERFA amount which is the veteran minimum based on accrued seasons. Not sure how many accrued seasons he has but when he gets added, another player in the 51st position (making the minimum as well) will be removed from the cap total. Thus, there is very little difference (maybe 70 to 140K).

Onto the draft ...

Picks - 12, 35*, 46, 77, 80*, 93*, 108*, 155, 184, 210, 230

Trade Partner: New York Jets

Sent: EDGE Danielle Hunter & Future Round 6 Pick

Received: Round 2 Pick 3, Round 4 Pick 6, Future Round 4 Pick

Trade Partner: Las Vegas Raiders

Sent: WR Adam Thielen & Round 6 Pick 13

Received: Round 3 Pick 22 & EDGE Clelin Ferrell

Trade Partner: Miami Dolphins

Sent: RB Dalvin Cook

Received: Round 3 Pick 34, Future Round 5 Pick

12: R1 P12 WR Drake London - USC

Height: 6’5″
Weight: 210
Utah v USC Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

35: R2 P3 DL Devonte Wyatt - Georgia

Height: 6’2 3/4″
Weight: 307
Wingspan: 78″
Arm: 33″
Hand: 9 7/8″
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 10 CFP National Championship Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

46: R2 P14 LB Christian Harris - Alabama

Height: 6’2″
Weight: 232
LSU v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

77: R3 P13 EDGE Arnold Ebiketie - Penn State

Height: 6’2 3/8″
Weight: 250
Wingspan: 82 1/8″
Arm: 34″
Hand: 10 1/2″
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Illinois at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

86: R3 P22 RB Breece Hall - Iowa State

Height: 6’1″
Weight: 220
Iowa State v UNLV Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

98: R3 P34 CB/S Jalen Pitre - Baylor

Height: 5106
Weight: 196
Wingspan: 73 2/8
Arm: 30 7/8
Hand: 9 1/8
NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Baylor vs Oklahoma State Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

108: R4 P6 LB Channing Tindall - Georgia

Height: 6015
Weight: 223
Wingspan: 77 2/8
Arm: 32 3/8
Hand: 10 2/8
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Notre Dame at Georgia Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

155: R5 P13 G Cole Strange - Chattanooga

Height: 6’4 3/8″
Weight: 304
Wingspan: 80 1/8″
Arm: 33 1/8″
Hand: 10 1/8
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 30 Furman at Chattanooga Photo by Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

184: R6 P5 CB Mario Goodrich - Clemson

Height: 6001
Weight: 186
Wingspan: 74 1/8
Arm: 30 4/8
Hand: 9
FSU v Clemson Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

208: R6 P29 C Nick Ford - Utah

Height: 6’5″
Weight: 317
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Utah at Oregon State Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

230: R7 P11 S Yusuf Corker - Kentucky

Height: 5114
Weight: 204
Wingspan: 75
Arm: 30 7/8
Hand: 9 1/8
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl - Kentucky v Penn State Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An alternate draft with same trades ...

12: R1 P12 CB Derek Stingley - LSU

35: R2 P3 WR Treylon Burks - Arkansas

46: R2 P14 DL Devonte Wyatt - Georgia

77: R3 P13 LB Chad Muma - Wyoming

86: R3 P22 EDGE Arnold Ebiketie - Penn State

98: R3 P34 RB Dameon Pierce - Florida

108: R4 P6 LB Brandon Smith - Penn State

155: R5 P13 G Cole Strange - Chattanooga

184: R6 P5 S Kendrick Duncan - Louisville

208: R6 P29 C Nick Ford - Utah

230: R7 P11 WR Dai’Jean Dixon - Nicholls State

Well, there it is. A true fool proof plan.

Keeping the QB and losing some weapons will never be popular because then the excuses are ready made no?

I think the new management needs to start getting rid of the higher salaried players ASAP. In this plan, the 2023 cap is at 53M for about 40 players. But, Smith, Kendricks, and Pierce could be let go and the team would save about 30M just for those three.

Better buckle up. It’s going to be a fun ride.