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Vikings 2023 Offseason Plan v2.0

There will be blood

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game - Ohio State v Utah Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was a disappointing end to a really good season. The defense proved that it was not a fluke that they finished 31st in yards allowed per game and 31st in passing yards allowed per game. They gave up 431 yards to the Giants in the playoff game which was second worst for the wildcard playoff games. True to form. The offseason goal has to be to improve the defense and that likely involves turnover considering the salary cap situation.

Overthecap currently has the Vikings at -$24,431,507 over the projected 220M team salary cap. It changed from Monday when it was at -$19,381,507. Spotrac has the team at $-13,164,694 over their projected 225M team salary cap. It does get difficult to try and come up with an accurate number.

Why the differences from when we thought it was around 9M over?

First, I noticed that several players have updated salaries. Ezra Cleveland is at $2,995,000 up from $1,365,076, Cameron Dantzler at up $2,745,000 from $1,154,000, DJ Wonnum is at $2,745,000 up from $1,010,000, and KJ Osborn is at $2,745,000 up from $1,010,000. That is an extra $6,690,924.

I asked Jason from overthecap why the change and he responded ...

I did some research and came across the CBA explanation here ...
The Proven Performance Escalator is intended to reward non-first-round draft picks for contributions that exceed the expectations of their draft status. The PPE is not considered “Rookie Salary” and is not subject to the 25 percent rule (more on that below).
Beginning with the 2018 draft class, players drafted in the second through seventh rounds are eligible to receive the Level One, Level Two or Level Three PPE.
In order to qualify for Level One, second-round picks must either (a) play 60 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays in any two of his first three seasons or (b) participate in a cumulative average of 60 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays over the course of his first three regular seasons. For third- through seventh-round picks, players can hit either (a) or (b) above, but the threshold to reach drops to 35 percent of such plays.

There is more in the article if you are a true nerd like myself.

Also, there were some practice squad players added to get to 51. Tay Gowan at $940,000, William Kwenkeu at $870,000, Trishton Jackson at $870,000, Nick Muse at $870,000, and Kalon Barnes at $870,000 for a total of $4,420,000.

All together the extra is $11,110,924.

I will go with the overthecap number since I like to use their calculator.

In this plan, we go the full Ryan Poles route and get the rebuild of the defense on for real. One complication is the lack of a second round pick. I would not look for too much help via the draft for next year but hopefully some of the picks pan out.

Starting Cap Space: -$24,431,507


Player: Cap Space Saved : Dead Money Incurred : Age (birthdate)

Eric Kendricks: $9,500,00 : $1,930,000 : 30 (2/29/1992)

Dalvin Cook: $7,898,727 : $6,202,545 : 27 (8/10/1995)

Harrison Smith: $7,379,999 : $11,747,648 : 33 (2/2/1989)

Adam Thielen: $6,417,647 : $13,550,000 : 32 (8/22/1990)

Jordan Hicks: $5,000,000 : $1,500,000 : 30 (6/27/1992)

CJ Ham: $3,050,000 : $750,000 : 29 (7/22/1993)

Chris Reed: $2,500,000 : $250,000 : 30 (7/22/1992)


Total Cap Space Saved : $41,746,373

Total Dead Money Incurred : $35,930,193

Updated Cap Space: $17,314,866

Maybe they can find a trade partner for Cook and Thielen but the cash they are owed would require them agreeing to a new deal from the trade partner. These seven releases will be tough to replace. Can Asamoah and Dye or Kwenkeu hold down the starting linebacker spots? Can Metellus and Bynum be the starters or will Cine return healthy enough? Can Osborn, Raegor, and Nailor replace Thielen? Will Nwangu and Chandler be able to handle the workload of Cook? Will they be able to keep Mattison?

With extensions for Hunter and Jefferson still at the forefront in this plan, other moves need to be made. But the cleansing of the cap and taking on the majority of the dead money in 2023 is the idea here. Although there could be a good amount of dead money in 2024 too.


Brian O’Neill agrees to add one void year and restructure 12.5M of his 2023 salary.

Updated Cap Space: $27,285,454


Danielle Hunter gets a 4 year 88M deal with a 15M signing bonus (includes one void year)

includes a 3M roster bonus in 2023 & a 10M roster bonus : costs 6M


Dalvin Tomlinson gets a 4 year 60M deal with a 12.5M signing bonus (includes one void year): costs zero


TJ Hockenson gets a 4 year 58M deal with a 15M signing bonus and a 5M option bonus in 2024 (includes one void year): saves 5M


Justin Jefferson gets a 5 year 165M deal with a 40M signing bonus : costs 8M


Updated Cap Space: $18,285,454

So, the team has 18M to use on rookies, free agents, practice squad players, and the last two spots on the 53 man roster.

What should they do with Za’Darius Smith? He started off the season on fire but slowed considerably in the second half. This article details why he was limited ...
Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith got off to an incredible start this season, ranking among the league’s sack leaders with 8.5 through the team’s first seven games. For much of the season, he was at the very top of the leaderboard when it came to pressures.
Smith wasn’t the same dominant force in the second half of the season. His pressure numbers dropped off, from 6.1 per game in the first nine weeks to 3.3 per game over his final seven outings (he didn’t play in the season finale against the Bears). More notably, his sack production fell off completely, with just 0.5 over those final seven games.
There’s a reason for that, Smith said on Wednesday. He suffered a knee contusion in the Vikings’ dramatic Week 10 win over the Bills — a game in which he had 9 pressures and a sack — and the soreness limited him during the second half of the season. The good news is that Smith said he’s now fully recovered from the injury.
“All is well now,” he said. “I’m fully healthy and ready to go for the playoffs. Happy to be back, 100 percent healthy and ready to go.”

... it might be concerning that he had a knee issue that slowed him down after the Bills game. He had a back injury in 2021 so one could think that things are starting to happen. The issue is if the Vikings try to trade him (they should do this rather than releasing him) then they have to replace him. The free agents that might be available may cost more or may not sign here or may not be as good. This plan is releasing a lot of players and the goal is to replace them somehow while still trying to remain competitive.

Can Patrick Jones and DJ Wonnum handle the increased workload? They would still need depth. I think that Smith needs to be kept.

Restructure 8M of Za’Darius Smith’s 2023 salary : saves 4M

Updated Cap Space: $22,108,983

The in house free agents are Garrett Bradbury, Chandon Sullivan, Irv Smith Jr, Jonathan Bullard, Oli Udoh, Nick Mullens, Alexander Mattison, Duke Shelley, Austin Scholttmann, Olabisi Johnson, Kris Boyd, Greg Joseph, and Andre DePaola, Kyiris Tonga and Blake Brandel are ERFAs. Ben Ellefson and Kenny Willekes are RFAs. I really do not see them offering too much to any of these players plus I believe many of them will test the market.

If they do not extend Bradbury then they have to keep Schlottmann and draft a player. I think the majority of fans are ready to move on from Bradbury and do not want to offer 10M or more which might be his market. I think the Vikings can let the rest test free agency and maybe circle back or pick up another player on the cheap that could be just as good. The ERFAs will be kept and their deal would be offset by someone on the bottom of the top 51 falling off thus there is no need to calculate as there will be very little difference. Only one extension.

Duke Shelley gets a 2 yr 6M deal with a 2M signing bonus : costs 1.15M

Updated Cap Space: $20,958,983

What free agents are out there that the Vikings should sign. Cornerback would be a top consideration but Dantzler will return along with Booth and Evans. Plus, Shelley is back. Should they spend moderate money (7M per year) on a corner like Cameron Sutton or Jamel Dean? I think you hold off until the first couple of waves of free agency are done and then try to get a veteran on a one year cheap deal.

That leaves linebacker and possibly safety.

Free Agents

Sign Germaine Pratt to a 4 yr 52M deal with a 15M signing bonus (with one void year) : costs 3.55M

Updated Cap Space: $17,408,983

This leaves plenty of cap space to sign some other players later in free agency that could be real bargains. Hard to say who those players would be. Also, not keeping Bradbury could prove that the old adage “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” really is true.

It makes the draft much more tricky too because in this plan, the defense is not that much improved but there is only one way to go after this season. The offense is weakened without Cook and Thielen that’s for sure but now Osborn gets the #2 role and Nailor and whomever else gets to compete for the #3 role.

Yore Draft

Trade Partner: New York Giants
Sent: Round 1 Pick 23
Received: Round 1 Pick 25, Round 4 Pick 26
Trade Partner: Las Vegas Raiders
Sent: Round 3 Pick 24, Future Round 3 Pick
Received: Round 3 Pick 7, Round 5 Pick 7
Trade Partner: Kansas City Chiefs
Sent: Round 4 Pick 18
Received: Round 4 Pick 31, Round 5 Pick 31
Trade Partner: Green Bay Packers
Sent: Round 6 Pick 39
Received: Round 7 Pick 15, Round 7 Pick 25

25: R1 P25 WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba - Ohio State 6-0 198

Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One Venture X - Ohio State v Utah Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

70: R3 P7 C John Michael Schmitz - Minnesota 6-4 320

Minnesota v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

128: R4 P26 QB Clayton Tune - Houston 6-3 220

Tulsa v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

133: R4 P31 RB Chase Brown - Illinois 5-11 205

Purdue v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

142: R5 P7 CB Julius Brents - Kansas State 6-4 202

Oklahoma State v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

159: R5 P24 DL Zacch Pickens - South Carolina 6-4 305

NCAA Football: South Carolina at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

166: R5 P31 DL Karl Brooks - Bowling Green 6-4 300

Bowling Green v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

212: R6 P37 S Daniel Scott - California 6-2 215

California v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

230: R7 P15 EDGE Viliami Fehoko - San Jose St 6-4 263

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Nevada at San Jose State Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

240: R7 P25 LB Mohamoud Diabate - Utah 6-4 222

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Utah at UCLA Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This plan is not a total wipeout as that would involve trading Hunter and Z. Smith. If they did that then they better get a first round pick for Hunter or high second (Seattle?). They would free up a lot more cap space if they did that but then the defense could be even worse.

It is hard to think about moving on from the veterans mentioned above but if they do not do it this year then they will next year.

Considering the defenses lack of success, the moves should be made now.

I like the first couple of picks in this mock. A lot. It is very very reasonable to argue Schmitz will go much earlier. In that case, they could stay put and get another center by the 4th round. It is a fairly deep class this year.

Smith-Njigba would be very nice and a great cheap young weapon to pair with Jefferson and Osborn.

I may have went for Clayton Tune a bit early. Tune completed 938 of 1,471 passes for 11,767 yards, 101 touchdowns, and just 41 interceptions in his collegiate career. He also ran for over 1,000 total yards and added 15 scores on the ground. I wonder if Tune is a QB that KOC would like?

Chase Brown is a stud. Plain and simple. He reminds me of Austin Ekeler but just a little bigger coming out of college.

The remaining picks all went for defensive depth with the hope that one or two can blossom.

It’s nice to not touch Cousins’ contract. No need really. It could happen if they want to hang onto aging veterans.

Well, there you have it. Lots of way to skin the cat this year!


What should Kwesi do?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Go full Ryan Poles?
    (311 votes)
  • 7%
    Restructure some contracts kicking the can further?
    (77 votes)
  • 20%
    Ask players to take pay cuts?
    (214 votes)
  • 13%
    Trade Cousins for Tua and a 2nd round pick?
    (140 votes)
  • 28%
    This poll stinks
    (293 votes)
1035 votes total Vote Now