I was greatly inspired by MarkSP’s second plan that he recently published here, so decided I would take a swing at building one myself. I've always been impressed with Mark’s salary cap and contract knowledge, so I shamelessly stole his plan as a starting point and updated the areas I would do differently. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I hope Mark takes this as such and want to thank him for his article!
Starting Cap Space : $24M
Guys I would release
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)
- 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 : $34.3M
Total Dead Money Incurred : $24.2M
Updated Cap Space: $9.9M
Rationale: Chris Reed is a 30 year old backup who costs almost nothing to cut, CJ was not used enough to justify retaining and is getting old, Hicks and Kendricks played badly this year and we need younger faster Linebackers. Dalvin Cook is still good, but he showed cracks this past year, and I want to use his money elsewhere and get fresh young legs in the backfield. Finally, Adam Thielen has sadly lost a step too many for my liking. I would try to see if somebody wants to trade for Thielen or Cook, but I think the market would be soft for both, perhaps we could trade Cook for a late round pick. I doubt we would get more than that unless we take on salary, which I don’t want to do. A difference from Mark's plan, I kept Harrison Smith with the team. I did this as a hedge in case Cine doesn’t return to form, I wasn’t impressed with Bynum this year, and also because I think Smith has a little left in the tank.
Guys I would restructure/extend
- Brian O’Neill agrees to add one void year and restructure 12.5M of his 2023 salary
- Restructure 8M of Za’Darius Smith’s 2023 salary : saves 4M
- 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
- Kirk Cousins reworks his final year and adds 2 additional yrs. So a 3 year $100M deal with 30M signing bonus (retains his 2 void years) : Saves $15M
Rationale: I liked Mark's "capitology" moves regarding O'Neill and Smith so copied that. I wanted to keep and reward three guys I thought were studs for the Vikes in Tomlinson, Hockenson, and Jefferson. I also reworked Cousins deal because he played his best football this year and doing so helps us increase the available cap space to complete our "defensive rebuild". Cousins will be 37 at the end of this contract, but I do not think that is too old for a QB to perform at a high level in the modern NFL. I would draft a QBOTF before the end of this new three year deal though.
Updated Cap Space: $33M
TRADE! Danielle Hunter to the Arizona Cardinals for picks #35, #105. Saves $13M this year (and $12M in future void year money)
Rationale: Hunter still has value, which is good for making a trade, but he is 28 years old, wants big money, and along with having some injury history risk, is not in my opinion, good enough to truly carry a defense. Let’s use him to get younger, fuel our rebuild with cap savings and add draft capital with a 2nd and 4th round pick. I wish this great Viking well.
Updated Cap Space: $46M
Free Agents I would re-sign
- Duke Shelley gets a 3 yr 10M deal with a 2M signing bonus : costs 2M
- Oli Udoh 2 yr 5M deal with 1M signing bonus : costs 2M
- Nick Mullens 1 yr 2M deal : Costs 2M
- Greg Joseph 2 yr 5M deal with 1M signing bonus : costs 2M
Rationale: Shelley is a no brainer. He may cost more than this deal, but I do have extra money at the end of this exercise as a buffer if I have short changed a player’s value. Udoh is strictly depth and the fact that I still believe he has the tools to be successful and has needed better coaching and more experience. He played well in our playoff game all things considered. Mullens is a solid backup in case Cousins goes down, well worth the money, I think he's one of the top back-up QBs in the league. Greg Joseph is a tough call, he had a decent year, but not great. I’d be fine going either way on him, but because I am looking to fill more guys on the roster, decided to keep him in house.
Updated Cap Space: $38M
New faces to improve our team!
- Sign LB Germaine Pratt to a 4 yr 52M deal with a 15M signing bonus (with one void year) : costs 4M
- Sign LB TJ Edwards to a 4 yr 60M deal with a 15M signing bonus (with one void year) : costs 6M
- Sign DL Zack Allen to a 3 yr $20M deal with a 10M signing bonus : costs 4M
- Sign CB Cameron Sutton to a 3 yr $25M deal with a 10M signing bonus : 6M
- Sign RG Nate Davis to a 3 yr $25M deal with a 10M signing bonus : 6M
Rationale: We cut a lot of vets to give us this opportunity as we needed to get younger and better! Each of the guys above is considered a top 50 free agent. Pratt (80.6 pff score) and Edwards (84.8) IMMEDIATELY revamp the LBs with guys who can cover, bring speed, and played well this past year, and are each only 26 years old. I was sick to death of watching poor play in the middle of our defense. I watch all the Cardinals games and Zach Allen (72.4) is actually a beast and is blossoming just now at age 25. The guy can flat out play, and I believe he is under-valued compared to what he brings. He helps fill Hunters shoes and I think he will be more productive over the next 3 years than Danielle at a fraction of the price. That’s a bold statement, but the guy is GOOD! I toyed with bringing Pat Pete back, but I think hes going to cost a lot, and football is a young man’s sport, so Cameron Sutton (72.2) comes to town but brings enough experience to be a veteran presence for our young secondary. Sutton (27 versus 32) will be cheaper, younger and maybe even outperform Pat next year. We got a couple good years out of Peterson but let’s get out before things go bad. Finally, I added Nate Davis (70.6) because he is a good player, and I want better O line play. I decided not to re-sign Bradbury because there aren’t any good centers out there and while he played OK this year, I still struggle to truly trust him. Davis is certain to shore up the RG spot while we let Ingram and Cleveland compete for the LG spot and give us depth. I recognize that Ingram still has potential, which is good, but let’s send the message that we aren’t waiting around for guys to get better, we are playing the best players we can get.
Updated Cap Space $12M
This leaves us with money for our draft picks and hopefully fill out the rest of our roster for a few cheap veterans for better depth.
Lets review where we have landed prior to our draft:
We secured some of our best players like JJ, Hockenson, and Dalvin Tomlinson with extensions. We then dumped pretty much all the aging underperforming veterans, which really got us some cap room, and will lead to us being MUCH younger. This team, and especially the defense needs to get faster! We then extended Cousins, he absolutely earned it and is playing the best he ever has. His extension gives us enough cap room to be big players this year in free agency. Tough call on trading Hunter, but he is aging, carries risk, and is going to get paid, something I don’t really think is in our best interest. That he will bring us some good draft capital is another primary motivator for this move.
Each of the new signings was a top 50 free agent, while avoiding any hugely price guys. I think Allen will surprise people and quickly become a fan favorite. The Linebacking play will be much much improved. Sutton is at least an average player for the secondary, and we get a sizable upgrade at RG. This leaves us one large remaining hole, the Center position, and the freedom to draft impact best player available rookies.
OK, onto the draft!
Pick 23 WR Jordan Addison
Rationale: If a strong DE was here, I’d have gone that route, but I don’t anticipate that happening, and I do think adding a quality WR will make things really difficult for opposing defenses. Some mock drafts have Addison going very high, but others had him around here. If he is gone, I am also very interested in Quentin Johnson and Kayshon Boutte. I doubt all three are off the board, but 1 or 2 of these three will likely be here for the taking. Lets assume Johnson is gone, and we picked Addison because I love his game, and his slight build could cause him to drop a tad in the draft.
Trade pick 35 and 88 to NYJ for pick 43, 74, 231
Pick 43 DE Andre Carter
OK, I do have a man crush on Andre Carter. I think he is going to develop into a star. Humans his size shouldn’t be able to move like he can. He is cat quick at 6’7" with a long wingspan to boot. I wanted to be sure to have some focus on improving our lines, as I think we should have in every draft. I moved down slightly in order to help fuel my next pick, which is also hitting the line, but this time on offense.
Trade pick 74 & 105 for pick 60
Pick 60 C John Michael Schmitz
I couldn’t wait for pick 74 to grab Schmitz, as we clearly need a center, so I traded up to get him. Would he be an upgrade in year one over Bradbury? Maybe, maybe not, but Garret’s ceiling is that of an average player, so give me a guy I think can be more than that, at a more attractive price. No more bull rushes!
Pick 119 RB Zach Charbonnet
Day one starter, not a doubt in my mind. This is a guy I think will become an NFL star. He looks like an nfl player, moves like one, and performs like one. Best thing about him is that he does not have high end speed, or he might be a first-round pick, because he does EVERYTHING well on a football field.
Pick 159 LB Demarvion Overshown
Good height and speed for a LB and I want more depth there beyond what we currently have, even after adding two free agents and expecting Asamoah to contribute.
Pick 177 S Jaravius Martin
Great tackler who has played CB. I wasn’t happy with Bynums play this year, and even if Cine takes his job, I think Martin might battle Bynum and Metellus.
Pick 231 K Harrison Mevis
OK, I put this in here in homage to Mark’s love of men with good legs . And also, to have legit competition for Greg the leg.
Final thoughts, on the draft: I think Addison, Schmit and Charbonnet are day one starters. That would be great value in a draft. I also think Carter could develop into the best of the lot but projects to begin as a rotational piece. The other players here are for depth purposes. In hindsight, maybe another CB would have been useful to draft…
Looking forward to hearing where I screwed up the cap, foolishly cut a star, or drafted a bum.