Now that the Za’Darius Smith trade is official, the Vikings have gone from last in the league in salary cap space available this season, to 14th with $12,652,813 available per Spotrac. And should the Vikings part ways with Dalvin Cook, as is widely expected, that could bring that number up to over $23 million if Cook is traded, or over $21 million if he’s released with a post June 1st designation. Either way, that would give the Vikings the 6th most salary cap space in the league.
There is certainly no shortage of options for the Vikings to allocate that cap space, but what they actually do with it could prove insightful into the team’s competitive rebuild strategy.
Let’s look at some options.
Taking Care of Business
The Vikings have a few things to take care of with existing players that may require some cap space. The first is officially signing first-round pick Jordan Addison. This will require about $2.5 million in cap space. That’s the only remaining draft pick signing that will affect the salary cap.
Secondly, the Vikings will likely do some sort of contract extension with Danielle Hunter, who is scheduled to make just $5.5 million in new money this season and has never had a cap hit over $13.5 million in any season. Given how little base salary Hunter has this season, any sort of an extension/bump in pay will likely eat up some of the Vikings’ salary cap space this year. Maybe $5-$10 million as an estimate, depending on how they want to structure the deal.
The Vikings also have some extensions to consider with TJ Hockenson and Kirk Cousins (who are in the last year of their contracts) and Justin Jefferson who has two years left on his. Jefferson’s extension may prove to be the biggest in total dollars, but although the two sides have been talking, there is no urgency for a deal to get done this season. It wouldn’t be surprising if a deal was finalized next off-season, but who knows.
Any extension for Hockenson or Cousins need not adversely affect this year’s salary cap space. The Vikings could convert most of their current year base salaries into signing bonuses that are spread out for salary cap purposes over the term of the contract.
Beyond the above-mentioned players, there is nothing else that needs to be done this season with the rest of the Vikings’ roster. So after taking care of this business, the Vikings could still have $10 - $15 million in cap space available.
Should the above scenario play out, the Vikings would have plenty of salary cap to acquire at least one higher-end free agent, or perhaps trade for a player. The leading positions for a player acquisition include offensive and defensive line.
Along the offensive line, an interior lineman is a possibility, and Dalton Risner, a free agent guard formerly with Denver, remains available. Darren Wolfson, on the Skol North show, said there was currently no interest from the Vikings in acquiring Risner, who worked with Vikings offensive line coach Chris Kuper and is good friends with him. Anything could still happen, but at the moment acquiring a veteran starting-caliber offensive lineman doesn’t appear to be a priority.
Another player mentioned by Wolfson was Leonard Floyd, one of the more productive free agent edge rushers, released by the Rams this off-season, but no reported interest from the Vikings at this point.
There are also some available free agents on the defensive side that are familiar with Brian Flores’ scheme that could be added if need be. Guys like edge rushers Kyle Van Noy or Trey Flowers, or CB Byron Jones. The question is whether the Vikings want to allocate a roster spot for what would likely be a one-year rental.
On the reckless speculation side, if the Vikings decided to take a more aggressive, all-in approach to the season, they could attempt to make a deal for Aaron Donald. Such a move would likely involve at least a first-round pick or equivalent, as the Rams would have to eat $41 million in deadcap between this year and next in a post June 1st trade. Donald also has a no trade clause he’d have to waive. There have been rumors the Rams may be willing to move on from their future Hall of Famer, and the addition of Donald to the Vikings defensive front would certainly move the needle. The Rams were 5-12 last season and have already jettisoned Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd and Bobby Wagner, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Rams to keep Donald for another losing season when they could free up cap space and gain much needed draft capital for their rebuild. Donald would be a $13.5 million cap hit for the Vikings this season, and $10 million next season, which is the last year of his contract. Far-fetched perhaps, but there is logic behind it that makes sense for both sides. Donald knows Kevin O’Connell from when he coached for the Rams, and Brian Flores’ aggressive scheme would likely be attractive for Donald as well.
Another option would be to trade for a quarterback- Trey Lance comes to mind- if the Vikings want to move on from Kirk Cousins- which doesn’t seem to be the case just yet.
But looking through the list of available free agents, there isn’t anyone who really stands out as an upgrade, other than those mentioned above, that doesn’t also bring question marks or perhaps may be more expensive than they’re worth. We also don’t know how the Vikings’ coaching staff views their roster at cornerback, interior OL, edge rusher, and interior DL. The Vikings need not acquire a player simply to use up their available cap space- they need to have a role that fits with team needs and is commensurate with their salary cap hit.
They Could Also Save It
The Vikings could also simply sit on their available salary cap space and let it roll forward to next year. Or they could structure any extensions they make this year in such a way where more cap space is used this year, and less in future years.
The Vikings front office typically is looking out two-three years in planning their salary cap, and in that time they’ll likely to extending Justin Jefferson, TJ Hockenson, and Chrisitan Darrisaw in some sizeable deals. But some other big contracts may fall off the books as well- Harrison Smith and eventually Kirk Cousins. The salary cap limit itself is expected to go up significantly in the coming years as the NFL’s new TV contract revenues hit league coffers.
The Vikings will likely have around $20 million in cap space to work with soon, after having signed Jordan Addison. What they choose to do with it will provide some insight into how they view their roster in 2023, and their plans going forward.
With the additional salary cap expected, the Vikings should allocate most of it to...
This poll is closed
An offensive player
A defensive player
Use it to soften future cap hits on contract extensions