The Minnesota Vikings dove head first into the open market more than three weeks ago, doling out big contracts within the first 48 hours of free agency.
Since signing Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson, the second wave of free agency has been rather low key for Minnesota. The next biggest addition was Kendall Wright, but only in terms of the boost it gives the Vikings with respect to the No. 3 receiver position -- not its financial impact.
Minnesota has made a handful of other depth signings as it begins to shift its attention toward the NFL draft.
According to ESPN’s roster management system, the Vikings have $19,750,372 in available salary-cap money. The NFLPA’s daily salary-cap report lists Minnesota with $17,995,400 in cap space. The discrepancy there is sometimes due to when contracts process -- for example, ESPN does not have details yet on Tavarres King’s deal (though it’s not expected to shift the cap much).
The Vikings will also need to spend an estimated $5,862,286 on their 2018 rookie pool, according to Over The Cap. The rest of that available money is being preserved for a handful of contracts coming due in 2019 between Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Stefon Diggs and Danielle Hunter. Minnesota also has until May 3 to pick up Trae Waynes’ fifth-year option. Some of those players are expected to sign extensions ahead of training camp in July.
Now’s a good time to look at where things stand with the Vikings’ roster as it relates to the cap and where Minnesota is spending the most headed into the 2018 season.
Total cap hit at the position: $24,462,000 (15.29 percent of total cap, 44.89 percent above league average)
Biggest hit: Kirk Cousins: $24,000,000
What the additions cost: Cousins and Trevor Siemian ($1,907,000)
What does this all mean: Super Bowl or bust? While the Vikings won’t publicly say it, if you follow the money, the amount they spent on Cousins ($84 million fully guaranteed on a three-year contract) indicates they think they’re a quarterback away from a championship. Cousins has cap hits of $24 million in 2018, $29 million in 2019 and $31 million in 2020, which will require savvy planning from the Vikings' front office to figure out how to upgrade other areas of the roster in the future and still pay the high price tag that comes with their potential franchise QB. Minnesota did get a bargain with Siemian, a quarterback who brings vital NFL experience to his new role as Cousins' backup. Siemian’s cap hit is only $750 more than what Case Keenum's was last season.
Total cap hit at the position: $7,828,934 (4.52 percent of total cap, 0.43 percent above league average)
Biggest hit: Latavius Murray: $5,200,000
What the additions cost: $0
What does this all mean: Minnesota received $1.15 million in cap relief when it restructured Murray’s contract. Murray’s base salary dropped from $5.15 million to $3.65 million under the terms of his new deal and is the only guaranteed money the Vikings are on the hook for at the position in addition to Dalvin Cook's $753,787 base salary. Minnesota needs to find a No. 3 running back, which could be between Mack Brown or whoever they find in the later rounds of the draft.
Total cap hit at the position: $12,210,641 (7.06 percent of total cap, 41.69 percent below league average)
Biggest hit: Adam Thielen: $5,000,000
What the additions cost: Kendall Wright ($1,000,000); Tavarres King (contract details not known)
What does this all mean: The Vikings have focused efforts on adding depth at wide receiver this offseason. Wright came as an inexpensive addition (only $300,000 guaranteed) and is a statistical upgrade from Jarius Wright, the player he’s expected to replace when he competes for the No. 3 receiver spot. Diggs ($1,961,928 cap hit) is in the final year of his rookie contract and could command a double-digit salary next season with another breakout year. His extension (due in 2019) could complicate things as it relates to Thielen’s current deal -- i.e. paying Diggs more than a Pro Bowl WR. The Vikings are hoping Laquon Treadwell turns the corner in his third year, a season that comes with a $2,709,540 cap hit and $1,353,180 in guaranteed money. Despite his limited production, moving on from the former first-round pick would be expensive, costing Minnesota $5,215,900 in dead money.
Total cap hit at the position: $9,533,864 (5.51 percent of total cap, 5.72 percent above league average)
Biggest hit: Kyle Rudolph: $7,675,000
What the additions cost: Josiah Price ($480,000)
What does this all mean: There’s Rudolph, and then there’s everyone else. Rudolph carries the third biggest cap hit on offense and may be a candidate for a contract restructure ahead of next season when he turns 30. Rudolph’s 2019 salary counts for $7.625 million against the cap in the last year of his contract. Tight end is among the bigger priorities in the draft, and Minnesota could choose to part ways with Blake Bell for $705,000 in cap savings. The Vikings need an athletic, play-making hybrid tight end to compliment Rudolph’s skill set. They don’t currently have that player on the roster and chose not to spend on one of the pricey free agents (i.e. Trey Burton) available last month.
Total cap hit at the position: $24,750,697 (14.3 percent of total cap, 24.43 percent below league average)
Biggest hit: Riley Reiff: $11,400,000
What the additions cost: Tom Compton ($900,000)
What does this all mean: Even after last year’s big offseason signings of Reiff and Mike Remmers ($4.6 million), the Vikings are 24 percent below league average in offensive line spending. A lot of that has to do with placing a restricted free-agent tender ($2.914 million) on Nick Easton, Joe Berger’s retirement and Pat Elflein only being in the second year of his rookie contract. Without a doubt, shoring up the O-line is Minnesota’s biggest priority in the draft after the Vikings chose not to spend in free agency on a proven veteran they could see taking over at right guard in 2018. Compton was the sole addition to the line in free agency, which helps provide depth after veteran swingman Jeremiah Sirles signed with Carolina. The Vikings may choose to spend one or two of their top draft picks on a plug-and-play guard and a depth addition at tackle, but how they choose to use those top selections depends on where they see Remmers playing this fall.
Total cap hit at the position: $18,744,306 (10.83 percent of total cap, 7.94 percent above league average)
Biggest hit: Everson Griffen: $11,600,000
What the additions cost: $0
What does this all mean: Between Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison, two of the three top defensive ends are headed toward free agency next season. Robison will be 36 in 2019 and may choose to retire while Hunter is a strong candidate for an extension, but his is going to be expensive given pass-rushers often get paid a premium. He may even be a candidate for a franchise tag. The Vikings could use a draft pick here to give Minnesota future options at the position.
Total cap hit at the position: $17,254,590 (9.97 percent of total cap, 86.58 percent above league average)
Biggest hit: Linval Joseph: $8,050,000
What the additions cost: Sheldon Richardson ($8,000,000)
What does this all mean: Richardson’s contract is a textbook one-year "prove it" deal. The likelihood that he’ll be around past this season given what the Vikings have to pay Cousins beyond 2018 isn’t high, and Minnesota is likely to add at least one defensive tackle in the draft. While the Vikings may be set with their starters across the defensive line, finding quality depth to fill out a rotation like Philadelphia had last season remains a top priority. Minnesota hopes Jaleel Johnson (who earns $169,590 of his signing bonus in 2018) will be a vital part of their rotation but definitely needs more bodies in the mix. This is a good draft class for teams needing reinforcements on the interior, but the Vikings will have to use some draft capital early if they want a proven commodity, not a developmental prospect.
Total cap hit at the position: $17,633,655 (10.19 percent of total cap, 13.82 percent below league average)
Biggest hit: Anthony Barr: $12,306,000
What the additions cost: Reshard Cliett ($480,000)
What does this all mean: All eyes will be on the linebacker position as the Vikings head into training camp to see which pending free agents will receive an extension first. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Minnesota chose to extend both Barr and Kendricks before August. Barr hasn’t been used much to rush the passer the last couple of seasons and could command a similar deal to what Alec Ogletree and Vontaze Burfict got last year. Barr’s extension would create some cap relief going forward, but Kendricks’ cap number is bound to go up. Starting weakside linebacker Ben Gedeon is in the second year of his rookie deal and Minnesota should be expected to use an early to mid-round draft pick on a linebacker who can help with pass-rushing duties and drop into coverage.
Total cap hit at the position: $21,055,836 (12.17 percent of total cap, 20.25 percent above league average)
Biggest hit: Xavier Rhodes: $13,400,000
What the additions cost: $0
What does this all mean: Picking up Waynes’ fifth-year option seems like a no-brainer for the Vikings, who would like to avoid getting into the same situation the Bears were in with Kyle Fuller. That would cost anywhere from $10-$14 million in 2019, so the Vikings may choose to work out a long-term deal with their No. 2 corner. The uncertainty at the position lies at nickel corner. Terence Newman has not re-signed with the Vikings yet despite expressing a desire to play another season at 40 years old. Mackensie Alexander is in the third year of his rookie contract with a $334,783 signing bonus due in 2018. There aren’t a ton of options left in free agency, so the draft could yield a developmental cornerback for the future.
Total cap hit at the position: $14,851,056 (8.58 percent of total cap, 30.74 percent above league average)
Biggest hit: Harrison Smith: $10,000,000
What the additions cost: $0
What does this all mean: It might not happen right now, but Andrew Sendejo could be in line for a restructure ahead of 2019 when his cap hit jumps from $3.5 million to $5.5 million. Anthony Harris signed a one-year tender worth $705,000 and is a restricted free agent after this season. Out of all the positions on the roster still searching for more depth, finding a safety among the remaining crop of free agents could come at a reasonable price (i.e. Tre Boston, Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro). Here’s a good read on who might be a solid late free-agency addition.
Total cap hit at the position: $2,715,000 (1.57 percent of total cap, 50.52 percent below league average)
Biggest hit: Kai Forbath: $1,000,000
What the additions cost: Nick Dooley ($480,000)
What does this all mean: No, there won’t be a long-snapping competition between Dooley and Kevin McDermott in training camp. Dooley appears to be more of an insurance signing while McDermott continues to rehab from shoulder surgery. The Vikings re-signed Forbath to a one-year deal after he scored 130 points while attempting a career-high 38 field goals last season.
The Vikings have $2,754,814 of dead money on the books for 2018, most of which is for players no longer on the team:
Jarius Wright: $2,120,000
Rodney Adams: $184,887
T.J. Clemmings: $131,239
Bucky Hodges: $109,248
Ifeadi Odenigbo: $72,285
Elijah Lee: $62,370
Jack Tocho: $51,039
Edmond Robinson: $17,078
R.J. Shelton: $3,334
Shaan Washington: $3,334