Inside Vikings' potential cap casualties: Futures of Rudolph, Griffen, more

While the Raiders, Jaguars, Redskins and a handful of other teams have already made waves in free agency before the legal tampering period opens at 11 a.m. CT on Monday, things have been relatively quiet for the Minnesota Vikings ahead of the new league year.

The reason for that is simple: With under $5 million in salary-cap space, the Vikings have to make several decisions with their own personnel before they try to add anyone else.

Last week, the Vikings chose not to use the franchise tag on linebacker Anthony Barr, which points to the likelihood that his time in Minnesota is soon to be over. The Vikings have 13 unrestricted free agents, some of whom are at risk of becoming cap casualties. Here’s a look at the bigger names to keep an eye on in Minnesota and the expected outcome for each player.

Kyle Rudolph, TE

Cap hit in 2019: $7.625 million

The situation: The veteran tight end is a valuable asset for the Vikings, having caught 121 passes for 1,166 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons. But with a steep cap hit in 2019, the speculation of a restructure isn’t surprising. However, Rudolph’s agent, Brian Murphy, told NFL Network that the Vikings have not only not asked him to restructure his contract, but that Minnesota expects him to be on the roster this year and in seasons to come.

Likely outcome: There’s still time for negotiations to take place, but given the comments Murphy and Rudolph have made publicly, it’s likely he won’t be changing teams in free agency. The Vikings could still look to add an athletic complement to Rudolph at tight end, but it probably won’t come until the draft.

Everson Griffen, DE

Cap hit in 2019: $10.9 million

The situation: Pass-rushers are always at a premium and there’s a chance Griffen could move on in free agency to seek another big payday elsewhere. At 31 years old, the three-time Pro Bowler is still arguably a top-10 pass-rusher in the NFL despite a dip in production in 2018. The Vikings would save $10.5 million against the cap if they release Griffen before his base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year. But if Griffen stays in Minnesota, it seems likely that he’ll be able to continue in his current role before eventually transitioning into a situational pass-rusher. Restructuring Griffen’s contract would allow the Vikings to relieve pressure off the cap, and cutting him altogether would free up money they could spend in free agency, possibly to acquire an offensive lineman. But cutting Griffen creates a hole on one side of the D-line and would cause Danielle Hunter to be on the receiving end of more double teams in 2019. If that happens, the Vikings would likely address his replacement in the draft.

Likely outcome: It’s been eerily quiet around Griffen’s situation. If the Vikings end up trading him, the return on that investment is expected to be draft picks. If Minnesota can’t find a way to restructure his deal, moving on from Griffen feels inevitable.

Andrew Sendejo, S

Cap hit in 2019: $5.5 million

The situation: Sendejo started five games for Minnesota in 2019 before a groin injury derailed his season. The strides Anthony Harris has shown in Sendejo’s place makes moving on from the 31-year-old safety plausible given the Vikings face no penalty by cutting him.

Likely outcome: The Vikings release Sendejo to free up $5.5 million in cap space.

Trae Waynes, CB

Cap hit in 2019: $9.069 million

The situation: Waynes’ fifth-year option becomes fully guaranteed on Wednesday. While the former first-round pick is under contract through the 2019 season, the Vikings could look to shop him while his value is high, but only if they’re confident in their depth at cornerback. Despite Xavier Rhodes coming off an injury-ridden season and no firm timetable on Mike Hughes' return, it’s not impossible to think the Vikings would move on from Waynes to free up over $9 million to spend elsewhere.

Likely outcome: Minnesota continues to shop Waynes this week, but if the return isn’t at least a third-round pick or more, he stays with the Vikings.

Mike Remmers, RG

Cap hit in 2019: $5.65 million

The situation: The Vikings paid a large sum to bring Remmers in during free agency two years ago and his move from right tackle to right guard in 2018 didn’t yield the best results. If Minnesota decides it wants one of the free-agent guards available on a relatively slim market, moving on from Remmers is an easy option.

Likely outcome: The Vikings release Remmers to free up $4.55 million in cap space.

Riley Reiff, LT

Cap hit in 2019: $11.7 million

The situation: Reiff has the third-highest cap hit among all offensive players on the roster. But if you’re talking about a restructure, you have to ask, who has the leverage? If Minnesota isn’t sure that Brian O'Neill is ready to take over at left tackle in his second season, moving on from Reiff isn’t the answer. Rumors have circulated that Reiff could be moving inside to guard, which would make the amount Minnesota is set to pay him really steep. For a team that has struggled on the offensive line, trying to piecemeal this unit together might not be the best option.

Likely outcome: Reiff stays in Minnesota without a restructure.