Edit—Because of a logical oversight, there’s an update to these numbers at the bottom of the calculation discussion that expands the space the Vikings have.

Reading into a series of mundane team moves can easily lead to some hyperbolic speculation; any team may simply be taking advantage of the time they have and the situation they’re in to take care of some house cleaning. But that won’t stop me or you from trying to read the tea leaves that the Minnesota Vikings have left behind with a series of small but interesting moves.

As an update, the Vikings have signed nose tackle Linval Joseph (a great move), cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (a good move), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (a likely unimpactful move) and cornerback Derek Cox (a… move) while having re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen, quarterback Matt Cassel, cornerback Marcus Sherels, interior offensive lineman Joe Berger, running back Matt Asiata, defensive tackle Fred Evans, special teams player/linebacker Larry Dean, guard Charlie Johnson and receiver Jerome Simpson.

The Vikings could be on their way for even more.

In the process of all those signings, Minnesota consumed somewhere between $31.17 million and $32.67 million, depending on the nature of the Jerome Simpson and Charlie Johnson contracts (the NFLPA website has more this morning, but not all of Minnesota’s contracts are in). With about $17 million left, the Vikings wouldn’t have much space for a new signing (the rookie pool of money is about $6 million, but prorating the picks they have from the cap space consumed last year produces a number of about $7 million), much less re-signing players.

In fact, using the Spotrac calculations and the official cap space numbers the Vikings have from NFLPA, the Vikings should have between $4.5 million and $6 million (the wide range is due to the ambiguity of the impact of the rookie signings and the Simpson/Johnson contracts) still effectively useful for current free agents.

This does not include potentially re-signing players like Desmond Bishop, Joe Webb, Kevin Williams and Marvin Mitchell. The good news is that the penalty applied by any new re-signings (or general FA signings) won’t have a full cap hit, because only the top 51 contracts of any team will count against the cap—meaning a player that had a cap hit of $500,000 will effectively be taken off the books by any new signing.

If, for example, they signed Joe Webb to a similar contract as Derek Cox’s (who, while being paid out more money this year, only costs $570,000 in cap space) would have virtually no effect on the cap other than an escalation of less than $100,000. This is the reason teams can meet the cap while still entering camp with a roster of 90 players, but not increase their cap space when they’re down to a roster of 53.

But the Vikings have also cleared up new space. Restructuring the contracts of Chad Greenway, Jerome Felton and Jamarca Sanford has cleared up $2.1-$2.5 million in space, and the update on the NFLPA page seems to imply the Vikings have cleared even more (no new contracts are in, but the space went up by $3 million, not $2.5 million over the course of a day).

$8.5 million is a far cry from $6 million, and more space may be on its way.

**UPDATE: As commenter IndyStorm astutely points out, I am an idiot. The rookies are subject to the Rule of 51 as well (naturally). The Vikings total cap space is far closer to the range of $11.5 million to $12.8 million. That’s quite the available haul.

Certainly the Vikings are interested in former Bears undertackle Henry Melton—who when healthy was one of the top players in the country at his position—but his prospects elsewhere seem pretty bright (he’s visited Seattle and is in Dallas). The Vikings have also had “casual” contact with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who’s currently in New Jersey visiting the Jets.

But there are signings with upside to be had on the market. Aside from Melton and Rodgers-Cromartie, players with versatility and upside can be had. Alex Carrington was a well-touted 3-4 defensive end coming out of Arkansas State whose age (26) might encourage teams to invest in the upside that made him a late-second, early-third round projection (picked early in the third round of the draft). He’s played in multiple systems and may serve the hybrid fronts that head coach Mike Zimmer has touted. Despite injury in 2013, he was one of the top interior defensive tackles in the NFL in 2012 but had an awful 2011.

At cornerback, Carlos Rogers is still available. He isn’t well-liked by many San Francisco fans, but the truth is that he’s been an above average cornerback in his time there, with an absolutely stellar 2011 to his name. At 32, he’s unlikely, but having a bridge CB as they draft and develop another could go a long way into making the Vikings competitive far sooner than people may realize.

Another aging player that might serve to be better than excellent as a depth option is former Packers receiver James Jones, who is a starting-quality player that could provide massive benefits to a Vikings receiver corps full of young players (and Greg Jennings). On the other end could be Danario Alexander, a receiver with an extremely checkered injury history (he spent all of 2013 on IR because of a preseason ACL tear, and has had a quite a few knee surgeries) that should come on the cheap but has massive upside at 25 years of age.

Even positions of strength could use some fresh blood, depending on what the Vikings want. Andre Brown, James Starks and Tashard Choice are available as depth options at running back with Toby Gerhart gone, while Jermichael Finley and Ed Dickson could replace John Carlson. Adam’s bargain list is still full of options.

The Vikings could also uncharacteristically trade for a player. An unknown number of players are on the trading block, but many have linked the Vikings to current Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, who was projected as a first-round pick before dropping to the third round—many speculate due to character concerns and drug issues.

They could also trade for players like Andre Branch or Brandon Graham, both of whom are rumored to be on the trading block as well. Vinny Curry of the Eagles is in the same spot and they could even pull some major strings to take a stab at DeSean Jackson, who has been the subject of heavy speculation.

There were even rumors of cornerback Morris Claiborne being on the market, though they haven’t been repeated or had materialized in any real fashion either. Claiborne should be regarded as a draft bust, but he could be the kind of turnaround story that Zimmer is famous for, particular when it comes to former Dallas cornerbacks. The Dolphins seemingly have had a number of players on their trading block and the Vikings could pursue those.

And again, there are any number of players being quietly shopped that we know nothing about.

Any particular option has a low chance of being “correct” or a serious consideration for the Vikings. In fact, the Vikings could be clearing cap space simply because it’s a good thing to do. But the fact that they’ve seemingly begun to clear way for another player certainly is worth looking into.

75 COMMENTS

  1. Desean Jackson is a big NO. The guy is always partying in the clubs sipping lean smoking green. We dont need another Chris Cook on this team. Plus Jackson is a diva. And a cancer to a team.

    • That’s what they said about another former Philadelphia Eagles wide out that turned out to have a pretty good career in Minnesota..

  2. Melton can’t be coming for less than 5/yr (way conservative) so if he signs that money’s all but spent. DRC looks like a contingency to splurge. If both fall through we kick the tires on a top guard and look at trades.

    This will be my last tout for Mike Glennon specifically because you mentioned mallet. The price is right on Glennon, Lovie has made that clear (that lovie doesn’t like him is reason enough to take a look) and Glennon is superior in playing time, contract implications, age, and character. Talent can’t be measured because mallett hasn’t done anything. Glennon dealt with an injury plagued line, an ugly QB divorce and insane coach, and limited rookie level options .. His targets were designed for a Norv turner verticals attack (Vincent Jackson) but there were no short quick pass options for a rookie to boost his confidence. The results were a good Td-Int ratio and low completion (though not horrendous) and low average yards (though never a ponder double digit outing). I see him as a Flacco with a slightly different skill set, potentially a more consistent decision maker. Before you talk shit about Flacco, name our last true franchise QB.

    No word on RB, maybe lache seastrunk or Isaiah Crowell .. Time for Adrian’s successor to show up like A-Rog!

    • Melton will not get a big guaranteed contract by anybody because he is coming of a torn ACL. Nobody will take that chance.

      • Norse even so wouldn’t you think he’s waiting for more guaranteed or a longer spread of the guarantee? I made fun of Verner for his reasoning on signing a reduced contract but the way the league has gone you’re better off signing at a fair rate with a balanced or backloaded guarantee to avoid being restructured.

        Look at this list of contracts that are considered ideal for the players:

        http://mweb.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/22901027/agents-take-examining-best-contracts-from-players-perspective

        This is before last season and half the contracts have been restructured or terminated haha.

        • Oh there is no doubt he is making the rounds to drive up the price and try and maximize his contract. I am just saying that coming off a severe injury his contract will not be huge by any means because of the risk. All of his money will be back loaded or a 1-2 year contract with team options after that. More like a prove it deal with options.

  3. Nice speculation Arif.
    And yeah, I agree with Casey, no to Jackson. No need for egotistic showboats.
    What would we have to give up to get Mallett? I always appreciated his arm. I know he had some personal issues too but after a couple years in the Bellichek system, you haven’t heard any bad reports.
    I believe he was graded as a 1st rounder but because of the personal issues (Attitude and drugs if I remember) he dropped.
    Wonder if the Pats would interested in Ponder? Ponder and a 3rd?

    • Seattle’s third and a conditional next year is what I’ve been touting for Mallet, but that was before they signed Cassel to his deal. I don’t see them trading for a QB now and I don’t see them targeting WR with Simpson coming back. As far as trades go, Claiborne is the only name I’ll be watching, and I think it is more likely that a trade involving him would happen on draft day. Dallas isn’t afraid to move up so they could include Claiborne in a first round position swap to decrease the other pick compensation in the trade. We’ld still be picking in the top 20 and get a player that we supposedly liked a lot a couple years ago and who would probably benefit a ton from our new coaching staff.

      • I would never trade a draft pick that is higher than where the player was selected and who is a unproven commodity.

        • That’s probably not a bad philosophy under normal conditions but Mallet is a unique situation.
          He dropped to the third round (Projected as 1st rounder)
          Now, he’s had two full seasons behind Brady and Belichek and no character issues have arose.
          But, as Dan T points out, we signed Cassel, so the chance of us trading for him are pretty slim.
          I’ll bet when he finally gets his chance, he’ll tear it up.

          • Trade value for Mallet is more about what NE will potentially get as a comp pick after he likley leaves as a FA after this season. The best they will do is a pick tacked on to the back of the third round in 2016, so giving up a late third and a conditional pick based on his play would be a fair deal. Again, it’s a dead issue in my opinion, they will draft a QB and watch the waiver wire. MBT is likely to end up there at some point after they acquired Gabbert.

            • Dan, I do not think they will get anything close to that as a comp pick because he is not a starter and has played so few games.

  4. Hey Johnny, I just passed you in the commenters count. You better get posting!
    And where the hell is Tomb??
    It’s not like him to let me get ahead of him. . .

    • I know Fran. Had a busy week. I don’t know what to think about Tomb? Knowing him he’ll show up in full blitzkrieg mode and fly by both of us.

      • I’m sure you’re right.
        He’ll show up, see that we’ve past him and then you’ll never be able to shut him up until he overtakes us.

        • fran (aka homeskillet), did you ban him? you did, right? only way he’d let you pass him. unless he was impaled at the gates of the emerald city

              • Oh, that’s what you’re getting at. Yep, he did and I always wondered what happened to him. He went back to the old Strib and Vikings Gab days.

                • i don’t even think he made it to vikings gab, did he? i think judd locked him in the basement at the strib UNaccess vikings

                  • Homeskillet was a con-artist, a shyster and a double posting weasel.
                    Yeah, he’s locked in there alright, never to see the light of day again.

                    Maybe I’m being a bit harsh….

  5. With all the moves we made I think we should be fairly happy. There were too many holes to fill to expect perfection (AKA Charlie Johnson). One thing I that will show us a lot is, that we essentially have the exact same offense with the exception of Cassel at QB from the beginning. Now we can see the impact of Norv Turner and Zim and how real coaches make a difference!

  6. I would like the Vikes to concentrate on LB and CB in free agency. Despite the fact that we already have 8 CBs on the roster. If we can land Melton for a reasonable contract that would be nice also.

    • I hope we don’t put any more big contracts out. I don’t think there are any long term LB’s for us out there anyway. I would like a good deal for Thomas Decoud that could help solidify safety. He had a down year but had some good play before that. A cheap one year deal for K. Will. It would be nice if a DE surface for short term, low cost. More of them may yet be released. If they want to be better quicker than maybe Carlos Rodgers on a short deal until a draft pick surfaces. I am just thankful we have FINALLY got a real coaching staff that has been missed for over a decade. I have followed this team for 40 years. My friends, the sky’s are about to clear…..

  7. I don’t thin Speilman is going to make a trades now. Speilman keeps saying he wants 10 draft picks. Vikings have 8 now. I see the Vikings trading down in the first round so Speilman can get his 10 draft picks.

    • WTF, Spielman says he likes to have 10 picks during a draft. He has said that the past 3 years. I do not know why it is getting more attention this year. I do agree though unless someone falls to them at 8 who they really like, then I see them trading down at least once.

      • Unless Clowny drops in there lap, or a QB they want I think Speilman will try to trade back. I have a feeling one of the O-lineman will drop to the Vikings that a few teams will want. If the Raiders get Schaub, I think they will draft Watkins.

        • The Raiders may need a LT since they let there’s go in free agency and then muffed when they tried to sign Saffold. I would love to have Watkins fall to us at 8. The phones would be ringing off the hook and the Vikes could get a ransom of picks to trade down.

  8. And I say NO to Web. There has to be a average wr out there that would be much better than Webb. The Webb experiment is over.

      • Not really, the Broncos actually turned to him when Monte Ball and Hillman were struggling. Plus he is a very good in pass protection. Something that can not be underestimated. I think he would work really well on screens.

        • The rb’s aren’t getting very high contracts so he should be affordable. I can’t believe the market for running backs has dried up so much. Those poor bastards really take a beating.

          • Yeah that’s why I think he would be a good addition Johnny. I remember when RB’s were some of the first FAs signed. Oh my how the times have changed.

  9. if that’s it, i’m good with what we’ve done for now. save some room for a special situation that might pop up

    • That’s a good point Cal. What ever we do not use this year, I believe we can carry over to next year if I am not mistaken.

        • Well yes but it’s over a period, last year the browns carried over 25 mil in cap. We have less than that now. Either way cal and Norse are saying we hold off signing until summer.

  10. While this team could be primed for a quick turnaround. Zim himself has cautioned that he may need more than one season to fix all the holes. If the draft plays out poorly and the QB Norv wants is gone (or doesn’t exist), how far-fetched would attempting to trade for an additional 1st round pick in next years draft be? I have watched them try to fix the QB spot with duct tape and hope for years. But reaching and wasting another 1st on a potential Ponder2.0 will hold this team back longer than one year. Get Norv a project later in this draft, add additional depth for Zim to sort out during a competitive camp, and give Spielman leverage to trade-up for our QBOTF next year.

  11. First time post ever! But had to get this theory out there to see what you guys think:

    Let’s just say the Vikings do not like ANY QB in this years class. I know, everyone is saying that they HAVE to draft a QB this year but in my scenario, they do not.

    I am thinking that they are very much interested in Mallet and that there is already a plan in the works to aquire him on draft day. Why not do it now you ask? Well, why would Spielman tip his hand before the draft by essentially taking the odds of us picking a QB off the table. Almost everyone out there is saying that they will draft a QB so let’s say one of the top 3 falls to us at 8? If we had already traded for Mallet their leverage would be gone if a team or teams looking to make a trade figured that they would pass on that player anyway.

    Then in a later round, second or third, the Pats see a player on the board they really want and Rick pulls the trigger on the trade. I just think that Mallet is a much better player than anyone available in this years class and he already has a few years of NFL training under his belt. They get rid of Ponder during training camp or end up keeping him for QB depth. Casell goes back to the backup role that he’s more suited for.

    • I’m with you all the way in regard to Mallet YanktonSquid.
      By the way, welcome to Vikings Territory, you’ll like it here.

      Myself, I’d rather get Mallet now. Offer the Pats Ponder, this year’s third and maybe a conditional pick next year. That is a trade that would not upset me at all.
      Because I absolutely agree with you that Mallet has more talent than all the QB’s coming out this year.
      His problem in college was maturity issues. Its 3 years later and I’ll bet the kid has come to his senses a bit. He’s definitely a pocket passer without much ability to move around but the guy has a CANNON for an arm and he’s a football player.
      Mark my words, the guy will be a standout QB for some team.

    • This assumes they like Mallett. I’m not sold on the guy. What has playing behind Brady produced? NFL journeymen, which is what you would expect a high level backup to be. My memory was that Mallett had a big arm but questionable leadership and intangibles. I think Belly is more than willing to trade on his own reputation, meaning if Mallett was as good as people are saying, the Pats wouldn’t give him up. They need an heir to Brady, and generally they’ve been very astute at cutting players at the right time.

      More than that, I just don’t see Norv valuing Mallett more than options that don’t require an extra pick. I think the Vikes are primed to draft developmental guy this year, and make the best of whatever opportunity pick 8 presents, be that a player or a trade.

      • what was Norv doing during the 2011 (mallett) draft? It would be interesting to know how he evaluated Mallett at that time…

        • That’s a good question Krug.
          Hadn’t really considered Mallet being a dud until I read Biggity’s post; “suspect accuracy, game drops off dramatically if the pocket isn’t clean, bombed in big time games”

          I’ll have to research that. All I remember is that it was said he would have been a 1st rounder, if not for personal issues.
          I’ll be back.

          • This is what I remember being said about Mallet, pre-draft (NFL.com/Combine-profiles);

            Mallett has the arm strength and size of a franchise NFL quarterback but still needs to continue to develop his accuracy and decision-making consistency. Can drive the ball down field and hit the deep out. When drop mechanics are sound, shows the ability to stick the ball into tiny windows. Has played in pro-style systems and understands reads and progressions but is still prone to taking some risks. Release is natural and over-the-top. Exhibits leadership qualities on the field but front offices will want to further investigate his character and ability to take coaching. Mallett’s a really enticing package and will likely come off the board in round one.
            Analysis;
            Strengths Mallett possesses prototypical size. Has elite arm strength and can make all the throws. Displays smooth mechanics. Fluid, over-the-top delivery. Will fit the ball into tight spots and shows good overall accuracy. Has experience in the pro-style passing game. Good pocket mobility, can buy second chances and keeps his head down field. Fierce competitor and can command the huddle.

            Weaknesses; Flashes the ability to run through progressions but has lapses in judgment and can force throws when pressured. Accuracy is solid but needs to become more consistent. Ball will sail when footwork gets sloppy. Does not have the athleticism to pick up much yardage with his feet at the next level. Potential maturity/character issues.

            The Jury is still out. . .

            • Aquiring Mallet now wouldn’t make much sense. If they had lost Cassel I think they would have investigated this thoroughly. Any team that brings him in is going to want to see him play this year so they know if they want to extend his contract. The only way I see it happening is if we don’t get a QB with our first three draft picks and decide he’s a better option than any players that are on the board at 96…and the Patriots would actually need to want to trade him. I can’t imagine they would turn down a top 100 pick for the guy, but if they don’t score another young QB in the draft themselves, they may want to keep him around.

              • You’re Undoubtedly right Dan. I’m just SO desperate for a QB. . . .
                It’s been our missing link for so long, it makes a guy do things like move up take a Ponder. I’m just afraid we might do that again this year.

                • I just think the Cassel signing was purely insurance since they surely could not start Ponder, the other free agent choices were less than desirable, and the QB class are all pretty much projects.
                  The Pats trading Mallet makes complete sense because Brady has 3 maybe 4 years left in him. Mallet has 1 year left on his contract and I’m quite sure he wants to be a starter weather it is with NE or another team. They do not want him to just walk away without getting something in return. So no matter how good they think he is, they won’t be able to keep him holding a clipboard waiting for Brady to hang up his cleats, and I can’t see them forcing Brady out to hand the ball to Mallet either. Bellicheck loves his draft picks as much as Rick does so I believe the time is right to nab him.

  12. Arif, why doesn’t the salary cap hit for rookies follow the same as your Joe Web example? According to Over The Cap site, the Vikings should save $3 mil for signing rookies, even though the cost is $6.3 mil. From round 4 on down their projected cap hit is equal to or less than the lowest salaries above the 51 cut off for determining total cap. The same $0.5 mil reduction would occur for the rookies from round 1-3. Over The Cap site says there is around $16.3 mil in cap space, which includes the recent moves with Felton, etc. So subtracting $3.5 mil for rookies ( I added $0.5 mil) gives a salary cap of $12.8 mil. If Simpson & Johnson has a combined salary of $4.6 minus $1 mil would reduce available cap to $9.2 mil. There would room to offer Melton a Joseph type contract, which has $6.6 mil hit this year. I would love seeing the rotation of Melton, Floyd, Joseph, Robinson, and Griffen.

    • You’re right; I hadn’t considered that. Looking at those specific pick numbers (and multiplying by the new cap number), it only looks like two contracts would fall beneath the 51 rule: pick 168 and pick 200 (which will be different with the comp picks) and perhaps pick 136 after comp picks are put into play, which saves $1.5M. Then picks in rounds 1-4 should only cost $2.8M.

      Wow.

      OTC does not include at least one contract, the Charlie Johnson one, and I don’t think it includes Jerome Simpson either (neither have numbers out yet). To me, that’s another $3.5M to $5M to consider.

      I’ll update the story to include this oversight.

  13. I never called you an idiot as your update suggests. You are a brilliant analysts and the reason I am on this site. I loved your quarterback analysis and if Bridgewater or Carr, take them at 8. I have enjoyed reading the posts of Adams and Lindsey. Good site. My second comment/post.

    • Just curious but I re-read Afif’s post and I just can’t find the part where he referred to you as an idiot.
      Where is that?

      • Oh no one called anyone an idiot, I just felt stupid for not realizing what Indystorm pointed out. I want folks like him to continue to comment, so I hope that doesn’t deter anything. Just a little self-deprecating humor on my part in order to update the post.

        • I finally read the update and you’re right, INDYSTORM did NOT call you an idiot.
          YOU called yourself an idiot, which is your prerogative but probably in dispute here with the other commenters. . .

  14. I think a smart move would be to give Rudolph a nice contract then focus on LB early. I like having Captain, Rhodes and I feel Prater played good ball at the end of last season. Offensively we could score! And Patterson is dangerous on special teams, I’d like to see up draft Aaron Murray for long term and start Cassel this season and see what happens. Clock management and poor coaching is what killed our season

  15. I’d like to see us trade back in the first to the early 20’s and perhaps pick up an extra 2nd round pick. My mock:

    1st (22) Derek Carr QB
    2nd (40) Kyle Van Noy OLB BYU
    2nd (54) Kyle Fuller CB Va Tech
    3rd (72) Chris Borland ILB OSU
    3rd (96) LaMarcus Joyner CB/S FSU
    4th (104) Brandon Cooks WR Oregon St
    5th (136) Chris Watt G Notre Dame
    6th (168) Trent Murphy DE Stanford
    7th (200) Tyler Larsen C

  16. The Vikings offense needs personnel who can reliably get that critical first down

    In 2006, Jeff Dugan had two carries. Both resulted in a first down.

    Not satisfied, in 2007, the remarkably talented Dugan doubled his prodigious 2006 stats and had four carries. All of them resulting in a first down. Unprecedented in the history of the Minnesota Vikings.

    If not interrupted by bad luck, bad coaching and facts, in 2014, Dugan was on a pace to have 512 carries resulting in 512 first downs.

  17. Why are you guys wanting to trade for Mallett, mulitple picks for a unproven backup ? How bout just draft AJ, Derek, Grappolo, Murray all probably 2nd & 3rd Round Value ???? I think if manziel is thier at 8 we gotta grab em.

    • I think if we can trade back into late 1st round and grab Carr & take Gilbert at 8 ??? I watch alot of Carr and his arm is huge great skill set.

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