AnalysisOpinion

Vikings Salary Cap Update: Am I Seeing What I’m Seeing?

Here's how the team stands financially post-free agency.

Vikings cap space

According to the Public Salary Cap Report on the NFLPA’s website, the Vikings currently have $19,979,600 in salary cap space, with 60 players under contract. The team carried over $13,729,203 in cap space from last season. Keep in mind, only the highest-paid 51 players count against the salary cap during the offseason.

Quarterback implications

The Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed 3-year, $84 million contract. He will have cap hits of $24 million, $29 million, and $31 million the next three seasons. Minnesota also traded for backup quarterback Trevor Siemian. The 7th-round draft pick out of Northwestern will make $1.9 million in 2018, the last year of his rookie deal.

More on these two later.

Free agency

Even though the Vikings splurged in free agency and spent $92 million between Cousins and Richardson, the team saved a ton of money by spending minimally on in-house free agents. Very few free agents were brought back, and those that were signed did so on incredibly team-friendly deals.

Additions

Minnesota re-signed the following players:

  • G Nick Easton (RFA) offered second-round tender by Vikings ($2.9 million)
  • Kai Forbath re-signed for $790K
  • S Anthony Harris (ERFA) re-signed for $705K
  • RB Mack Brown (ERFA) re-signed for $630K
  • DT Dylan Bradley re-signed (terms TBD)
  • CB/PR Marcus Sherels re-signed (terms TBD)

All of these players will make less than $3 million annually. On the contrary, let’s take a look at the players that left Minnesota. Nearly all of the players that departed in free agency will make more money with their new teams, and quite a few of them will make substantially more.

Departures
  • QB Case Keenum made $2 million in 2017, this year he’ll make $18 million (DEN)
  • RB Jerick McKinnon made $828K in 2017, this year he’ll make $10.5 million (SF)
  • QB Teddy Bridgewater made $2.1 million in 2017, this year he’ll make $6 million (NYJ)
  • CB Tramaine Brock made $695K in 2017, this year he’ll make $3 million (SF)
  • QB Sam Bradford made $18 million in 2017, this year he’ll make $20 million (ARI)
  • OL Jeremiah Sirles (RFA) made $690K in 2017, this year he’ll make $790K (CAR)
  • WR Jarius Wright made $2.1 million in 2017, this year he’ll make $2.5 million (CAR)
  • DT Tom Johnson made $2.3 million in 2017, this year he’ll make $2.1 million (SEA)
  • LB Emmanuel Lamur made $2.75 million in 2017, this year he’ll make $790K (OAK)
  • DT Shamar Stephen made $1.8 million in 2017, this year he’ll make $2.1 million (SEA)

Altogether, these players accounted for roughly $33 million in cap space for the Vikings in 2017. In 2018, the same players will account for at least $65 million on their new teams, a difference of around $32 million. Remember, Cousins and Richardson will account for $34 million in 2018.

The Vikings also saved money by asking RB Latavius Murray to restructure his contract (saved $1.2 million) and cutting WR Jarius Wright (saved $2.6 million). Furthermore, DT Sharrif Floyd (injury settlement) is now off the books.

As stated above, Minnesota has roughly $20 million in salary cap space. The reason the Vikings are currently carrying that much money likely comes down to extending the contracts of multiple players that will become free agents in 2019.

2019 free agents

Salary cap analyst Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com recently told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press the projected dollar amounts the Vikings will likely need to pay their upcoming free agents:

  1. DE Danielle Hunter ($14M/year)
  2. LB Anthony Barr (~$12M)
  3. WR Stefon Diggs ($11M)
  4. LB Eric Kendricks ($8M)

For reference, here’s how much each player extended before last season received:

  1. DE Everson Griffen ($14.5 million annually)
  2. CB Xavier Rhodes ($14 million annually)
  3. DT Linval Joseph ($10 million annually)

Trae Waynes team option

The Vikings are expected to pick up the 5th-year option of cornerback Trae Waynes before the May 3rd deadline. Minnesota will pay Waynes roughly $13 million during his option year (2019). Due to the high salary, it’s possible the team will try to reach an extension with the former first-rounder after the season to lower his cap hit.

Borman breakdown

We’re not even to the NFL Draft, and yet, the Vikings’ front office staff deserves credit for another impressive offseason. Keeping the team competitive and out of cap trouble for the foreseeable future is every general manager’s goal.

Not only was landing Cousins a monumental signing, but back-loading his contract made it possible for the team to absorb his large salary while also having enough cap room to hand out extensions to future free agents.

Furthermore, Minnesota went and signed one of the best 3-techniques in football in Sheldon Richardson. He’s an upgrade for the No. 1 defense in the NFL. Also, the team traded for 26 year-old quarterback Trevor Siemian, who has more potential but will make less money than Case Keenum did as a Viking.

Now, there is still work to be done. The Vikings will need to find out a way to extend the contracts of key starters while staying under the salary cap. By conserving roughly $20 million in cap room, the team should be able to heavily front-load at least one of the extensions for Barr, Hunter, Kendricks, or Diggs before the season. That’ll provide enough cap relief next season for the team to work out deals with the others. It’ll take some contract structure manipulation, but it can be done.

Said Fitzgerald, “I think (the Vikings are) still healthy with their cap. They can make the numbers work…If they get those extensions done, it’s very likely they would run close to the cap this year, but there’s nothing wrong with that.”

One major affect stemming from all these large contracts will be the inability to sign depth players. That may hurt the Vikings down the stretch if injuries arise. But with the unpredictable nature of injuries, a recent history of draft success and a coaching staff known to be able to develop young talent, it’s a risk the franchise appears willing to take.

At this rate, the Minnesota Vikings are on the verge of having a Super Bowl caliber roster and actually keeping it together for years under the salary cap — that’s simply amazing.

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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and previously wrote for Rant Sports. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBoarMan.

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17 Comments

  1. I wish you’d been a little more conservative in your salary numbers for the player’s who’ve left, Sean. For instance, spotrac has Sam Bradford making only $15.625 million this year, and Teddy Bridgewater is guaranteed only $500,000. Still, depending on the contract with Kendall Wright and any other free agents we sign – Marquette King is going to be a lot more expensive than Ryan Quigley – it’s good to hear that the salary cap is still basically under control and should be able to handle re-signing our core 2019 free agents.

      1. Now that we have a quarterback, punter is the one position keeping us from winning a Super Bowl 😉

  2. Tons of “ifs” and shoulds and rolling the dice in this article. It never works out in this kind of conjecture. There are always surprises, injuries, and failures that could not be anticipated. Vikings fans will see.

    1. Sure, unanticipated events can and likely will happen, but the way this team is being assembled deserves recognition. Fans saw in 2017 how strong the Vikings can play when things generally go as planned (aside from the season-ending injuries to Bradford and Cook).

      Nothing is certain in sports. So just imagine a season without injuries. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.

  3. Not a fan of the Cousins deal. Going all in, gun slinging, love it. You win you’re champs, lose you’re chumps, done, and 57 more years of mediocre, on the plus side I’ll be done well before I can get my hopes up again

    1. Thanks Krauser! I’ve seen multiple estimates on the actual option # so I went with the highest one for cap purposes. I believe you’re right and thank you for linking the article

  4. Sirles making three quarters of a trillion dollars will make signing additional free agents difficult for Carolina, one would think.

      1. No worries. It’s nice to know that the predictions of cap disaster may be unfounded after all Great read!

  5. Though the management of the Vikings is not perfect, this team is run by thoughtful and cagy leadership that knows the way around the intricacies of the NFL. Thanks for the good read.

  6. The working of the Vikings cap is the only reason I like Rob Brzezinski and he is dang good at it and I thank him for the work he has done to put the team where is was able to sign Cousins~Richardson~Wright along with the OL depth this offseason ~ ~ His years as the acting jack of an GM under Old Red was more than enough for me to want him gone ~

    But as a cap man Brzezinski is one of the best ~ However no one was happier than me when the Wilf’s stripped away the power of Triangle Of Authority and sent Brzezinski back to his office and being just a cap man and Frazier back to being a good DC and bad HC ~ Since then Spielman has been a good GM and that is as great as having Brzezinski as the cap man ~ Brzezinski now seem to be working well with Spielman and Zimmer and keeping them in touch with the real world football money and how to make it work and manipulate it ~

    I tip my hat to both men for Jobs well done ~

    1. Gotta give credit where it’s due. Rick Spielman, George Paton, Rob Brzezinski, Anne Doepner and all the staff involved with the salary cap have done a phenomenal job.

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