The Minnesota Vikings are like me in college, broke and constantly letting our loved ones down. Many people stuck in a ‘Doctor Strange’ esque time loop in 2018 blame quarterback Kirk Cousins for the Vikings’ financial situation, but like most things in life the real answer isn’t that simple.
Vikings Twitter after every Vikings loss (especially those in which Cousins had a > 130 quarterback rating, 300 yards, 3 touchdowns, etc).
Brzezinski I’ve come to bargain.
The cap masters over at OvertheCap.com have done a team-by-team breakdown of the worst contracts per team, and unsurprisingly (for anyone, again, not stuck in 2018) they did NOT point to Cousins’ deal as the worst on the team.
Instead, they pointed to Anthony Barr, the former first-round pick out of UCLA. Barr has been a divisive player among Vikings fans, with some hailing the things he does well (that don’t show up on the stat sheet) while others point out that Barr hasn’t lived up to his potential.
First, let’s see what OTC said:
“But Barr’s big-play production took a hit after he got his big payday in 2019—just 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. He missed almost all of the 2020 season after he tore his pectoral muscle in Week 2. And while Barr is a capable linebacker, he’s not a game-changer.
For a Vikings team that’s already upside down against the salary cap, Barr’s cap hit … is more albatross than boost.”
The easiest way to explain whether or not Barr is as vital to this Vikings defense is to look at the drop in play, if any, from when he hasn’t been on the field.
Let’s take a look at his last couple seasons according to Pro Football Focus:
Now, let’s look at Eric Wilson:
As you can see, Barr has been declining rapidly since 2017. Barr also coincidentally is the third highest paid player on the Vikings’ roster, something that has to change this off-season.
The Vikings can’t simply cut Barr, as the dead cap space would be far too much for the Vikings to shoulder. That means one of two things.
They could try to get Barr to restructure his deal, which seems to be the go to by Rob Brzezinski and the Vikings brass. However, Barr already accepted less money by spurning the New York Jets at the 23rd hour a few off-seasons ago.
It also isn’t the best idea from a team building (or PR) perspective to continue to agree to terms with players only to ask them to actually accept less money a year or two later. What free agent would want to sign/resign with a team that deals with all of their cap issues that way?
It feels a tad disingenuous, as if the Vikings aren’t actually negotiating these deals in good faith. Whether or not that’s true, one could make that argument which mean it may as well be true as far as players are concerned.
The second option?
They could trade Barr. That may seem impossible considering his season-ending pectoral injury, contract size, and diminishing play. However, as Xavier Rhodes showed this season in Indianapolis, perhaps the problem isn’t these former All Pro level players but rather the system they play in and the coach that runs said system.
Every Vikings website has put together different trade scenarios for Houston Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson. Nick Olson, who contributes to this site, pitched the following on Twitter this week: Cousins, Danielle Hunter, a 1st-round and 3rd-round pick.
Why not throw Barr in there to avoid the first-round pick (or perhaps the Danielle Hunter piece). Then again, there’s no reality in which Watson ends up in purple but there is also no reality in which the Vikings keep paying Barr > $15 million a season.
How they rectify that remains to be seen. Perhaps a team will look at Rhodes and the fact that Barr just entered his physical prime (he’s 28) and send over a third-round pick for him. Then they’ll run a 3-4 and Barr will end up as a neo-Khalil Mack perennial All Pro while the Vikings trade down from the third round to amass five 7th-round picks that amount to nothing.
You know, team building.