Vikings Salary Cap Mailbag: Training Camp Edition

Cousins / Mond
May 26, 2021; Eagan, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and quarterback Kellen Mond (11) participate in drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the training camp edition of my Vikings salary cap mailbag. If you want to know more about the salary cap or just have a general question, feel free to DM me or submit your question via Twitter to @SeanBormanNFL.

Let’s jump right in.

The week began with the Vikings making official the signing of wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who worked out for the team on Saturday. In a corresponding roster move the team waived rookie defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman, who reverted to Minnesota’s NFI list today after clearing waivers.

Twyman was a surprise to me, but the move does makes sense considering his unique injury situation. This option allows the team to keep him around on reserve instead of letting a player go. He’ll miss at least the first 8 weeks of the season. Sorry for not getting to this question earlier. To be honest, I probably would have predicted one of the long-snappers or kicker Riley Patterson as cut candidates.

Somewhere near the veteran minimum was always the likely range. Darren Wolfson of KSTP reported the Westbrook deal is a 1-year deal worth $1,127,500. That should put his cap hit at $987,500 with the veteran minimum salary benefit. In terms of contract figures, it’s basically the same deal as Mackensie Alexander.

  • In a related note, the Vikings currently have $13,762,684 in salary cap space including Monday’s transactions

Via DM: What’s the effective cap space?

When accounting for regular season adjustments – such as the expiration of the top-51 rule (following the last preseason game), paying 16 practice squad players and budgeting for in-season contingencies – the team effectively has $5,894,684 to work with.

Olivier Vernon tore his Achilles in January, so he won’t be an option. At least not until he’s further along in his recovery. As far as Justin Houston goes… the Vikings have around $5.9M in effective cap space. That’s more than enough to bring in another free agent, but Houston is being selective.

The Vikings might be able to afford Houston, but a more economical option would be waiting to determine what they have in their young DE’s. If needed, they could make a move to acquire a vet like Everson Griffen in Week 2 to avoid the vested veteran guarantee. That would ensure the contract is not guaranteed for the season, giving the team more cap flexibility down the stretch.

Of course with Danielle Hunter, Stephen Weatherly, Jalyn Holmes, Kenny Willekes, Jordan Brailford and Hercules Mata’afa on the roster, along with DJ Wonnum, Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson all being developed by Andre Patterson, the team may feel fairly comfortable about the depth at defensive end.

Via DM: What are the chances of trading for Chandler Jones?

The salary cap limits the chances of the Vikings trading for someone like Chandler Jones.

Jones has a cap hit of $20,176,388. He would cost the acquiring team $15.5M in base salary. With $5.9M in effective cap space, the only two ways for the Vikings to facilitate a Jones trade would be for Arizona to eat a chunk of his salary (in a trade with a team they play against in Week 2) or for Minnesota to restructure his contract (and perhaps add some void years) in order to stay compliant with the cap.

Unless a substantial amount of cap space was created using extensions for Harrison Smith and Brian O’Neill, the team would be forced to restructure the contracts of Eric Kendricks or Kirk Cousins in order to be able to afford Jones. Believe it or not, resources are becoming limited in terms of creating cap space.

LOL. Maybe in 2022… it depends on what happens with Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen.

The way I see it, the Vikings have two options with Kirk Cousins’ contract next year – and they’re pretty simple – either they trade him or extend him. With a fully guaranteed base salary, cutting him makes zero sense because of the massive dead money hit.

If Cousins plays well, the team will likely offer him another extension at the market rate and lower the current years’ cap hit. If he struggles, the only real way for the Vikings to get out of his deal is to find someone to take him in a trade next offseason. So, there’s a lot riding on this season.

What I don’t see happening is Cousins playing out his contract with a $45 million cap hit next year. With all due respect, that’s just way too high for a player of his caliber. His $31M cap hit this season is already the 3rd-highest in the NFL.

Love this question. I’m keeping a close eye on Dalvin Tomlinson. I know he’s not the sexiest pick. Maybe I just feel like he’s an underrated pickup, but I think he could prove to be the most impactful AND valuable signing at the end of the day. Not only is Tomlinson the only player to sign a multi-year contract with the Vikings (so far) this offseason, he plays an important position within the scheme. The defense struggled mightily in the trenches last year. If Tomlinson has a solid year, chances are the rest of the defense will improve noticeably.

That being said, I feel like Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods could prove to be valuable pieces to the defense. The opportunity is there for them to provide value well above their salaries. The same goes for Dede Westbrook and Mackensie Alexander, who each have cap hits under $1 million.

But for the sake of answering your question, I’m going with Tomlinson.

According to Darren Wolfson of KSTP, the Vikings have had ongoing extension talks with Harrison Smith and Brian O’Neill for a few weeks. I don’t see any other players getting extended at this time.

On how much these extensions could cost:

  • Joel Corry of CBS Sports said on Wolfson’s “The Scoop” podcast that Harrison Smith should be looking at a floor of $14 million per year. He later said on his own podcast that he doesn’t know that Smith will reach Justin Simmons territory ($15.25M/year). Simmons is the highest paid safety in the league
  • As for Brian O’Neill, Corry said he also expects a $14M/year floor, Brad Spielberger of PFF predicts $15-17M/year and Dan Graziano of ESPN noted the Vikings need to reach the neighborhood of $18M. Deals for Ryan Ramczyk (Saints) and Taylor Moton (Panthers) have significantly adjusted the right tackle market in recent weeks

Considering Smith’s age, 32, the Vikings are likely seeking a 2-3 year extension whereas O’Neill, 25, can expect a long-term agreement. Under Wilf ownership, the start of training camp is normally when the team announces new contract extensions.


  • The three third-round picks who were signed on Monday (Surratt, Davis, Jones II) received the maximum amount of their respective draft slots. After accounting for offsetting top-51 contracts this trio will cost the team $140,220 against the cap
  • Kirk Cousins will become the highest-paid player in team history this season. While that’s not necessarily surprising considering the current market for his position and the contracts he’s received, it’s a noteworthy benchmark nonetheless. The 32 year-old has made $94 million in three years with the Vikings.

Adrian Peterson made $94,206,471 in ten seasons with Minnesota. Rounding out the top five are:

  • Jared Allen ($73,460,069)
  • Anthony Barr ($59,549,596)
  • Everson Griffen ($56,480,000)

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