The Idea of Vikings Having ‘Tons of Cap Space in 2024’ Is Misleading

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The concept is already out in Minnesota Vikings social media ozone and will continue to proliferate until the end of the 2023 season:

“The Vikings have so much cap space on the way in 2024.”

It’s a scintillating talker designed to preview life after Kirk Cousins, as many believe he’s the number-one-with-a-bullet boogeyman holding the Vikings back from an unknown alternative path to Super Bowl glory. His 4,547 passing yards and 31 touchdowns in 2022 were somehow a detriment to the Vikings and their 13-4 record, according to naysayers, and the next guy will easily replicate that production.

Good luck, huh?

The Idea of Vikings Having ‘Tons of Cap Space in 2024’ Is Misleading

So, as life after Cousins appears to be approaching — he was not extended beyond 2023 this offseason — folks are broadcasting a vast sum of cap space around the bend in 2024. SKOR North‘s Phil Mackey claims the plan is to “open up as much cap space as possible for 2024” and that “the Vikings want roster and cap flexibility headed into 2024. The plan likely does not include Cousins beyond 2023, unless he’s willing to take a very team-friendly contract extension.”

Vikings GM Will Soon
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Indeed, not employing Cousins in 2024 is a humongous visual part of the mighty plan, but no matter what, his dead cap will still linger on the books to the tune of $28.5 million. The Vikings, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah included, scripted it this way.

But “having a lot of cap space” is not just a post-Cousins vibe. It’s essentially clearing out the roster to nubbins. Thirty-five players are scheduled for free agency next March. A cap space fairy isn’t strolling into Eagan to dust the franchise with newly available money. Cap space will be available because, on paper, the Vikings basically need a whole new team.

These are the players tentatively scheduled for free agency at this time next year, and keep in mind, some of these players will be extended between now and then:

  • Ross Blacklock (IDL)
  • Blake Brandel (LT)
  • Jonathan Bullard (IDL)
  • Ezra Cleveland (LG)
  • Kirk Cousins (QB)
  • Sheldon Day (IDL)
  • Marcus Davenport (IDL)
  • Troy Dye (LB)
  • Ben Ellefson (TE)
  • T.J. Hockenson (TE)
  • Jordan Hicks (LB)
  • Danielle Hunter (EDGE)
  • Tay Gowan (CB)
  • Theo Jackson (S)
  • Trishton Jackson (WR)
  • Justin Jefferson (WR)
  • Greg Joseph (K)
  • James Lynch (IDL)
  • Josh Metellus (S)
  • Johnny Mundt (TE)
  • Nick Muse (TE)
  • K.J. Osborn (WR)
  • Brandon Powell (WR)
  • Blake Proehl (WR)
  • Jalen Reagor (WR)
  • Chris Reed (LG)
  • Austin Schlottmann (LG)
  • T.J. Smith (IOL)
  • Josh Sokol (C)
  • Khyiris Tonga (IDL)
  • Olisaemeka Udoh (RT)
  • Curtis Weaver (EDGE)
  • Benton Whitley (EDGE)
  • Kenny Willekes (EDGE)
  • D.J. Wonnum (EDGE)

That’s 66% of a 53-man roster potentially wiped out. Of course, not all 35 players will exit the backdoor. Many will be re-signed. However, when a Vikings fan pulls up the fancy ledger on, a big and delicious $59 million is waiting on the 2024 tab.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

That number is only that large because it factors in 66% of the team no longer employed in Minnesota. The Vikings will not have “extra” cap space to build on what they already have. Any narrative about the team having “tons of cap space in 2024” is another way of the beholder saying, “I’m sick of all these current players; I want new ones.”

Consider this: if the Vikings re-sign a normal amount of free agents from the list above, the team will not have a fat stack of cap space. They just won’t. Cousins’ $28.5 million cap hit will still haunt those who didn’t like him in the first place, and returning players will eat up much of the $59 million in a hurry — like really fast.

Let Everyone Leave
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Moreover, there’s a perception by some that the upcoming 2023 season is just a vehicle to achieve a new championship window. That is — the team is knowingly taking a mulligan on 2023 just to get to 2024, or you know, life after Kirk Cousins. The same Phil Mackey from SKOR North calls it a “2024-2026 window the Vikings are clearly aiming for.”

The “2024-2026 window” should be classified as a rebuilding span, if anything, particularly because nobody knows the identity of the unicorn quarterback.

Based on the finances and men scheduled to hit free agency, 2023 is the Vikings last hurrah as currently constructed to effectuate a playoff push. Due to the sheer tally of players on tap to possibly leave, it’s 2024 — not 2023 — that looks like the rebuild year with flashing lights all around.

The Vikings could theoretically lose Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, T.J. Hockenson, Marcus Davenport, and perhaps Justin Jefferson (if Jefferson’s contract talks aren’t successful by this time next year). That would leave Christian Darrisaw and a couple of cool t-shirts.

Adjust your thinking. Don’t buy into a baseless dialogue about 2024 as the beginning of a spiffy championship window. The 2024 offseason is when two-thirds of the team is supposed to leave. And 2023 could be the last go-round for two-thirds of the team as you know it, especially some big names. Envisioning a fountain of financial flexibility in 2024 is not a bunch of extra cap space on top of the roster as you know it right now; it’s finding 35 players (or re-signing existing ones) to replenish the gargantuan list above.

Sure, 2024 is on the docket to showcase more cap space than Vikings fans are accustomed to — but that’s because only 35 players are indexed to depart.

The honest synopsis regarding the Vikings 2024 salary cap should be, “Everyone’s scheduled to leave.”

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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