So, Why Are the Vikings Clearing Cap Space?

General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in August of 2022 at Minnesota Vikings headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota.

The Minnesota Vikings, alas, slid under the salary cap [again] Tuesday, using some nifty bookwork to navigate a skimpy budget.

The Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer tweeted, “Looks like the Vikings added void years to Byron Murphy’s deal to lower the 2023 cap number by ~$2.1M, as updated on OTC.”

So, Why Are the Vikings Clearing Cap Space?

And on Wednesday, ESPN’s Field Yates wrote, “The Vikings were able to fit DE Marcus Davenport and his $6.2M cap hit under the cap yesterday by officially processing S Harrison Smith’s restructured contract. Smith’s new deal shaved $7.3M off of his prior cap number, with Minnesota hovering around $2M in cap space now.”

So, something is afoot, and these are those somethings.

1. General Flexibility

Vikings Clearing Cap
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the 2023 NFL Combine the Week of February 27th. The Vikings have the 23rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah may just want his platter unfilled. It’s nice to have some semblance of navigability in free agency, even if one particular player hasn’t stolen your heart.

He didn’t have that before the Murphy void years, Harrison Smith restructure, or Davenport maneuvering. Now, to an extent, he does.

Adofo-Mensah must sign an entire draft class in May, so getting the books ready now is wise.

2. Beckham, Chark, or Hardman

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) takes the field before an NFL football game at FirstEnergy Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. © Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK.

If the Vikings want to replace Adam Thielen with someone at WR2 before the 2023 NFL Draft, they’re down to about three options on the open market — Odell Beckham, D.J. Chark, or Mecole Hardman.

Here’s some breaking news: all three will cost money, especially with Beckham’s sticker-shock name value. Living over the cap, as the Vikings did before Tuesday, isn’t conducive to wooing Beckham, Chark, or Hardman.

When free agency kicked off, Beckham allegedly wanted $20 million per season — an absurd figure for a 30-year-old returning from a torn ACL — but has since walked the price back to a sensible amount. Long story short: Adofo-Mensah needs cap space if he wants to sign Thielen’s replacement now and not rely on the NFL draft in five weeks.

3. Cornerback Help

Jan 9, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Shaquill Griffin (26) reacts to a play in the second half against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports.

Cornerback can be argued as the Vikings most emergent need as of March 21st. The club has Byron Murphy, Andrew Booth, and Akayleb Evans available as startable CBs.

They need more.

This can be as easy as re-signing 2022 standout Duke Shelley, but that hasn’t happened yet, so something is deterring Adofo-Mensah from producing the Shelley sequel. If it’s not Shelley and the Vikings want to cross a roster need off the list anytime soon, Shaquill Griffin, Rock Ya-Sin, William Jackson, and Marcus Peters are on the market.

But like Beckham, Chark, or Hardman, the franchise needs more than – $3 million to sign a free-agent corner. It’s that simple.

4. The Lamar Jackson Dream

Dec 22, 2019; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws the ball against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings are fourth on the list of Bookies’ landing spots for Lamar Jackson:

  • Baltimore Ravens: +225
  • Tennessee Titans: +400
  • New England Patriots: +500
  • Minnesota Vikings: +550
  • Indianapolis Colts: +1000
  • New York Jets: +1400
  • Atlanta Falcons: +1500
  • The Field: +575

Yes, you read that right. Jackson-to-Minnesota isn’t a ludicrous hypothesis dreamt by anti-Kirk-Cousins personalities. If Vegas believes the trade could shakedown, the theory is semi-credible.

Landing Jackson would involve considerable financial gymnastics for Adofo-Mensah, mainly swallowing a large Cousins’ dead cap hit and juggling upcoming extensions for Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, Danielle Hunter, and Christian Darrisaw. And that’s all on top of paying Jackson his Deshaun Watson-esque pricetag around $50 million annually.

But the shots-fired moment from the Vikings, if they’re seriously eyeing Jackson as QB1, would be this — getting the finances in order with small moves like the ones mentioned by Krammer and Yates.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by