These Are the Vikings 7 Possible Cap Casualties

5 Pending Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings are on the wrong side of the NFL’s salary cap as of February 7th by about $23 million. Per Over the Cap, the franchise is in the league’s third-worst financial standing as free agency begins in five weeks.

Of course, there is no reason for panic as the Vikings are always in this spot, content with renewing Super Bowl stakes annually and hence underwater via the salary cap entering the offseason. Like every offseason from the last half-decade, Minnesota will navigate the cap, get right-side-up, and sign free agents.

These Are the Vikings 7 Possible Cap Casualties

To do so, though, some longtime Vikings will depart the team. These are the seven possible cap casualty candidates, with the disclaimer that not all seven will leave the organization. They’re just the most likely per cap standing. The players are ranked in alphabetical order.

1. Dalvin Cook (RB)

These Are the Vikings 7
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2023 Cap Hit: $14.0 million
Cap Savings if Cut before 6/1: $7.8 million
Cap Savings if Cut after 6/1: $11.0 million

One of the most fascinating names on the list, Cook’s future with the Vikings is in real jeopardy. He ripped off about four humongous plays in 2022 — which were excellent and game-changing — but his Rush Yards over Expected dipped in 2022.

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He could be a trade candidate if another team would like to donate a mid or late-round draft pick to the Vikings. Otherwise, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could outright release the 27-year-old.

Why cut Cook? The Adofo-Mensah + Kevin O’Connell tandem may not believe in the efficacy of paying top dollar to aging running backs.

2. C.J. Ham (FB)

The Vikings 2022 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 15
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2023 Cap Hit: $3.8 million
Cap Savings if Cut before 6/1: $3.05 million
Cap Savings if Cut after 6/1:
n/a

Listen, Ham is a wonderful football player. There’s no other way to dice it.

But the O’Connell Vikings don’t really use fullbacks. Zimmer’s Vikings did, but 2022 was markedly different.

Ham played 15% of offensive snaps in O’Connell’s first year, which may not be worth the $3.8 million cap hit in 2023. Many Vikings fans believed Ham would be released last summer during roster trimdowns.

3. Jordan Hicks (LB)

The Vikings Top Defensive Performers at Commanders, per PFF
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2023 Cap Hit: $6.5 million
Cap Savings if Cut before 6/1: $5.0 million
Cap Savings if Cut after 6/1:
n/a

Probably the most likely on the list to leave the Vikings, Hicks’ replacement is already on the roster. He’s Brian Asamoah, who shined in minimal opportunities last year.

A lack of speed was part of the knock on Ed Donatell’s 2022 defense. Asamoah will fix that, and he plays Hicks’ position.

This could be the very first offseason move for the Vikings, cutting Hicks.

4. Eric Kendricks (LB)

Vikings Depth Chart Ahead of Week 9 at Commanders
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2023 Cap Hit: $11.43 million
Cap Savings if Cut before 6/1: $9.5 million
Cap Savings if Cut after 6/1:
n/a

A sad one here, Minnesota could take the combined $14.5 million in cap savings from the theoretical cuts of Kendricks and Hicks and sign a linebacker like Tremaine Edmunds in free agency. Given a choice as general manager, wouldn’t you do that?

Asamoah will start in one off-ball linebacker spot, and a new personality like Edmunds, David Long from the Tennesee Titans, or Trenton Simpson from the 2023 NFL Draft could be on the way.

5. Chris Reed (G/C)

Vikings Could Get 2 Linemen
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2023 Cap Hit: $2.75 million
Cap Savings if Cut before 6/1: $2.5 million
Cap Savings if Cut after 6/1:
n/a

Reed isn’t very expensive, and he proved rather valuable after getting his footing underneath him in Week 18 and the playoffs.

The Vikings already have an established offensive line without Reed — he’s normally a backup guard — and Adofo-Mensah must decide if $2.75 million is a reasonable price for an RG2.

6. Za’Darius Smith (OLB)

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2023 Cap Hit: $15.49 million
Cap Savings if Cut before 6/1: $12.15 million
Cap Savings if Cut after 6/1:
$13.82 million

The hire of Brian Flores substantially reduces the probability of a Smith release. But it must be mentioned because the cap savings are glaring. Smith stopped tabulating sacks in the season’s final nine games, but he did force quarterback pressures.

Perhaps the Vikings commit to Danielle Hunter, release Smith, and draft an EDGE rusher with a high-round draft pick (who would be cheap). We shall see — possible, not probable.

7. Adam Thielen (WR)

Vikings Depth Chart -- Week 17 at Bears
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2023 Cap Hit: $19.96 million
Cap Savings if Cut before 6/1: $6.41 million
Cap Savings if Cut after 6/1: $13.41 million

Twenty million dollars is a little expensive for a soon-to-be 33-year-old wide receiver that tallied 716 receiving yards as Justin Jefferson’s WR2 complement. It just is — even for Mr. Minnesota himself.

This situation will result in a contractual restructure, trade, or outright release. It is severely unlikely for the Vikings to roll with Thielen as the bonafide WR2 at a $20 million price tag next fall. Something’s gotta give.


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 OverTheCap.com.