Vikings Rank 8th in Cap Space — 3 Ways to Use It

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

The Vikings started the offseason with huge salary cap problems. They were roughly $23 million over the cap, and no single move could get them out of that jam.

Vikings Rank 8th in Cap Space — 3 Ways to Use It

Multiple moves had to be made, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pulled them off. He released Eric Kendricks, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook, which saved about $24.6 million. Harrison Smith agreed to a paycut, and some of Kirk Cousins’ cap hit was pushed into 2024.

According to Over the Cap, the Vikings sit pretty with $17,809,972 in the eighth spot of the salary cap space rankings in the NFL. They are also 12th in salary cap space in 2024. Adofo-Mensah got rid of some bad contracts, which might slightly hurt the team in 2023, especially if the young replacements — Brian Asamoah, Jordan Addison, and the running back committee — don’t live up to their potential, but it will surely benefit the organization longterm. How could the Vikings use their almost $18 million in salary cap space?

Extend Danielle Hunter’s Contract

This is the most sensible one. Some might wonder why they shouldn’t use it to extend Justin Jefferson’s deal or even T.J. Hockenson’s. Jefferson is still on his rookie contract; an extension won’t kick in now, and Hockenson’s cap hit could even decrease with an extension.

Vikings Rank 8th
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Hunter has been the team’s most disruptive player up front for years and is arguably the top defender on the roster. Trade rumors have surfaced, mainly because he is only getting paid $5.5 million in the 2023 season. The Vikes can’t afford to displease and trade away their top pass rusher in a year when they hope to fix the struggling defensive unit.

He will likely demand a salary of $20 million or more, and the Vikings should accept unless it is a ridiculously high number. Hunter deserves to be paid as an elite pass rusher after finishing last season in the top 10 via quarterback pressures and hurries while providing his usual excellent run defense. The infusion in cap space after Cook’s departure will help take care of Hunter.

Fix a Problem

There’s not much left in free agency at this time of the year. However, some players could still upgrade a position of need in Minnesota. One of the Vikes’ problems in recent years has been the offensive line. The two tackles, Darrisaw and O’Neill, are fantastic players, but the interior is often problematic, specifically in pass protection.

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Dalton Risner, a good pass protector, is available and could slide in for Ed Ingram. The 2022 rookie improved late in the season, but only time will tell if he can make a sophomore jump. Adofo-Mensah could also think about trading away Ezra Cleveland and filling the void on the left side with Risner. Kevin O’Connell runs a pass-heavy system, and Risner is a better pass blocker than Cleveland.

Marcus Peters, a former All-Pro cornerback, could provide some experience and veteran leadership to the young CB group, and Kyle Van Noy is a potential target at linebacker.

The Vikings coaching staff evaluates their guys in practice, and if some of the young players don’t live up to their hype, a veteran addition could make sense. Adofo-Mensah could also facilitate a trade for a player, something he apparently likes to do. He has already added Jalen Reagor, Ross Blacklock, and T.J. Hockenson via trade.

Holding On to the Cap Space

If the Vikings are happy with their constructed roster, they could just keep the cap space. The good thing is it just rolls over to the 2024 offseason and increases next year’s cap space by the unused 2023 number.

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That can be a good idea for various reasons. One is the expiring contracts. A theoretical Kirk Cousins extension next year is expensive, just like keeping guys such as Marcus Davenport, K.J. Osborn, and Ezra Cleveland. Jefferson’s extension will cost a lot of money in the future, starting with the fifth-year option in nine months.

Adofo-Mensah could also go on a shopping spree with his gargantuan cap space next offseason and sign some premier players. The Vikings are usually out on the elite players that hit the open market because they never have the funds, but that could change next offseason.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt