Vikings Remain in NFL’s Basement for One Area

Vikings Rookie Could Be X-Factor Moving Forward
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; A Minnesota Vikings helmet. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2023 Minnesota Vikings live in a familiar spot for oddsmakers’ projections. They’re slated to win 8.5 games this season, the same number slapped on their outlook at this time last year.

But that’s not all for “familiar stuff.” As of April 4th, the Vikings have the least cap space available leaguewide. Teams like the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers have north of $25 million remaining to sign a draft class and more free agents, while Minnesota has some pocket lint.

Vikings Remain in NFL’s Basement for One Area

The Vikings are in the basement financially at the moment. Here are the numbers from Over the Cap:

Least Cap Space Available,
as of April 4th, 2023:

28. Dolphins ($3.03M)
29. Commanders (2.42M)
30. Giants ($2.29M)
31. Buccaneers ($1.87M)
32. Vikings ($1.45M)

Revealing Quote about
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

So, now what?

Well, until general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pulls off a contractual restructure [or two] or some trades, Minnesota can sign no new free agents, at least not any that ordinary fans would recognize. The piggybank is slender. Free agency has hit Week Four, and most prominent players have ventured to new teams. But Odell Beckhams, Shaquill Griffins, Leonary Floyds, etc., can be signed. None of those are on the way until Adofo-Mensah gets nimble with player contracts.

Vikings Remain in
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) celebrates the win after the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The easiest method for cap navigability is Brian O’Neill. No, he’s not going anywhere, but his contract can be restructured somewhat simply, freeing up $10 million for 2023 — and that doesn’t involve any naughty void years. The measure could bring the Vikings to $11.45 million, enough to sign a draft class in May.

Thereafter comes the splashy stuff. On March 9th, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith tweeted, “I just want to say ‘Thank you!’ to Skol Nation for an amazing season & experience! Thank you to all of my Teammates, Coaches & the entire Minnesota Vikings Organization! 💜.”

The tweet sounded like a goodbye, but the Vikings did not release Smith, nor was he traded. Meanwhile, Minnesota signed Marcus Davenport for one year and $13 million. The Vikings will either have three productive pass rushers in Danielle Hunter, Smith, and Davenport — or Smith will be traded before or during the 2023 NFL Draft. And a Smith trade would fetch a mid-to-late round draft pick, plus $12.1 million in cap savings, bringing the Vikings to approximately $23.5 million after an O’Neill restructure.

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Finally — the Dalvin Cook saga. Adofo-Mensah re-signed Alexander Mattison in March for two years and $7 million. Cook had surgery to repair a bum shoulder and is under contract with the Vikings for a $14.1 million cap hit. It’s unlikely for Minnesota to keep that much cash allotted to running backs under the Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell regime. A running back by committee may be on the way — one that doesn’t involve Cook.

If the longtime Viking is traded, like Smith before or during the NFL draft, the transaction will save Minnesota $7.9 million, shoving the cap space number to about $30 million.

Ergo, that’s the blueprint if Vikings fans wonder, “Where will cap space come from?” A restructure without void years and two trades — boom, thirty million bucks and a couple of mid-to-late round draft picks.

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