Vikings Going Down to Wire with Cap Deadline

By next Wednesday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings and all other 31 NFL teams must be under the NFL’s salary cap threshold of $224.8 million. That’s six days away.

And as of Thursday morning, the Vikings are over the cap by about $15.6 million, the league’s sixth “worst” standing with free agency on the horizon.

Vikings Going Down to Wire with Cap Deadline

So, what’s the holdup? Well, the Vikings front office released linebacker Eric Kendricks on Monday, a shot-fired moment to kickstart the personnel portion of the offseason. The move saved Minnesota $9.5 million in 2023 cap space, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Vikings Going Down
Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah must enact more measures in the same ilk of the Kendricks release, or at the very least, begin a contract restructuring bonanza. Minnesota needs funds to sign new free agents — primarily on defense — and if free agency began today, it would have no money for anybody.

Of course, one pen stroke can alleviate Minnesota’s grim cap space plight, especially if Adofo-Mensah extends quarterback Kirk Cousins. If the Vikings ultimately extend Cousins beyond 2023 — a ginormous mystery at the moment — it could free up between $15-$23 million in this-year cap space.

It’s just unclear if Minnesota wants more of Cousins after 2023 when his deal runs out.

Vikings 1st Offseason
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) kneels in the huddle during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Otherwise, transactions like the Kendricks cut must be afoot. Cap-casualty players include Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Jordan Hicks, C.J. Ham, and perhaps even Za’Darius Smith. Releasing all five men — it would be unlikely for all to be scrapped — would plop the Vikings firmly under the cap and allow for the signing of external free agents next week.

The next method is restructuring. Adofo-Mensah can target Harrison Smith, Brian O’Neill, etc., for the proverbial “moving money around” song and dance prevalent around the NFL this week. The only difference, for now, between the Vikings and other clubs is that Minnesota hasn’t conducted any restructures this week, with the “legal tampering” part of free agency four days away.

Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah talks with head coach Kevin O’Connell prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Sliding under the cap — and then adding new players in free agency — is so vital because the club has affirmed this offseason its desire to contend for a Super Bowl once again in 2023. Every year, arguably since the start of 2016, the Vikings have proclaimed “all-in” Super Bowl stakes and therefore built a roster it deemed worthy of contention. And when new leaders in Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell entered the fold last offseason, the two embraced a “competitive rebuild” philosophy, meaning this brand of Vikings will never outright rebuild or tank.

The World Is Starting
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before a wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Overall, though, the offseason clock is ticking. It’s not an option to be over the cap after 3:00 pm CST next Wednesday. This means the next four days will be peppered with Vikings-themed news events, some possibly sorrowful, like the theoretical release of Thielen or Cook.

The Kendricks release surprised some, but that was just the beginning.

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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