The Vikings’ Most Lucrative Cap Savings Option is Also their Most Important

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Technically, the top spots belong to a couple of trade possibilities.

The Vikings’ most lucrative moves for the 2024 budget — as in, the singular decisions they can make to carve out the most cap space in the present moment — involve trading out players who aren’t going anywhere. Shipping Justin Jefferson to the highest bidder would mean clearing the receiver’s entire $19,743,000.

Justin Jefferson
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And then there’s Brian O’Neill, a stud at right tackle and team captain. The 28-year-old offensive lineman bounced back from serious injury last season, putting together yet another excellent year. If, for some mysterious reason, Minnesota wanted to trade O’Neill after June 1st, then the 2024 cap could see an increase of $14,911,765.

The issue with pursuing these paths is that they’re paths that aren’t worth pursuing. Jefferson isn’t going anywhere, folks, and neither is O’Neill. Eliminating the trade options, then, brings us around to the next most lucrative option: an extension for #18.

The Vikings’ Most Lucrative Cap Clearing Option

Minnesota’s cap room is a bit like an accordion, moving back and forth as contracts get done and undone. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is thus moving ahead with plenty of options.

The GM is getting his rookies under contract, a process that will involve the cap space shrinking by a decent bit. Over the Cap projects the open room to shrink from roughly $16.7 million to somewhere closer to $5.5 million due to the $11M+ price tag for the draft class. So, better than nothing, but not an earth-shattering amount of spending power.

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Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Adofo-Mensah decides he’d prefer to have a bit more wiggle room. What kind of options are in front of him?

The single move — or, at least, the single realistic move — to put maximum cap space into the coffer is to extend Justin Jefferson. Per OTC, doing so could lead to a maximum savings of $14,894,400. Not bad, eh?

To be sure, Minnesota could pursue all kinds of options to carve out more room. Extending Byron Murphy and Harrison Phillips seem like wise decisions given that we’re talking about the team’s CB1 and DT1. Both are coming off strong seasons and both are entering the final year within their contracts. Combined, the pair could offer more than $10 million in 2024 savings through extension.

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So, too, could savings be found in the contracts for players like T.J. Hockenson and Brian O’Neill. No trades or cuts needed, just some willingness to shuffle money around via restructure. Or, put differently, put cap charges into the future for the sake of immediate benefit.

But while all of these options have merit and varying levels of probability, the Justin Jefferson option still stands out. Keeping the team’s undisputed best player for the long haul could also mean clearing a ton of money, a double-whammy for the cap-conscious Vikings fans who are suckers for elite receiver play.

Jefferson, who will turn 25 in June, picked up 68 catches, 1,074 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns in 2023.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.