The Minnesota Vikings were very active from the get-go of the negotiating period in the NFL, signing Kirk Cousins to a contract extension, franchise tagging Anthony Harris, signing Eric Wilson to a second-round RFA tender and re-signing Britton Colquitt and CJ Ham on Monday. With those moves in the books they have an estimated $7 million in cap space with plenty of needs remaining. How will they open up more room? Let’s have a look…
Pre-June 1 trade options
cap info via OverTheCap
The Vikings have a handful of players who both have trade value and would create cap space if they were dealt. The most notable is Anthony Harris, whose franchise tag is taking up $11.4 million presently. Certainly the Vikings and Harris could work out a long-term deal but if they aren’t on the same page in terms of dollars/length then the market would be chalk full of teams interested in the NFL leader in interceptions in 2019. It would be reasonable to think a high draft pick would come back in return for the ball-hawking safety. The Vikings need as much draft capital as they can get as they attempt to restock the cupboard on defense.
Riley Reiff wouldn’t garner quite as much interest as Harris, but tackles are hard to find and there are some seriously O-line desperate teams. The New York Jets, for example, only have two starting lineman and have whiffed on some top free agent names already. Even if the Vikings only got a mid-round pick in exchange, they would open $8.8 million in cap space. In a draft with as many as five tackles who have been projected in the first round they could find a replacement in late April and re-sign Rashod Hill as an insurance policy in case a rookie wasn’t ready right away. Unless, of course, they were trading Reiff as part of a deal to acquire another left tackle like Trent Williams or to create space for a free agent like Jason Peters.
Harrison Smith is still a superstar so trading him appears unlikely. However, it would open up $8.8 million in space and get a bundle in return. With a strong free agent market at safety, there is a case to be made to deal away the Vikings’ long-time safety in exchange for a high draft pick. But it would be tough to sell Mike Zimmer or Vikings fans on the idea.
Stefon Diggs has tweets that would suggest he’s on his way out of Minnesota but that doesn’t mean the Vikings want to move him right after signing Cousins to an extension. If they are worn down on his frustrations, the return would likely be impressive and it would open $5.5 million.
Kyle Rudolph would bring a hefty dead cap hit if he were traded but would also open up just over $3 million in space.
Post-June 1 trades
The problem with post-June 1 deals is that teams have pretty much settled on their roster by then. The cap benefits of trading players June 1 are across the board far better than before June. In that case a Diggs trade would net the Vikings $11.5 million, Reiff would net them $11 million, Anthony Barr deal would create more than $10 million and Rudolph just over $7 million.
The Vikings could release Reiff if he doesn’t have a trade market but it’s still questionable whether they would want to part ways with a tackle who has been largely solid for them over the last three years. They could instead choose to give him a contract extension to lower his immediate cap hit and eventually release him down the line. An extension for Harris could offer a much lower cap hit in Year 1 of a deal. Eric Kendricks’s deal isn’t set to run out until 2023 but he could also be an extension candidate. Same goes for Danielle Hunter. Restructuring Barr’s deal is among the possibilities but only if he would agree to a change.
There are less vital players who could add up to a decent chunk of space like guard Pat Elflein, who would give the Vikings $2.1 in space if he were released and the job turned over to fourth-rounder Dru Samia (assuming they didn’t chase a free agent guard). Cutting defensive tackle Shamar Stephen would create $2.4 million.
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