With the NFL Draft over and 27 new faces added to the roster between the draft and undrafted free agency, the Minnesota Vikings’ 2020 team is mostly set. But their work is not completely done. Here’s a look at what they still need to accomplish before training camp (hopefully) begins…
Sign Dalvin Cook to a contract extension
Even with Justin Jefferson and Tajae Sharpe added to the mix with the 22nd overall pick and Irv Smith and Bisi Johnson looking at taking steps forward in ’20, Dalvin Cook is still the centerpiece of the Vikings’ offense. Last season he had the ninth most touches and sixth most yards from scrimmage despite battling a shoulder injury toward the end of the year. The Vikings have a solid backup running back in Alexander Mattison but did not add anyone else to the mix in the draft or free agency so it appears their plans are to lock up their dynamic runner to a long-term deal.
The price tag on a new contract is tough to figure because Cook has dealt with injuries and some recent RB contracts have gone south. However, the Panthers recently set the bar by agreed to a four-year, $64 million deal that puts his cap hit in the range of $7.8 million for the first year and jumps up over $12 million in years 2 and 3 of the contract.
Cook is currently set to carry a $2 million cap into the final year of his deal and the Vikings have just over $12 million to work with (per OverTheCap) before signing their draft class (which could cost in the $5 million range).
Sign Anthony Harris to a contract extension
ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported before the draft that the Vikings and Harris had re-opened talks. It would be rare for a team to spend over $20 million on their two safeties but the Vikings could justify doing so because their cornerbacks are presently all on rookie contracts. Their overall secondary spending would be only around $25-$27 million if Harris agrees to a deal that carries a reasonable cap hit.
When the offseason began it appeared the Vikings would allow Harris to hit the free agent market but they franchise tagged him shortly before the deadline. If he were to play on the tag, it would cost the Vikings over $11 million. That does not appear likely as an extension would open up some cap space to allow for Cook’s new deal and the addition of other free agents if needed.
The question is what Harris will be worth. He led the NFL in interceptions last season and helped the Vikings still rank 10th in QB rating allowed despite the poor play of two struggling cornerbacks. Is that worth over $10 million in average annual value? There are only 11 safeties who make $10 million-plus and one of them is Harrison Smith.
Chase remaining big fish in trade/free agency
The Vikings wouldn’t be left with much cap space if they were to sign both Cook and Harris to extensions but they might still be able to do something bold. Here’s a few examples:
— Trading Riley Reiff for a 2021 draft pick, starting rookie Ezra Cleveland or Rashod Hill and acquiring Patriots guard Joe Thuney (and then signing him to a contract extension)
— Offering a one-year deal to Jadeveon Clowney similar to that of Sheldon Richardson in 2018
— Bringing back Everson Griffen
— Signing Jason Peters to a one-year deal and restructuring Reiff’s contract
(It’s worth noting that the Vikings can create $11 million in cap space by trading Reiff after June 1, per OTC)
Fill out positions in need with bargain free agents
It probably wasn’t a mistake that the Vikings left several roster spots open with their draft/UDFA class. There are still veteran free agents that would make sense for the Vikings along the offensive line, defensive end and cornerback. Some examples:
— Ron Leary, Josh Kline and Kelechi Osemele could compete for interior O-line
— Terrell Suggs, Vinny Curry, Jabaal Sheard, Cameron Wake and Michael Bennett on the D-line
— Logan Ryan, Aqib Talib, Dre Kirkpatrick, Trumaine Johnson, Tramon Williams, Brandon Carr and Prince Amukamara at corner
With the NFC North in flux coming out of the draft, the Vikings could be more inspired to take some calculated risks before the dust settles on the offseason.