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Happy New Year? Cash-strapped Vikings aren’t able to do much as NFL free agency opens

NFL: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams
Oct 26, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt (82) heads upfield during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings reached the NFL salary cap ($209.8 million) by 3 p.m. Wednesday, but with little to no wiggle room, the team opened the league year and the free agency period only able to announce it had agreed to terms with three players.

The news that defensive tackle Harrison Phillips had agreed to a three-year, $19.5 million contract with Minnesota was reported Monday, the first day of the NFL’s “legal tampering period.” The Vikings also agreed on a deal with blocking tight end Johnny Mundt. He will receive two-year, $2.45 million contract, according to Darren Wolfson of SKOR North.

Another name was added to the list later Wednesday when the Vikings announced that center/guard Austin Schlottmann had agreed to terms. The 26-year-old appeared in 42 games and made seven starts in three seasons with the Broncos.

He was on Denver’s practice squad for a year after playing college football at TCU and then signing in 2018 as an undrafted free agent. New Vikings offensive line coach Chris Kuper worked with Schlottmann while on Denver’s staff. Schlottmann played 52 offensive snaps last season, including 42 at center in a late-season loss at Las Vegas.

The Vikings plan to hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to introduce Phillips and linebacker Jordan Hicks, who on Tuesday agreed to a reported two-year contract that could pay him as much as $12 million. Hicks was released by the Arizona Cardinals last weekend.

Mundt comes to the Vikings after playing the past five seasons with the Rams. New Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips are familiar with the veteran from their time together in Los Angeles.

Mundt, who is 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, was an undrafted free agent out of Oregon and spent the 2017 season on the Rams’ practice squad. The 27-year-old has played in 47 career games with three starts but has only 10 career receptions on 13 targets for 93 yards. He has played 667 snaps on special teams as well. Last season, Mundt appeared in six games before being placed on injured reserve because of a torn ACL.

The Vikings also re-signed punter Jordan Berry on Wednesday.

The Vikings created some cap space on Tuesday by releasing nose tackle Michael Pierce, whose departure saved $6.235 million. Pierce will be replaced by Phillips, who had been with Buffalo.

The Vikings have the ability to create more cap room by restructuring or renegotiating contracts. Defensive end Danielle Hunter, for instance, is due an $18 million roster bonus on Sunday but that can be converted into a signing bonus to save $13.5 million on this year’s cap. The Vikings do not need Hunter’s permission to make that move.