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How and who the Yannick Ngakoue trade will impact on the Vikings

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 8, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) celebrates after sacking Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough (not pictured) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings’ reported deal on Sunday to acquire defensive end Yannick Ngakoue from Jacksonville for a 2021 second- and a conditional 2022 fifth-round pick answers the question about how Minnesota plans to replace Everson Griffen at right end. But the move also creates other questions, some of which can be answered and some of which we’ll take our best shot on answering.

  • What does this mean for the salary cap? The Vikings entered Sunday with $12.5 million in cap space, according to the Over The Cap website, and Ngakoue was set to make $17.8 million under the franchise tag that the Jaguars had given him. Ngakoue hadn’t signed that contract but he did after the deal was done and then agreed to a revised one-year, $12 million deal with the Vikings, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. He had to play under a one-year contract for this season because the opportunity for a player with the franchise tag to do a multi-year deal passed in mid-July. Pelissero reported that Ngakoue’s agreement with the Vikings does not have a no-tag clause so the Vikings could put the franchise designation on him for 2021. Of course, it’s  likely Ngakoue and the Vikings will attempt to work out a long-term agreement after the year. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings attempt to give themselves some wiggle room under the cap in the coming days. ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported she was hearing left tackle Riley Reiff could be a “prime candidate” for a restructure.
  • What does this mean for Dalvin Cook? It’s likely not good news for the running back, who had been hoping the Vikings would reward him with a multi-year contract before the season begins. Cook is one of the most important pieces of the Vikings’ offense but he isn’t paid like it. He’s entering the final season of his rookie deal and is due to make only $1.3 million. Talks between Cook’s camp and the Vikings broke down a few weeks ago, in part because general manager Rick Spielman probably wanted to explore other opportunities, such as the Ngakoue trade. Odds seem good now that Cook will end up playing out his current deal.
  • What does it mean for Danielle Hunter on the field? This is great news for Hunter. Perhaps the NFL’s best left defensive end, Hunter will go from being paired with Everson Griffen on his right side to another standout in Ngakoue. Hunter and Ngakoue are both 25 and combined for 22.5 sacks last season. Any plan that opposing offenses had to shift additional attention to Hunter this season now will have to be re-examined.
  • What does it mean for Danielle Hunter off the field? This is where it gets interesting. Hunter’s current contract makes him the 18th highest-paid 4-3 defensive end in the NFL with an average salary of $14.4 million per season, according to Over The Cap. That’s an absolute bargain for the Vikings and Hunter won’t hit free agency until 2024. Ngakoue will arrive playing on a one-year contract, but odds are good the Vikings will try to get him signed long-term after this season. He’s going to want more than Hunter gets, but how’s that going to sit with Hunter? With the NFL salary cap possibly dropping from $198.2 million in 2020 to as low as $175 million in 2021 because of lost revenue from the pandemic season, this situation will become even more tricky for the Vikings.
  • What does it mean for Ifeadi Odenigbo? The expectation throughout training camp has been that Odenigbo was going to replace Griffen as the starting right defensive end. That’s no longer the case, although he remains a valuable backup. Odenigbo had seven sacks in 16 games last season and now could see time getting backup snaps at end and also inside. “We’ve used (Odenigbo) inside in the pass rush before so that’s probably a natural progression,” coach Mike Zimmer said Sunday.