If the Vikings were hoping to trade Michael Pierce in order to free up salary cap room entering free agency, the team found that there might not be much of a market for the veteran nose tackle.
That point was driven home on Friday when the Chicago Bears reportedly decided to cut nose tackle Eddie Goldman after being unable to trade him. Goldman, 28, a second-round pick of the Bears in 2015, started 10 of the 14 games in which he played last season. Goldman would have carried a base salary of $8.76 million next season and a salary cap hit of $11.81 million. The Bears will save $6.66 million cap space by cutting him and take a dead cap hit of $5.15 million.
Pierce, 29, has played only eight games for the Vikings since signing a three-year, $27 million free agency contract in March 2020. He opted out for 2020 because of health-related concerns during the pandemic — pushing his contract through the 2023 season — and then was limited last season because of a partially torn triceps muscle.
Pierce is set to have a base salary of $7.9 million and a cap hit of $10.5 million in 2022. The Vikings would save $6.5 million to the cap by releasing him before the league year begins on Wednesday. The move would count as $4 million in dead money.
Pierce, who is listed at 6 feet, 340 pounds, is considered a good fit in the middle for the Vikings’ new 3-4 base defense but the team is currently $15.172 million over the cap, according to the Over The Cap website. Jettisoning Pierce would be a start for new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to get the Vikings to cap compliance by 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Other veterans to keep an eye on are wide receiver Adam Thielen, linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Danielle Hunter. Hunter is due to receive an $18 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year but that could be converted into a signing bonus in order to spread out the hit. It’s possible all three players could end up with reworked contracts, but, if quarterback Kirk Cousins stays under his current contract, some veterans almost certainly are going to have to go.
- There were rumblings that Hunter’s name came up in a discussion between the Vikings and Bills. Obviously, the asking price would be high for a pass-rusher like Hunter, even though he has played only seven games over the past two seasons. Darren (Doogie) Wolfson, the SKOR North Scoop Master, said that Hunter has no issues with making the move from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, in which he would be used as an outside linebacker.
- It sounds as if the Vikings would like to do an extension with Cousins, who is entering the final season of his contract and is set to count $45 million against the 2022 cap. That would be 21.5 percent of the Vikings’ cap for the season. Adofo-Mensah would like to get that number down, and keep Cousins around for a few more years, but so far the sides have been unable to reach an agreement.
- If Cousins is traded, the Indianapolis Colts would make sense as a landing spot. The Colts traded Carson Wentz after one season and are looking for a more reliable quarterback after just missing the playoffs last season. Cousins could provide that stability. The Colts also could easily afford Cousins’ contract, considering they are $69.806 million under the cap, giving them by far and away the most money to work with of any NFL team entering the league year.
- While NFL free agency doesn’t start until Wednesday, the legal tampering period is set to open at 11 a.m. Monday. Considering plenty of teams start tampering at the NFL Scouting Combine, look for deals to be reported quickly. They can’t officially be announced for another two days, but by that point the significant agreements all will be in place.
- The Vikings’ free agent shopping list — assuming they successfully free up some significant cap space — figures to include cornerbacks and interior offensive linemen. It’s uncertain if veteran corner Patrick Peterson will return after playing last season on a one-year contract. The Vikings could go one of two ways when it comes to the offensive line. They could look to replace Garrett Bradbury at center, or sign a veteran right guard and hope that player would help Bradbury, who has been a disappointment since being a first-round pick in 2019. Tampa Bay’s Ryan Jensen is considered by many to be the top free agent center on the market. The real question for the Vikings is whether 2021 third-round pick Wyatt Davis can be plugged in at right guard. Davis was expected to be given a chance to start last season but that never happened.
- New Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell is familiar with free agent offensive linemen Austin Corbett. Corbett started at right guard for the Super Bowl champion Rams this past season. He can play both guard spots and center, so he would bring valuable versatility. Brian Allen, the Rams’ starting center in 2021, also will be a free agent.
- ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Vikings taking Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II with the 12th pick in the first round of next month’s draft. Johnson, who is from Eden Prairie, had 12 sacks last season.
- Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, will be a busy man now that the MLB lockout is over and players are set to report to spring training on Sunday. With Opening Day set for April 7 against Seattle at Target Field, the Twins need to determine who will be their starting shortstop and also need to add to a starting rotation that is missing a proven veteran. The Twins will open their 19-game spring training schedule on Thursday against Boston and conclude it on April 5 against the Red Sox. Minnesota will play seven of the 19 games against Boston, its Fort Myers, Fla., neighbors.
- Many of the changes that will result from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and its players association won’t begin until 2023. This includes a move to fewer divisional games in the schedule. Every team will play at least one series against every other opponent, including the other league. This is great news for Twins fans because it means more variety and fewer games against teams like Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City.
- With the NHL trade deadline coming up March 21, the Top 5 players on TSN’s Trade Bait list are Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun; Philadelphia center/winger Claude Giroux; Montreal defenseman Ben Chiarot; Dallas defenseman John Klingberg; and Anaheim defenseman Josh Manson. As far as Giroux possibly landing with the Wild, it’s looking as if the favorites are Colorado, Florida and the Rangers. Giroux, 34, has a no-move clause so he can control where he goes.