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Minnesota Vikings’ salary cap situation heading into 2021

Heading into the 2021 NFL season, what is the Vikings’ salary cap situation, and which players could they move on from this offseason?

Minnesota Vikings salary cap situation heading into 2021
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 16: Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) looks on in action during a NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears on November 16, 2020 at Soldier Field, in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After a disappointing season for the team in 2020, the Minnesota Vikings head towards the 2021 NFL league year with some questions to answer regarding their salary cap situation. Let’s take a look at how much salary cap space the Vikings have available in 2021, and what potential options they have to open up more space.

The Vikings currently project to be around $10 million over the salary cap in 2021

According to Adam Schefter’s report, the salary cap for the 2021 season is expected to be around $180-181 million. The Vikings have an additional $4.5 million in cap space to roll over from the 2020 NFL season. Therefore, the Vikings are projected to have a salary cap of around $185 million in 2021. However, as Tony Pauline reported on the February 17th Draft Insiders show, the cap could be set higher than $181 million next season.

Related | Top Minnesota Vikings’ pending free agents in 2021

As it stands on February 18th, the Vikings are heading into the 2021 season around $10 million over their projected salary cap. Therefore, the Vikings will need to address this situation to ensure they are below the salary cap at the start of the new league year on March 17th.

Who are some potential candidates for the Minnesota Vikings to move on from in the coming weeks?

The Vikings have several options when it comes to clearing salary cap space ahead of the 2021 NFL league year. However, as a team somewhat stranded in no man’s land after a disappointing 2020 season, some tough decisions are on the horizon.

Could the Vikings find a way to move on from Kirk Cousins this offseason?

The structure of Kirk Cousins’ contract makes it tough for the Vikings to release him this offseason. Cousins’ 2021 salary ($21 million) is fully guaranteed, meaning the Vikings would not save any cap space by releasing him.

Entering 2021, Cousins is set to count $31 million against the Vikings’ salary cap. However, $10 million of that cap number is prorated signing bonus money when Cousins signed his extension. That money will remain on the Vikings’ salary cap in 2021 regardless of whether Cousins is on the team or not. Additionally, if Cousins were to be traded, the $10 million in prorated bonus money due on the cap in 2022 would accelerate onto the Vikings’ salary cap in 2021.

Therefore, if the Vikings were to trade Cousins, they would save $11 million in salary cap space. That would see the Vikings carry a $20 million dead money charge on their salary cap in 2021.

Related | The highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL in 2021

However, Cousins is set to count $45 million against the Vikings’ salary cap in 2022. On the third day of the 2021 league year, Cousin’s salary for 2022 ($35 million) becomes fully guaranteed. Therefore, the Vikings may be willing to take $11 million in savings in 2021 to avoid a headache with Cousins in 2022.

Could the Vikings look to move on from Anthony Barr?

Anthony Barr played just 94 defensive snaps for the Vikings in 2020. In 2021, Barr is due to count $15 million against the Vikings’ salary cap. The Vikings could save $7.3 million by releasing Barr. However, that is complicated by the injury suffered by Barr in Week 2 of the 2020 season. $7.5 million of Barr’s 2021 salary is guaranteed for injury.

Therefore, if he did not pass a medical after being released, that money would remain on the Vikings’ salary cap in 2021. Additionally, if the Vikings do not release Barr ahead of March 20th, $7.1 million of that becomes fully guaranteed this season. Therefore, that would negate any of the savings for the Vikings from releasing the linebacker.

Which other players could the Vikings consider releasing this offseason?

With the Vikings set to be over the salary cap for 2021, even small money savings could be important. One of the bigger savings would be Harrison Smith.

Smith is going into the final year of his deal with a cap number of $10.25 million. Releasing or trading Smith could see the Vikings save all of that cap number. There is no prorated bonus money remaining on Smith’s deal, and his 2021 salary is not guaranteed. However, Smith has been a reliable part of the Vikings’ defense and could therefore be a player they look to extend instead.

In contrast, the likes of Kyle Rudolph and Shamar Stephen could be released. Releasing Rudolph would see the Vikings open up around $5 million cap space while leaving $4.35 million in dead money. Releasing Stephen would open up a further $3.75 million.

Another name that could clear close to $3 million in cap space is right tackle Brian O’Neill. However, O’Neill produced serviceable results at the position in 2020 and offers value on his rookie deal.

Other names to look out for as potential cut candidates include:

  • Dan Bailey, K
  • Britton Colquitt, P

Could the Vikings look to restructure or extend contracts to save salary cap space in 2021?

The Vikings have a handful of contracts they may look to restructure or extend ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Could the Vikings look to restructure Danielle Hunter’s contract?

After Kirk Cousins, the Minnesota player with the biggest salary cap number in 2021 is defensive end Danielle Hunter. Hunter did not play a single snap for the Vikings in the 2020 NFL season.

Related | Vikings Pre-Senior Bowl 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

Entering the third year of his five-year contract extension, the Vikings may need to make a decision with Hunter. Releasing or trading him would leave $12 million in dead money. While that is a saving of $5.25 million, it is a lot to also be giving up a player of Hunter’s quality.

Therefore, a restructure could be a better short-term option. The Vikings could save $7.5 million by converting a portion of Hunter’s base salary and bonuses into a signing bonus. That would increase his cap numbers in 2022 and 2023 by up to $3.75 million. The Vikings did a similar restructure prior to the 2020 season.

However, with Hunter having missed an entire season through injury, the Vikings may be hesitant to push dead money into the future of the contract.

Which other players could get an extension or have their contract restructured?

Riley Reiff is another player who already restructured his contract in 2020. With a $14.95 million salary cap number for the Vikings in 2021, the Vikings could look to finagle his salary again this season. If the Vikings were to release Reiff, they would save $11.75 million. However, a restructure would allow them to keep their left tackle and reduce their salary cap number.

The Vikings could also look to restructure deals for Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks. Those two combined are set to count a total of $25 million against the Vikings’ 2021 salary cap.  Restructuring both deals could save as much as $12.5 million.

Want more NFL news and analysis?

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay up to date with all things around the NFL. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis concerning the 2020 season and beyond.

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