Each year the NFL adjusts it’s salary cap to deal with things like rising player contract costs, and each year (at least in recent times) that number goes up around $10 million. It was that thinking, to me, that made me feel like signing Cousins to a deal that had a final yearly salary of $31 million guaranteed was really not that big of a deal, as they’d essentially be breaking even in 2020 and have the remaining 2018 salary cap amount for the rest of the team.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m bad at predicting such things, as the team entered the off-season with negative (over… or under) $12 million in cap space, 19 pending free agents and even after allowing Everson Griffen to opt out of his deal, the least amount of cap space in the entire NFL (you know you’re in bad shape when you shed a superstar defensive end’s contract and you’re still in dead last place in cap space).
Speaking of bad predictions the people over at sites like Sportrac/OvertheCap.com… I’ll let our managing editor Sean Borman explain:
That ~ $16 million, or…
…$16,082,736 to be exact, would be enough for the team to re-sign someone like Anthony Harris, who reportedly/ definitely “wants to stay with the Vikings” but is said to be in the position to command as much as $10 million this off-season.
However, that would leave the team without Trae Waynes, who may be the most underappreciated and respected players on the Vikings roster in the past twenty years). Considering the fact that team leader and quarterback Kirk Cousins has reportedly turned down multiple “team friendly” offers from the Vikings, who were hoping that he’d sign something that’d lower his 2020 cap hit prior to Wednesday’s start of free agency, it’s looking like the Vikings are going to have to look elsewhere to find more cap space, at least if they wish to retain Harris, Waynes or Mackenzie Alexander.
But the other news of the day is that they’re trying to resign Kicker Dan Bailey.
With Xavier Rhodes (and Linval Joseph, the aforementioned Griffen, and tight end David Morgan) also being released in the lead up to free agency, the Vikings are currently looking at a scenario in which they could theoretically be without their two starting corners, one of their starting safeties and their nickel corner from 2019 come 2020.
While this off-season has been a nightmare for a multitude of reasons, that would be a nightmare scenario that would necessitate a complete rebuild, at least of the defense. Whether or not the team believes head coach and, let’s be real, glorified defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is the man for that job could remain to be seen.
However, they gave him over half-a-decade, every cent in the coffers, and a ton of early round draft picks …. picks that I remind you could’ve gone to at least help build the offensive line, especially after multiple promising seasons ended because of either patchwork lines falling apart as patchwork, anything, will do or just terrible to god awful lines finally catching up with the team when it mattered most… to build the defense of his dreams, and considering the fact that the peak of that unit was getting exposed in an NFC Championship game by a back up quarterback (as both the head coach in Doug Pederson, and the quarterback on the field in Nick Foles), and it’s pretty clear at least where my vote lies in that regard.
While it’s not up to me, it’s beginning to feel more and more like this Vikings team is on the precipice of a rebuild. Losing that many core players, players that many of us thought were signed through 2023, after a season in which the Vikings ran into a team that seemed to just be discovering their potential in the San Francisco 49ers, seems like just too much for this franchise to not only bounce back from in 2020, but somehow bounce back from and surpass their 2019 results.
I have been openly against the idea that the Vikings should trade Kirk Cousins to the 49ers for Jimmy Garoppolo, and while I still think that Jimmy G. is a flawed (but still learning) quarterback, he’s better than the alternative.
That alternative being the team paying Cousins $31 million in a wasted year before he departs for $35 million a season in the Bay Area, or the team drafting his replacement in this or next years draft. While Vikings general manager Rick Spielman (whose contract is also up for renewal after this next season) has had tremendous success drafting defensive players, most of that could and should be credited to Zimmer, who does have a knack for identifying and developing talent for his system (even if the outcome of that isn’t the dominant defense we all hoped he’d bring to Minnesota).
Spielman’s success, or lack thereof, on the offensive side of the ball is a completely different story. If not for a fifth-round and undrafted free agent signing in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, respectively, the Vikings offense would have essentially no one to throw to as Spielman has time and time again blown early round picks on receivers from the SEC, the best of which ended up being Jarius Wright, or perhaps Percy Harvin if you count what the Vikings got in return for him in that trade with Seattle.
Add to that a 40-year history of misfires, aging superstars and injuries at the position and it’s hard to believe that the team will nail the pick for their next quarterback regardless of what round he is draft in this or next year’s draft.
At least next season they’ll have around another $10 million in cap room to use (or $12 million, according to Sportrac?).