Minnesota Gambled on Void Years; It Didn’t Pay Off

Anthony Barr
Oct 13, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard (24) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota was able to make the finances work in 2021 largely because they decided to rely on void years. That decision comes with some consequences.

In 2022, the Vikings will be paying a fair bit of money to players who won’t be on the roster. Anthony Barr will have a cap hit just under $10 million. Sheldon Richardson will leave behind a little over a million. Dalvin Tomlinson will actually play for the team in 2022 (unless something unusual happens), but he’ll leave behind a $7.5 million cap charge in 2023.

Void years, in essence, are about stealing from the future to pay for the here and now, and Minnesota became one of the teams to lean on this strategy with the pandemic running amok on NFL finances. Take Barr, for instance. His contract was renegotiated to lower his cap hit in 2021 to just over $6 million. The cost of that move, though, was two void years on the backend of the deal. $4.945 million got spread out over 2022 and 2023, but they’ll likely combine to hit the 2022 budget. The Vikings could opt for a post-June 1 designation to spread that money out over 2022 and 2023. Again, though, it’s a move that steals from the future to help the present.

The unfortunate result, then, is that Minnesota will need to deal with the consequences of the void years when the new leadership arrives.

The dead money isn’t necessarily back breaking, and yet it’s another financial hurdle to clear. As I recently discussed, the incoming GM will need to be adept at maneuvering NFL finances. One wonders if the new GM will squeeze vets like Michael Pierce, Eric Kendricks, and Adam Thielen. A partial solution to the financial woes potentially rests in playing hardball with these aforementioned players, insisting that it’s a pay cut or the highway. I don’t necessarily think that’s the right approach, though it’s one that is very possible.

When folks say the salary cap is imaginary, don’t believe them. I’ve fallen into this trap at various points. The salary cap is malleable, not imaginary. It’s relatively easy to move money around, but the money will one day be spent. The void years show that the 2021 priority means the 2022 season will be a touch more difficult.