Currently, the Vikings’ 3rd-Largest Cap Hit is…Dead Money

Vikings Had the Worst Draft
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Money is all the craze among Vikings fans. Why? Well, because there is so little of it. The NFL’s legal tampering period begins at 11 CST and Minnesota still has negative cap space. Now, that isn’t going to limit them from verbally working on deals, but the budget needs to be in order for the official beginning of free agency: Wednesday, March 15 at 3 p.m. CST.

The wild thing is that as of right now, the Vikings’ 3rd-largest cap hit doesn’t belong to a player. Instead, it belongs to the leftover money of players who used to be on the roster. Dead money – when added all together – comes in at 3rd.

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Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) runs onto the field before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins, of course, is coming in at the top spot. His $36.25 million cap hit in 2023 easily dwarfs all other options, far surpassing Brian O’Neill’s – a restructure candidate – nearly $19.7 million hit. The next individual player is Harrison Smith, but his current $19.1 million hit is actually the 4th-most expensive hit on the books.

The dead money gets the bronze medal, coming in at a whopping $19,522,661.

The wild thing is that the number is likely to grow. What happens if the Dalvin Cook trade speculation isn’t all for nought? If the veteran RB gets shipped out of town, the Vikings will add on another $6,202,545 in dead money.

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Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs on the field during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

And what about the Za’Darius Smith situation? Perhaps the likeliest outcome is a trade given his self-professed desire to play with a different team. A departure for the still-strong EDGE would leave behind $3,333,334.

We could go on, dissecting the chances of piling on $11,747,648 from a Harrison Smith cut, $187,695 from a D.J. Wonnum departure, and/or $1,500,000 from a Jordan Hicks subtraction. Failing to extend Dalvin Tomlinson will kick another $7,500,000 on the pile.

A couple seasons ago, the Los Angeles Rams won the Lombardi Trophy with a truly ghastly dead cap bill: a stunning $49+ million. Kevin O’Connell was the offensive coordinator on that team, so Minnesota understands that huge dead money isn’t necessarily the death knell of a team’s competitive chances.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore the huge money that exists on the sidelines (so to speak). Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has had to navigate a tricky budget since taking over – in a lot of ways, it’s what he signed up for – so the current situation isn’t anything new.

Hopefully, the GM has a few tricks up his sleeve. The roster needs a lot of work and money isn’t particularly abundant. As the day proceeds, we’ll get further clarity on the purple budget for 2023 and beyond.

Editor’s Note: Information from Spotrac and Over the Cap helped with this piece.