The Vikings May Lose a First-Team All Pro in Free Agency
How much is too much for a long snapper? Does the number rise if we’re talking about the 2022 season’s first-team All Pro long snapper? Andrew DePaola, an 8-year NFL veteran, is set to enter free agency. He’s coming off an All-Pro season, but the Vikings may lose him.
Given that the budget is quite snug, one has to assume that retaining a top-tier long snapper isn’t a top priority. However, there’s something to be said for nailing the smaller details of winning football. No one cares about the snaps until they get wonky. Is DePaola coming back to Minnesota?
The Vikings May Lose All Pro Andrew DePaola
The sense one gets is that Andrew DePaola enjoys being a Viking. Nicknamed Sir Po by special teams coordinator Matt Daniels, DePaola appears perfectly comfortable in purple and gold.
He seemed genuinely moved to be named to the Pro Bowl.
Last year, the special teams had good and bad moments, sensational plays (the 61-yard FG) intermingled with mind-boggling errors (the kickoff coverage on the Keisean Nixon return). Through it all, DePaola was steady. He consistently delivered crisp snaps and even joined some of the tackling fun. The 35-year-old had 3 tackles. His career high is 4 tackles, a feat he accomplished in 2021 for Minnesota (and in TB in 2014 & 2015).
On PFF, there is the belief that Andrew DePaola was the season’s best long snapper: “PFF tracks accuracy on long snaps, and there has been no safer long snapper than DePaola, who had just four slightly off-target snaps all season.”
Think of long snapping similarly to throwing a football. Just as Kirk Cousins wants to locate the ball so that his receivers can pick up yards more easily, so too does the long snapper want to have pinpoint accuracy. Doing so allows the other specialists to have an easier time making a play.
The Dollars and Cents
For his career, Andrew DePaola has made a bit more than $6 million. By NFL standards, it’s a mere pittance, especially for someone who is already in his mid-30s. One has to assume that the veteran would welcome a reasonably large payday. Wouldn’t you?
His 2022 cap hit came in just a touch above $1 million. Currently, the LS with the largest cap hit heading into the 2023 season is the Chargers’ Josh Harris, who is scheduled to bring in $1.365 million.
To my mind – one that’s untrained in the fine art of solving the NFL’s salary cap puzzle – the Vikings should consider allowing DePaola to set the market at his position. Why move away from LS certainty and confidence in favor of saving a few hundred thousand? When a team’s payroll exceeds $220 million, the odd couple hundred thousand here or there shouldn’t cause Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to lose too much sleep.
Matt Daniels is responsible for building off his phase’s various strengths while eliminating the shortcomings. Opening more uncertainty by disrupting the long snapper position strikes me as something to avoid. In all likelihood, Minnesota’s offense is going to be top-level and the defense is going to take a step forward (Mr. Flores had an impressive press conference). Wouldn’t a sensational special teams bring it all together?
Last year, Minnesota had two All Pros. Justin Jefferson was the NFL’s WR1, earning All-Pro honors and the Offensive Player of the Year Award. DePaola was the other All Pro. His quiet excellence is an ideal that Minnesota likely wants to retain.
Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.