Vikings Rumors: Shrinking Cap Space, The Dos Equis Hitman, & The Jefferson Extension Issue

The Vikings Can Eliminate Their Salary Cap Debt with 1 Move
Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) looks on prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Though we’re now into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors aren’t as abundant, we’ll still be highlighting some of the purple rumblings.

The “Vikings Rumor Wrangle” is a series that keeps readers informed on what’s being whispered about in Vikings Land. In this iteration, we discuss the team’s shrinking cap space, The Hitman being “the most interesting man in the world,” and the (potential) Justin Jefferson extension issue.

The Vikings Rumors – 09.06.2023

Rumor #1 — The Vikings’ Cap Space Has Shrunk By a Substantial Margin

Yes, that’s the word from Over the Cap, a leading authority on the NFL’s salary cap.

Prior to the weekend, the Vikings were sitting on a very healthy $14+ million in room. No longer. Currently, the team is operating with a budget that’s below $4 million. The reason for the adjustment is due to the offseason’s top-51 cut off being ended as the regular season arrives.

Every Draft Pick Kwesi Adofo-Mensah Has Played a Role in Making
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sport.

I’ll defer to OTC for the explanation: “Today you may have noticed a big change on OTC with every teams salary cap number’s with most teams cap room falling by a pretty sizeable amount. The reason for the change is that we have now made the change to regular season accounting for each team which means rosters count in full, including players on reserve lists, practice squads, etc…and those numbers add up quickly.”

The precise cap space number on OTC has the Vikings sitting at $3,574,328. For whatever it’s worth, Spotrac has the Vikings sitting at close to $8.5 million.

Rumor #2 — Minnesota’s Veteran Safety is in a Dead Heat with the Dos Equis Man

The recent piece on The Athletic from Alec Lewis puts Harrison Smith on a collision course with the Dos Equis man. After all, Lewis invites the comparison by titling his article, “Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith is the most interesting man in the world.

Readers familiar with the Dos Equis commercials will understand the reference taking place. Apparently, the beer character — who is constantly surrounded by beautiful women — can brag about sharks committing a full week to him, being able to touch the fine art at museums, and being responsible for giving his own father “the talk.” So, an interesting guy.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) celebrates a sack during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Lewis looks to upset the hitherto unchallenged spot for the world’s most interesting man title. One great tidbit from the piece rests in the revelation that Smith coached a flag football team for his college DB coach: “late in Smith’s college career, Martin asked him to coach his son’s flag football team. Martin’s son, Max, has special needs. Smith often went out of his way to speak and spend time with Max. Even after the Vikings drafted Smith in the first round, he kept in touch with Martin’s family.”

Shortly thereafter, Lewis reveals how Smith still made it a priority to be in touch with the family: “Then one Tuesday night in 2012, during Smith’s rookie season, a cardboard box appeared on Martin’s doorstep. The sender: Smith. Martin hauled the box inside and sliced it open. Inside was a note: ‘Hey, I thought Max would like this.’ Beneath the note was a football — the ball Smith had caught for his first NFL interception.”

Read the rest on The Athletic.

Rumor #3 — What’s the Issue with the Justin Jefferson Extension? A Theory.

Forced to predict without insider knowledge, I’d venture to guess that the problem is the backend of the deal. More specifically, how much guaranteed money is given to Jefferson as he gets into the final seasons of the contract?

Think of the recent T.J. Hockenson deal as being illustrative of how Kwesi Adofo-Mensah likes to do business. Yes, the headlines feature some eye-popping numbers, but a quick look under the hood reveals how the GM has protected his side. In 2026 (year four of the deal), the Vikings can cut the TE1 to save $12.4 million with a $7.2 million dead hit. In 2027 (the final year), the Vikings can cut Hockenson for a savings of $18 million while leaving behind $3.6 million in dead money.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Why does that matter? Well, it gives the team a pile of leverage in the future. Essentially, the Vikings have committed themselves to three more years of Hockenson in Minnesota, a desirable outcome given the ability he has shown. After those three years, though, the team itself will carry a good amount of bargaining power since they’re able to approach the player about a new deal while pointing to a cut as a real possibility.

Adofo-Mensah pursued a similar structure with Za’Darius Smith. After all, trading the pass rusher left behind just $4.5 million in dead money even though he had just signed a 3-year, $42 million deal a year prior (yes, there were some cap shenanigans to make the swap work, but the overall sentiment holds).

One wonders if Jefferson is looking to give himself more power down the road. What that means is a hearty amount of fully guaranteed cash that runs through the lifetime of the deal rather than mostly being clustered up front. Now, that’s mere speculation from yours truly, but it’s something to keep in mind given what we know of the major deals Kwesi has done.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full-time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.