Vikings Will Sign a 3rd Rookie Despite Depleted Cap. What Gives?

NCAA Football: PAC-12 Football Championship-Southern California at Utah
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

First, there was DT Jaquelin Roy. Second, there was Jay Ward, the versatile DB. Third? The Vikings will sign Mekhi Blackmon.

According to KSTP’s Darren Wolfson, the young corner is the next one to come to an agreement. Take a look at how Wolfson frames the situation: “Vikings rookie corner Mekhi Blackmon will sign his standard 4-year rookie contract today.” Simple, declarative, to the point. Blackmon is going to sign his deal.

NCAA Football: Southern California at UCLA
Nov 19, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins wide receiver Jake Bobo (9) is hit out of bounds by Southern California Trojans defensive back Mekhi Blackmon (6) during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

By this point, some Vikings fans may be confused about the situation. Doesn’t the team have just a bit more than $1 million in cap space? Aren’t all of these players carrying cap hits that will individually count as close to $1 million? How is all of this math working out?

Well, quite simple: the NFL has a cutoff for the offseason so that the 90-man roster can exceed the year’s cap allotment. If we added every contract together, the Vikings would be well past the threshold. Here’s the thing, though: that applies to pretty much every team.

The NFL understands the situation and has relaxed the rules a touch to make the offseason roster tenable. Only the top 51 contracts count against the cap. For Minnesota’s purposes, that means every deal at $940,000 or less – such as Roy and Ward – don’t count against the cap room during the offseason.

Blackmon’s deal will count, but by just a tiny bit. Over the Cap says the deal will carry a $964,379 cap charge in 2023. In other words, officially welcoming Blackmon onto the team will deplete the cap space by … around $25,000. In normal life, that’s a huge amount of money. In the NFL? A mere pittance.

Jersey Numbers
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the draft picks, Addison will easily have the largest contract. The deals available to a drafted rookie are quite limited. In essence, there may be some quibbling about some of the wording, but the overall amount paid is fairly plug and chug. He’s estimated to have a cap hit just under $2.5 million (cap room the team doesn’t currently have).

The team can create space by leaning on a Brian O’Neill restructure, T.J. Hockenson extension, Danielle Hunter extension, and/or maybe even some sort of reworked deal for Za’Darius Smith to stick around town. Keeping the former Packer would give the Vikings a shot at having the NFL’s most fearsome pass rushing department.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon (28) and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) in action at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

So, take the news in stride as we understand that there are perfectly reasonable ways of creating a bit more room to come to further agreements. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah isn’t done yet.

Mekhi Blackmon is going to compete for snaps from the outset. He enters a corner competition that is uncertain except for Byron Murphy, who is the undisputed leader in the race to be Minnesota’s CB1. The CB2 and CB3 jobs are far less certain.

The rookie – fresh off his new deal – will be hoping to prove early on that he’s capable of getting onto the field as early as 2023. His skills should fit well with what Brian Flores is looking to accomplish.

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