The 4 Steps for the Vikings to go from Worst to First in Cap Space

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah Speaks at the 2023 NFL Combine
Mar 1, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As hard as it is to believe, there is a somewhat realistic path for the Vikings to hop atop the cap space hierarchy. Currently, they find themselves in the 32nd spot for cap room. It’s a reality that could change in a hurry.

I know, I know: all teams can create cap room. Minnesota’s ability to carve out more room is shared by essentially every other team. The point, folks, is simply to reiterate that the cap isn’t nearly as dire as some believe.

At present, Over the Cap has the Chicago Bears atop the NFL in salary cap space. Ryan Poles & Friends are working with a relatively monstrous $35,864,763. It’s nearly $10 million more than the next closest team, the Panthers who are down around $26.5 million in room. The Lions round out the top trio with a mighty $25.9 million in cap room (if we round up a touch).

Dec 4, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles looks on before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Scroll to the bottom of the overall list and you’ll find the Vikings, a team sitting on a paltry $1,458,867 in cap space. Nevertheless, the team still has a several moves ahead of them to carve out cap space.

Take a look at four moves that are reasonably likely to occur:

PlayerCap ManeuverSavings
O’Neill, BrianRestructure$10,065,000
Hockenson, T.J.Extension$6,599,200
Smith, Za’DariusTrade$12,156,861
Cook, DalvinTrade$7,898,727
Total Cap Room Added:$36,719,788

Now, what happens when we add that above listed number to the minuscule figure we got from the OTC chart? Well, the Vikings leapfrog the Bears for top spot in the NFL’s cap space list.

The Bears, if you recall, are at $35,864,763. The Vikings – if they completed the four moves in the above chart – would be at $38,178,655. Or, put differently, Minnesota would be in the top spot in the entire NFL.

Any unused cap space after signing their draft picks and some remaining free agents could be carried over into their 2024 budget (which is shaping up to be pretty robust). Not bad, eh?

Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebackers Danielle Hunter (99) and Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The crazy thing is that there’s still more that could be done. The likeliest scenario with Danielle Hunter has always been an extension. The veteran successfully transitioned to 3-4 OLB in 2022 and it’s very possible he shines (brightly) in the upcoming season. An extension could clear a touch above $3 million in space.

There are other extension candidates – Ezra Cleveland and Justin Jefferson come to mind – just as there are still cut candidates.

When we stand back, we can see that Minnesota’s GM is looking at several options for the Vikings. Trades, restructures, and extensions are the likeliest course of action for carving out added room.

After the draft takes place, expect Adofo-Mensah to pursue some of these maneuvers to get his budget in a better spot.

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