We’ll Soon Learn About Minnesota’s Willingness for the Cap Catapult

The 2023 budget doesn’t look very good, folks. Minnesota’s willingness to toss a pile of money into future seasons may be one of the main methods of fixing that issue.

Indeed, a tried and true method of carving out some more wiggle room in the immediate is to steal from future budgets. The NFL salary cap is a malleable monster, allowing teams to shuffle money around across different seasons to make the finances work. Every offseason, we see several teams catapult money into the future (with the Saints coming to represent a somewhat extreme example of this approach).

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Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

An article on Over the Cap indicates that Minnesota restructures, if pushed to the max, could create up to $102,426,050. Obviously, the team isn’t going to push things to the max, but the gaudy number underscores an important truth: the team has the potential to open a lot of cap room in 2023.

Minnesota’s Willingness for the Cap Catapult

Take a look at the projected cap space in the upcoming three seasons:

  • 2023: – $24,431,507
  • 2024: $98,565,857
  • 2025: $204,653,872

Now, we get that the final two numbers look humongous. The reason is because they are humongous.

That being said, an unwise GM can burn through cap space extremely quickly. Minnesota will almost certainly lean into the 2024 and 2025 budgets to help with 2023, but going crazy wouldn’t be the right approach.

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

One has to assume that players like Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, T.J. Hockenson, Justin Jefferson, and Ezra Cleveland are all extension candidates. Internal free agents like Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Garrett Bradbury, Andrew DePaola, and Duke Shelley could all be brought back on multi-year deals that kick more of the compensation into 2024, 2025, and/or beyond.

The point, folks, is that Kwesi could catapult current cap hits into the future. Doing so would lessen the immediate burden on the cap.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In reality, the Vikings will need to take a multifaceted approach for the salary cap. If, for instance, Minnesota was on the other extreme – the Bears have nearly $93 million in cap space already – then the job for the GM would be relatively simple. Being nearly $25 million over next season’s projected cap means that Adofo-Mensah doesn’t have the luxury of just simple tweaks here and there. Painful decisions will need to be made.

At 13-4, the Vikings have much to be proud of. Nevertheless, the lacklustre end to the season – complete with a brutal decision on the season’s final offensive play – casts a dark gloom over the year. In reality, the Vikings are a team with talent and the capacity to make some noise in 2023. They’re bringing back a young, promising head coach to keep building around the offense’s elite collection of young talent (Christian Darrisaw, Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson). And, the final play aside, Cousins had a marvellous 2022. Though getting older, Cousins is also getting better. Don’t lose sight of that fact.

We’ll soon learn more about Minnesota’s willingness to kick money into 2024 and 2025. If the team’s leadership believes that the team truly is a contender, then we could see them opt to rely on the trusty cap catapult to keep them in the race for top-tier talent in 2023.

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