How The Vikings Can Create $100 Million in Cap Space

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18), and wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrate the win against the New England Patriots after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings can create a lot of cap space for their 2023 budget.

Fresh of a brutal loss to the New York Giants, Vikings fans are setting their sights on the future. Don’t let the sterling record fool you: this is a team that needs a ton of work. Given that Minnesota currently has negative cap space (a $19,381,507 million deficit on Over the Cap; a $8,094,694 deficit on Spotrac), the Vikings will need to get creative with their budget.

As a result, I’ve decided to do a bit of number crunching to give fans a sense of the possibilities. Keep in mind that the breakdown is neither predictive nor prescriptive. I’m not saying that this is what the Vikings will do or that this is what the Vikings should do. Rather, the point is merely to highlight an intentionally absurd path toward a pile of cap room.

The Vikings Can Create Plenty of Cap Space

Quite often, cutting a player isn’t the best route if the ultimate goal is more financial wiggle room. Extensions are one way forward, providing the schrewd GM with the ability to kick money into future years in order to free up more room in the immediate.

Below, you’ll see three players who could all plausibly be heading toward an extension. If all three get brought to the maximum savings for 2023, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will have more than $30 million to help.

PlayerCurrent Cap HitPotential Savings
Cousins, Kirk$36,250,000$23,068,000
Hockenson, T.J$9,329,000$6,599,200
Hunter, Danielle$13,120,000$3,068,000
Numbers from Over the Cap

For whatever it’s worth, I think all three will be extended this offseason. They all played very well in 2022, so it makes sense that Minnesota would look to them for some immediate cap relief.

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Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Next, take a look at the possible cap savings from some cuts.

PlayerCurrent Cap HitPotential Savings
Smith, Za’Darius$16,990,195$13,656,861
Kendricks, Eric$11,430,000$9,500,000
Cook, Dalvin$14,101,272$7,898,727
Smith, Harrison$19,127,647$7,379,999
Thielen, Adam$19,967,647$6,417,647
Hicks, Jordan$6,500,000$5,000,000
Ham, C.J. $3,800,000$3,050,000
Dantzler, Cameron$2,968,750$2,745,000
Wonnum, D.J.$2,932,695$2,745,000
Reed, Chris$2,750,000$2,500,000
TOTAL: $60,893,234
Numbers from Over the Cap

As you can see, there is the potential to free up lots of dough through simple cuts. Every year, teams move on from players in order to infuse their budget with a little more flexibility. One has to assume Minnesota will be no different during the 2023 offseason. Some cuts will be made.

Now, the math wizards in the crowd will tell you that the above listed totals only get us a touch past $93.6 million. The title promises more than $100 million, so there’s some money that needs scrounging. We need to come up with $6.4 million to surpass the triple digit mark.

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Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) leads his team to the field to play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota could clear the $100 million benchmark if they decided to trade Brian O’Neill and Ezra Cleveland. Or they could cut Ross Blacklock, Johnny Mundt, James Lynch, Troy Dye, and Cleveland. Or they could do any number of other things.

They could even look toward post June-1 cuts, thereby lessening the burden of dead cap hits for the 2023 season. Designating The Hitman as a post-June 1 cut would offer Minnesota $15,211,765 rather than the $7,379,999. There are some important caveats – catapulting dead money into 2024, only gaining access to that cap room after June 1 – but it’s still an option.

in 2023 Offseason
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Obviously, the team would be remarkably foolish to push their potential cap savings to the extreme. There’s a 0% chance Minnesota decides to cut players left and right in the name of creating as much possible room. The real debate rests in how far the Vikings will go down the cap savings path.

Cuts will inevitably happen; some extensions will likely be reached. Adofo-Mensah needs to decide what’s best when it comes to how far the team wants to go with the savings. In other words, the GM will need to determine whether the appeal extra money overrides the merit of keeping talented players around to hopefully bounce back and/or continue their strong play in 2023.

As Josh Frey noted right here on PurplePTSD, the Vikings are marching toward some major changes. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll get a much better sense of what those changes will be. Stay tuned.

Editor’s Note: Major shout out to Over the Cap for some great salary cap information.