Vikings Rumors: Major Cap Space Hiding in Plain Sight, Déjà vu with Kirk Cousins, & Being Cut or Cut

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
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Since we’re officially into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors are arriving fast and furious, we’ll 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 abundant cap space standing behind the current budget, experience déjà vu with Kirk Cousins, and the Vikings heading toward a cut/cut conundrum.

Vikings Rumors: 01.31.2024

Rumor #1 – The Vikings Have Far More Cap Space Than People Realize

In a sense, it’s true.

Currently, the team’s budget sits at roughly $25 million in cap space. The number is important but not the final word on what’s possible financially. Arguably of more importance than what’s available in 2024 is what’s available in 2025.

In the NFL, contracts commonly span across multiple years, allowing teams to shuffle the cap charges across the length of a deal. In so doing, cap space can be pretty easy to come by in the short term. So while the $25 million — a number that’s sure to increase — can disappear fast, the Vikings will be leaning on a whopping $139+ million from 2025 to help finance their current spending.

The NFL Salary Cap Will Jump to a Record-High in 2023
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, the above listed amount is an estimate from the fine folks at Over the Cap.

The money men at the salary cap website suggest that Minnesota will have $139,489,530 in 2025. Obviously, that’s a number that’s going to decrease by a substantial amount once more deals get signed, but that’s precisely the point. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and his team will be leaning on the room within the 2025 budget to facilitate what’s taking place in 2024.

Seeing so much cap space in 2025 means that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O’Connell, and the rest of the leadership group has the ability to send out some major contract offers if there’s a desire to do so. The present-day cash is important, yes, but not the final word on what’s possible for an NFL team’s spending.

Rumor #2 – There’s Some Kirk Cousins Déjà vu Going On

Jump into your hot tub, phone booth, DeLorean, or other time machine of choice so that you can venture into 2018 free agency once again. What were the main talking points surrounding Kirk Cousins?

Well, the theory was that he could be the missing piece for a team with a great defense but not-so-great QB play. The quarterback was saying he wanted to go to a winner and that money isn’t the be-all, end-all even if the financial component of a deal is of tremendous significance (after all, the man signed a nearly unprecedented deal by locking in $84 million in full guarantees).

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Oct 23, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) signals his team against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Fast forward into 2024 and a lot of the same talking points exist. The veteran quarterback has even been working through various media pit stops, getting some much-needed negotiating leverage back onto his side of the table.

Mr. Cousins isn’t a moron. One could argue that he’s as innocent as a dove while being as shrewd as a serpent, a way of being that allows him to navigate life in the NFL with unusual aplomb. A lot of NFL teams are looking at him as a (potential) missing piece and he seems willing to market himself accordingly.

In the end, the desire may be to replicate something else he did in 2018: use the interest from other teams to push Minnesota into dishing out more money than hoped. Kirk Cousins departure appears to be a very real possibility, so the Vikings will need to compete to bring him back.

Rumor #3 – Several Vikings Need to Cut or Be Cut

The NFL is a cruel business. Anyone who needs convincing about that blatantly obvious fact should just stay tuned to what’s going to happen in a bit more than a month.

In a lot of instances, the Vikings will probably let players know that it’s either a pay cut or be cut from the roster. Players like Harrison Smith, Dean Lowry, Alexander Mattison, Harrison Phillips, and C.J. Ham (among others) could be in this crew.

Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham (30) runs the ball while pursued by Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith (58) during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Last offseason, Chris Reed needed to shave money off of his deal. So did Jordan Hicks. The valued veterans gave Minnesota some needed financially flexibility while ensuring they could stick around a team where players genuinely enjoy playing.

A similar tactic is likely to arise very soon.

Smith, for instance, won’t be coming back at a $19.2 million cap charge, not when there’s the potential to liberate nearly $11.4 million in cap space (especially given the broader context of abundant, cheap talent at safety in Minnesota). So while there’s a genuine desire for The Hitman to remain, there’s next to no chance that can happen unless the contract gets a huge hair cut.

Keep an eye on Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looking to shake some money loose without needing to fully move on from a player. Change is afoot in Minnesota, but some of the high-priced vets could still be retained if the money works out.

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

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.