Vikings’ Dead Money is Skyrocketing After Opening Day of Free Agency

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Getting the finances in order isn’t without some pain. The Vikings’ dead money is becoming monstrous.

Kirk Cousins is set to sign a colossal contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Per Tom Pelissero of The NFL Network, the agreement spans 4 years and comes in at a total of $180 million. Unsurprisingly, the Vikings decided they couldn’t match that deal.

And then there’s the Danielle Hunter situation. He, too, is leaving behind some huge money if the rumors end up being accurate. Oh, and then the news emerged about Marcus Davenport later on in the day. Per Mike Garofolo, the oft-injured pass rusher is hopping over to Michigan to join the Lions.

Where does that leave Minnesota’s budget?

The Vikings’ Dead Money is Skyrocketing

The good news is that the projected budget was already accounting for the dead money charges.

On Over the Cap, the cap space was sitting somewhere in the mid-30s for a little while now. Crucially, that was a number that already had $28.5 million for Cousins, $14.9 million for Hunter, and $6.8 million for Davenport baked in.

Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert (24) runs the ball as Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) makes the tackle during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The vital difference is that the money will soon become immovable.

As long as there was a chance to extend their deals, the Vikings had the possibility of avoiding the dead money charge. In fact, the 2024 budget could have grown if the trio were retained. Instead, the Vikings will accept some short-term pain while looking ahead to long-term gain.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) sounds the gjallarhorn before the game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

As we’ve discussed previously, the cap charge is going to be enormous.

Seeing the trio depart involves Minnesota onboarding a stunning $50,206,667 in dead money. Accepting that amount means the Vikings will have a significantly more difficult time competing in 2024, and yet it’s the position they find themselves in after a single day of free agency.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers place kicker Eddy Pineiro (4) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Marcus Davenport (0) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was always going to move Minnesota’s roster in a different direction. Part of that new direction was always going to involve moving on from older, expensive players. Moving on from long-time team stalwarts like Cousins and Hunter isn’t easy, though.

Plus, the decision to venture into void years — a component of all three deals under consideration — meant risking precisely this scenario. Void years borrow from the future to pay for the present. Well, what was once the present has slipped into the past; the Vikings are now into the future where the bill needs to be paid (so to speak).

As free agency got going, the Vikings were dealing with less than $5 million in dead money, largely the byproduct of moving on from Dalvin Cook last offseason and Alexander Mattison more recently. Tossing Cousins, Hunter, and Davenport onto the pile makes things much more challenging for the present financial outlook.

In 2025, the Vikings currently have the 5th-most projected cap space by coming in at a hair below $140 million. Accepting the dead money now is a major part of keeping the future cap so robust.

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.