What to Expect When You’re Expecting … A Vikings Cap Space Influx

The State of the Vikings: Week 17
Oct 3, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings mascot, Viktor the Viking, leads the team onto field before the game against the Cleveland Browns at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Over and over again, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah proves himself to be more patient than Vikings fans. Surely, that’s a good thing, though it’s a habit that leaves some confused about when the rumored news will become a reality.

The fine folks at PurplePTSD are looking to help with managing expectations.

Basically everyone can see that Minnesota’s cap space is going to increase by leaps and bounds once some transactions take place. Most notably, there will be cuts, but there are also extension candidates and restructure possibilities. When can Vikings fans expect to see the budget get a much-needed boost?

When to Expect More Vikings Cap Space

As of right now, the Vikings have a bit below $25 million in cap space. The number on Over the Cap is more specific, placing things at $24,658,132.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) celebrates a sack during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Simply cutting Harrison Smith and extending Justin Jefferson could basically double that amount of money. Other moves, such as extending Harrison Phillips and Byron Murphy, should also be arriving before too long. In each instance, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will be looking to carve out more cap space in the short term.

When will these decisions start taking place? Looking back at the team’s past moves will help.

In February of 2023, Adofo-Mensah decided to keep kicker Greg Joseph and offensive lineman Blake Brandel. Those deals arrived on February 17th. Maybe we’ll see similar low-level deals arrive in February, thus allowing Minnesota to patch up some thinner positions before doing some more major work in March.

NFL: New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and offensive tackle Blake Brandel (64) and teammates react during the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the first of those major moves arrived on March 6th. Eric Kendricks, the All-Pro linebacker, was released. Not too long afterwards, Adam Thielen was released. The receiver got cut on March 10th. And then Minnesota even moved on from corner Cameron Dantzler, a decision that also arrived on March 10th.

Stepping back a bit more reveals a similar set of decision dates. What happened in the lead up to free agency in 2022?

Quarterback Kirk Cousins agreed to an extension on March 13th, 2022. On March 14th, 2022, Michael Pierce — the humongous defensive tackle who struggled to stay healthy — was released. Notably, there were no signings in February, perhaps due to Kwesi Adofo-Mensah being brand new to the job.

Former Vikings CB Cam Dantzler
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. (3) reacts late during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

As we venture through February of 2024 and into March, we should be expecting a similar timeline.

The Cousins conundrum, for instance, may need to wait until March 11th-13th for a final decision. Past extension solutions like the ones for T.J. Hockenson and Josh Metellus arrived in late August and early September. Does Jefferson’s timeline look different given the magnitude of his importance?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

And then one thinks of the cut candidates. There’s Harrison Smith, yes, but then several others, as well. Dean Lowry, Patrick Jones II, Kene Nwangwu, and others are going to be considered for cuts. Minnesota’s management will be searching far and wide for more financial flexibility — something Kwesi covets — so all options will be on the table.

The broad takeaway, folks, is that nothing appears super imminent. Of course, there’s nothing stopping Minnesota from getting their internal business tidied up. Minnesota’s management can extend their own players and do all kinds of cap shenanigans in the present moment. The only hiccup is simply that doing so would go against the precedent that’s been set in recent history.

So, we’re very likely in the calm before the storm. Look for maybe a minor deal or two relatively soon but then for the meaty decisions to arrive in March.

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.