Expect Horrible Harry to Stick Around for at Least a Couple More Seasons

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

A fan favorite, Horrible Harry is the proud owner of a misleading nickname.

Indeed, Harrison Phillips is well respected for his on-field play and off-field charitable work. Losing him would not only be an issue for the Vikings’ football team but for the community more broadly. And while his increasing cap charge presents a problem, the best solution may be to work toward an extension rather than simply accept a cut.

Exploring an Extension for Horrible Harry

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is the value GM. He’s also staring down a “big offseason” (to borrow his words), putting even more pressure on him to allocate the money wisely. How does Phillips fit into the mix?

NFL Executives Were Impressed by the Vikings 2023 Draft
Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo Mensah speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 27-year-old defensive tackle is moving into a 2024 season where he’s scheduled to see his cap charge jump up to close to $9 million. More specifically, his cap hit will be $8,833,334. Cutting him would give Minnesota $6,500,000 while leaving behind $2,333,334. Fans who are desirous of maximum cap space may see the decision as straightforward, but there’s far more to consider than just pushing financial flexibility to the nth degree.

A major part of the issue is that the front seven is careening toward some major change.

Ivan Pace is locking down a starting spot going into 2024 but basically every other spot has some uncertainty. Folks, I’m not being hyperbolic. Danielle Hunter is scheduled to hit free agency (and so too is D.J. Wonnum, Marcus Davenport, Jonathan Bullard, Jordan Hicks, and others from within the front seven). Returners like Phillips, Patrick Jones, and Dean Lowry aren’t a lock to stick around once the cuts take place.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) reacts after making a stop in the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Retaining Phillips would function as one more bit of continuity. And, to be sure, keeping the veteran so there’s more year-to-year harmony isn’t the only upside. Far from it, in fact. Phillips played well in 2023.

As a team, the Vikings allowed the 13th-fewest points in the NFL and were 16th for yards allowed. Shrinking things down to run defense — Phillips’ specialty — is even more impressive. Minnesota was 8th-best for rushing yards allowed, keeping runners to just 3.8 yards per carry (tied for 4th).

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) reacts to a stop during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Individually, Phillips did some good work.

He set a career high with 92 tackles and 3 sacks. His 6 QB hits tied his career high. For the most part, Phillips was a 3T, which makes sense given that he’s a bit undersized to be a nose tackle (the defender is “only” 6’3″, 307). In a perfect world, he could return as the DT2 since the Vikings have brought in a stud to offer some pass rush prowess and/or someone to get plugged into the NT job.

An extension has the potential to free up $4.3 million. Not a monstrous amount, no, but certainly enough to put the Vikings into a better spot overall. Plus, the team could continue working alongside a rock-solid defender who has proven to be a key part of resurrecting Minnesota’s defense.

Look for an extension, not a cut, with Mr. Phillips. He will turn 28 on January 25th.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and 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.