An Unseen Trove of Cap Space Will Allow the Vikings to Punch Above their Weight Class in Free Agency

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

The Minnesota Vikings are currently working with roughly $25 million in cap space. Not too bad, all things considered, but it’s an amount that can disappear in a hurry in the money-hungry NFL.

What’s arguably of more importance than what’s available in 2024, though, is what’s available in 2025.

In the NFL, contracts commonly span across multiple years, thereby allowing teams do their utmost to shuffle the cap charges across the length of the 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 as fast as caffeine at Caribou Coffee, the Vikings will be leaning on a whopping $139+ million from 2025 to help finance their current spending.

The Cap Space Vikings Fans Need to be Monitoring

Of course, 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.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec 10, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell (left) and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah react during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Consider a few examples courtesy of PurplePTSD‘s recent piece, “The Anatomy of a Kwesi Contract (Version 2.0):”

PlayerYear 1 Cap HitYear 2 Cap HitYear 3 Cap HitYear 4 Cap Hit
Hicks, Jordan$3,500,000$6,500,000N/AN/A
Phillips, Harrison$3,833,333$6,833,333$8,833,334N/A
Oliver, Josh$2,554,000$6,174,000$9,424,000$2,848,000
Murphy, Byron$2,961,765$10,911,765$4,200,000N/A

Take a look at the numbers. What do you notice? Consistently, the initial year is substantially smaller than subsequent seasons. In other words, the Vikings could sign someone for a pretty hefty contract while still putting a manageable cap number on the books in 2024.

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

A relatively extreme example rests in the deal for Jalen Hurts.

Philadelphia’s QB agreed to a 5-year, $255 million extension during the offseason. His 2023 cap charge was … $6,154,286. In 2024, the number is going to grow to just $13,558,800. It’s possible because the Eagles are willing to push major money into the future.

Even single season deals can come with the same benefit. Last offseason, Minnesota brought Marcus Davenport to town on a 1-year, prove-it deal. Adofo-Mensah manipulated the $13 million in such a manner as to allow for the cap charge to drop down to just $6.2 million for Davenport’s (very likely) lone season with the Vikings.

Now, taking the Davenport route — one that required some void year tomfoolery — isn’t without some pain. Keeping things modest in 2023 meant kicking money into 2024. When Davenport officially sees his deal come to an end as free agency starts, Minnesota will be left with $6.8 million in dead money.

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

What makes the current outlook still look pretty rosy is that there’s a ton of financial flexibility coming up in the future.

Complicating factors are the impending extensions for Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter, and Christian Darrisaw (among others). None of those guys are accounted for in that 2025 budget. Neither is a potential deal for Kirk Cousins. Neither are the players who get drafted in the 2024 NFL Draft. So, the ample cap space can become modest cap space with relative ease.

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 critical factor is simply that Minnesota has options. 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 common number that’s going to get tossed around in the discourse surrounding Minnesota’s upcoming spending spree is the wiggle room that’s available in the present moment. Sensible enough.

And yet we can’t forget that there’s quite a bit more than $100 million in cap space standing behind that $25 million, meaning Kwesi & Co. will have the ability to punch above their weight class.

The legal tampering period of free agency begins on March 11th with the real thing getting going on March 13.

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.