Soon, The Vikings Will Start Marching Through a Cut or Be Cut List

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings will approach several of their players about cutting their salary. If the player decides not to do so, then the Vikings will very likely move onto considering a roster cut.

How do we know this? Well, the tactic was used last offseason. Chris Reed shaved off some of his compensation to stick around in Minnesota. So, too, did Jordan Hicks. The pair of veterans got to stick around The North Star State but picked up a bit less cash while doing so.

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) reacts after making a stop against the New York Jets during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

At roughly $25 million in cap space, the Vikings aren’t in a particularly perilous spot. There is room in the budget to send out deals, especially since the 2025 budget is projected to have a towering amount of money available.

Even still, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will be scraping and clawing to give his squad more monetary maneuverability. The GM knows that the 2024 offseason is a tremendously important one just as he knows that there are some major areas of the team that need to get addressed (the front seven, offensive line, quarterback). Accordingly, Adofo-Mensah is going to pursue a variety of strategies to better position the Vikings to do damage in free agency.

The Vikings Will Soon Work through a Cut/Cut List

Minnesota’s roster has a pile of players who appear to be in a tough spot when it comes to their upcoming cap charge.

Harrison Smith, the elder statesman within Minnesota’s secondary, is the main example. He is now 35-years-old and has seen his play dip from the dominance from around 2017 and 2018 (among other years). Left untouched, Smith’s contract would take $19,215,882 out of the 2024 budget. A simple cut with no shenanigans would liberate $11,384,116.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) warms up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

So, not a ton of leverage for the The Hitman, especially since Minnesota has young, affordable replacements — Josh Metellus, Camryn Bynum, Jay Ward — already on the roster.

What’s clear, though, is that Minnesota’s coaching staff and front office hold the veteran defender in high regard. Would there be some sort of effort to keep him in town if the two sides could agree to a pay cut?

Vikings Get a Decent Grade
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Surely, Smith isn’t alone. Take a look at some other names to monitor:

PlayerCap Charge in 2024Cap Savings w/ Roster Cut
Smith, Harrison$19,215,882$11,384,116
Phillips, Harrison$8,833,334$6,500,000
Mattison, Alexander$4,600,000$600,000
Lowry, Dean$4,482,353$2,082,353
Ham, C.J. $3,266,666
Mullens, Nick$2,230,000

Seeing Kwesi Adofo-Mensah approach any of these players about a pay cut wouldn’t be at all surprising. In each instance, Minnesota is looking at a veteran player who can contribute to winning football but who could also find himself in a precarious position if the goal is to regain some financial freedom.

The NFL is a cut-throat business, folks. There’s a reason why Kirk Cousins can be found explaining that the acronym actually stands for the “Not for Long” league and why he always demands huge guarantees.

Harrison Phillips jumps off the page (screen?) as someone who is an extension candidate. He just turned 28 on January 25th and is coming off of a season where he had a career high in tackles (92) and sacks (3). Partnering him with a pass-rushing terror — the role Dean Lowry was supposed to help fill — would do wonders for Minnesota’s defensive front. Saving money via extension seems like the prudent approach.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Dean Lowry (94) and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Mattison is another fascinating situation. He’s more talented than his humdrum numbers suggest, running with great physicality and with enough athleticism to shift through defenders for some chunk gains. True, he doesn’t have the breakaway acceleration of a Dalvin Cook, but he’s a solid RB.

Only 25, Mattison averaged 3.9 yards per carry last season. He had an even 700 yards but didn’t get a rushing touchdown. He did, however, get a trio of touchdowns as a pass catcher while turning his 30 receptions into 192 yards.

Will Minnesota passively accept the $4.6 million? The runner doesn’t have a ton of reason to accept a pay cut since so much of his compensation is already guaranteed and yet the team cannot run it back with the same group of runners. What’s the solution?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end John Cominsky (79) and defensive end Charles Harris (53) tackle Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Like most NFL teams, the Vikings will attack their budget’s deficiencies from a variety of angles. Extensions and restructures will come into play. Maybe a trade happens. But then the Vikings will probably be working through a cut/cut list as a way of trying to clear cap space.

Doing so opens the possibility of clearing money off the books without needing to say goodbye to a productive player. In some instances, though, a cut will take place.

Free agency gets going on March 11th with the legal tampering period.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference 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.