The Vikings are Digesting League-Leading Dead Money

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This one has been a slow-moving crisis. That final word — crisis — may be a bit inaccurate, though.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah tends to operate with a fair bit of poise. Or, at least, he’s very capable of projecting calm. The GM has been hard at work saying both “yes” and “no” to players, seeing great veterans depart while sending out some major money to bring in replacements. Step back from all of that work and the Vikings are sitting in 1st place for dead money. The possibility was easy to foresee with guys like Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter possibly taking off and yet it’s still a path Minnesota opted for, suggesting they may not be too concerned.

The Vikings and The Dead Money

The word comes courtesy of Over the Cap, an online authority on the NFL salary cap.

The Vikings are seeing more than $57 million in cap space sectioned off as dead money. In other words, their ability to use that room in 2024 is undermined, meaning the present-day cap allocation needs to be more modest.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) calls signals at the line against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

One of the fascinating details of Minnesota’s 2024 financial outlook is that the player who is gobbling up the most cap space isn’t on the team. Kirk Cousins has $28.5 million left behind, which is the single largest cap charge within the Vikings’ orbit, even though he’s now in Atlanta.

In terms of players who are actually on the team, Brian O’Neill is taking the top spot with a ’24 charge that’s approaching $23 million. So, a hefty number but one that’s pretty easy to justify given that we’re discussing an exemplary right tackle who has solidified himself as being among Minnesota’s foremost players.

Next up for the largest cap charges are Justin Jefferson ($19.7M), T.J. Hockenson ($14M), and Byron Murphy Jr. ($10.9M). No other Vikings player is seeing their 2024 cap hit exceed the $10 million mark.

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) celebrates his interception with safety Camryn Bynum (24) against the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Every team in the NFL has to deal with at least some dead money. The way contracts are constructed basically guarantees as much. Right now, the Rams are sitting in the best position by having close to $4.2M taken out as a dead money hit.

Jumping to the other side of the extreme involves seeing the Vikings at the top. Behind the purple team are the Bills, Jets, and Chargers as teams surpassing $50 million in dead money. Notably, Buffalo is sitting in such a tough spot largely because of moving on from Stefon Diggs, who left behind a massive $31M+ dead money hit.

2022 Vikings Draft Class
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) straight arms Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) after making a catch during second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

For whatever it’s worth, the Vikings appear ready to move into some financial abundance in the near future. The 2025 budget, per OTC, is tipping the scales at close to $69 million. The number is going to move around a ton over the next year but the broader takeaway is very likely to remain: Minnesota isn’t doing too bad with their future financial outlook.

In the meantime, things will be a bit leaner as Minnesota burns off some dead money.

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.