The Vikings Could Be Taking on a Lot of Water Once the Dead Money Gets Added Up

NFL Executives Were Impressed by the Vikings 2023 Draft
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Winning in the NFL often comes down to getting good value.

Consider, for instance, how good the 49ers’ roster looks with Brock Purdy flinging the football. The SF QB1 makes a mere pittance in NFL money, accounting for just $889,253 in 2023. Kyle Shanahan’s crew has leveraged those savings into roster enhancements at other critical areas, with the loaded defensive line being the most obvious spot.

Unlike the 49ers, the Vikings are staring down a financial situation where value could be harder to come by.

A critical part of getting the finances in order has involved saying goodbye to older, expensive veterans. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has already made many tough decisions, moving on from guys like Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Dalvin Cook, and Patrick Peterson.

In a lot of instances, those painful cuts have been in the best interest of the team. However, the Vikings are moving into another period of contract cuts and tricky extension decisions, meaning we’re likely to see the team’s dead money total climb into the tens of millions.

The Vikings Could be Taking on Some Major Dead Money

If Danielle Hunter and/or Kirk Cousins skip town, then the Vikings will be seeing a lot of dead money in the 2024 budget. The pair aren’t under contract going forward and will leave behind a ton of used up cap room if they aren’t extended.

Tossing Marcus Davenport and his $6.8 million in dead money into the mix makes things look even more bleak.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Jan 7, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) talks with teammates prior to their game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Consider some of the other dead cap possibilities:

PlayerDead Money
Cook, Dalvin$3,101,273
Cousins, Kirk$28,500,000
Hunter, Danielle$14,906,667
Davenport, Marcus$6,800,000
Total: $53,307,940

And, to be clear, the Cook figure is already locked in. Minnesota moved on from the RB last offseason after June 1st, meaning the runner’s remaining cap charge would get spread over 2023 and 2024. So, the $3.1 million is going to hit the budget and there’s nothing that can be done to stop that from happening.

CBS Sports Names the Vikings a "Value Pick" for Super Bowl 58
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Taking a more pessimistic view would involve highlighting some of the other budget hurdles coming from potential cut candidates.

Harrison Phillips is a great player, but will the Vikings think he’s worth his cap hit that’s nearing $9 million? A simple cut would free up $6.5 million while leaving behind $2,333,334.

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

Cutting Harrison Smith would mean a dead money charge of $7,831,766. Moving on from Dean Lowry would mean accepting $2,400,000 in dead money. Trying to cut Lewis Cine — something Minnesota won’t do — would see the cap space decrease by $6,792,001 (continuing to give the embattled safety a roster spot would mean devoting just $3,134,770 in cap space).

The point, folks, is that money can get immobilized in a hurry in the NFL. While the NFL’s non-guaranteed deals can lead to a tremendous amount of cap shenanigans that benefit a team, there can also be quite a bit of cap room being chewed up by players who aren’t on the roster. So, a bit of a two-way street.

Minnesota is going to do their utmost to avoid too much financial peril since they’ll actively be trying to extend Cousins and Hunter. Simply agreeing to new deals with those two will alleviate a lot of the dead money burden, but the current amount — a touch over $3.5 million, per OTC — is going to swell by quite a bit if/when the team makes decisions on a variety of players.

Seeing how Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the investor who is now an NFL GM, manages the money is going to be among the most fascinating parts of Minnesota’s offseason.

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.