Vikings Continue Leaning on Salary Cap Trick

NFL: Combine
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Slowly, the Vikings are getting their finances back in order, much to the delight of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

Even still, Minnesota continued to lean on a salary cap trick to carve out immediate savings in their budget. Adofo-Mensah tossed void years into several of the free agent deals, thus spreading out signing bonus money over a longer stretch of time. As a result, players like Sam Darnold, Jonathan Greenard, Blake Cashman, Aaron Jones, and Andrew Van Ginkel all have a lesser cap charge in 2024. The downside is that each one is scheduled to leave behind a dead cap hit when their contracts end.

The Vikings Salary Cap Trick and the Budgetary Shenanigans

At this point, tacking on void years to medium-to-large deals is pretty commonplace in the NFL. The notable detail is simply that the current leadership regime is more willing to venture into void years than the previous one.

The NFL operates under a hard cap but it nevertheless shoehorns a ton of malleability into the mix. Void years are simply one way of doing so. Essentially, Adofo-Mensah is attaching non-existent years to a deal for the sole purpose of spreading out a signing bonus over a longer period of time, thus diluting the bonus’ impact on the current year (see Over the Cap for more insight about how the tactic works).

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings mascot Viktor the Viking reacts as the game against the New York Giants is delayed as they wait for the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills game to conclude before a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A concrete example or two would help.

Jonathan Greenard agreed to a 4-year, $76 million deal to become a Viking. Part of that deal is a $16.5 million signing bonus. Left to just the real years, the $16.5 million would be chopped up into equal increments for each year — $4.125M/season. Tossing a void year into the mix allows that signing bonus number to be divided by five, meaning the signing bonus portion of the contract drops down to $3.3M/season.

The upside is a bit more financial freedom. The downside is a dead money charge sitting at $3.3 million for 2028.

NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sep 24, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard (52) celebrates a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the third quarter at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

A similar approach is being applied to most of the major signings.

Andrew Van Ginkel has a 2-year deal worth $20 million. The current outlook involves a $4.2 million dead money charge in 2026. Blake Cashman landed $22.5 million over 3 years; he’s scheduled to leave behind $3.1 million in dead money in 2027. With Aaron Jones, the dead money is scheduled to arrive in 2025. The four void years will push $3.2 million in dead cap funds into next year’s budget.

Sam Darnold sees something similar occur due to his four void years. No extension for the journeyman QB will involve $5 million being gobbled up within Minnesota’s ’25 budget. Easy to offset if J.J. McCarthy ascends to the QB1 throne, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Draft Prospect
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Right now, Minnesota is working with close to $16.7 million in cap space. The rookie class still needs to sign their contracts, so that’s a total that should shrink down to roughly $5.5 million.

Keep in mind, though, that Minnesota will have the chance to kick that left over room higher if there’s a need.

Editor’s Note: Shout out to Over the Cap for being an online authority on the NFL salary cap.

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.