By Jason Wisniewski
With the Vikings tight against the salary cap there is no surprise that fans are talking a lot about potential restructures for certain players and the restructures, extensions and pay cuts which have already happened for a few of the Vikings players. However, there seems to be some confusion these days within the Vikings fan base about the differences between restructures, pay cuts and extensions and why certain players are better targets for these moves than others. I will attempt to explain this and hopefully, it sheds some light on why certain decisions are made and not made by the front office and how important those moves are in terms of the Vikings chances in 2019 and beyond especially as Rob Brzezinski has been amazing in that regard these past few seasons. He’s seemingly been able to move money around like a blackjack dealer at a casino, or at minimum, a great source for betting codes for online casinos. That may sound like a stretch, but he/the Vikings have found every which way to both keep their young core of amazing players while saving the most money possible in every single way possible and in year’s past also be relatively active in free agency.
Let’s begin with Restructures. First restructuring a contract is not making a player take a pay cut and it is not a contract extension. Eric Kendricks “restructured” his contract. He did not lose a penny. What the Vikings did to free up cap space was take a portion of Kendricks base salary in 2019 and converted it to a signing bonus. The signing bonus is the “pro-rated” meaning it counts against the cap over time in future years. The Vikings took roughly $2 million from his base salary in 2019 and spread it out over the next 4 years remaining on his contract. That amounts to less than $500k in yearly cap hit increases over the next 4 years, so it was a very fiscally responsible restructure. It did not “kick the can down the road” very much so to speak, even though the concept of a restructure sort of does that. Put simply, a restructure is moving money that you owe a player from 1 year to other years. This is why it is best to do a restructure with a player that has MULTIPLE YEARS left on their contract. When fans say “Why don’t they restructure Kirk Cousins” or “Why doesn’t Kyle Rudolph restructure” they are not realizing that these players cannot give the Vikings an effective restructure because there are not multiple years to spread the money out to. In Rudolph’s case a restructure is impossible because there are no more years on his deal after 2019. In Cousins case it makes no sense because you’d just be jacking up his 2020 cap hit by the same amount of money you are taking from his cap hit in 2019. For example, let’s say you took $8 million off of Cousins cap in 2019, you would owe him $8 million more than his original 2020 cap figure because that is the only year left on his contract after 2019. The Vikings have no 2020 cap space to spare as we speak so they would be in a worse position than they are now if they restructured his deal.
When Kyle Rudolph says “I won’t take a pay cut” it does not mean he will not lower his cap hit for 2019 as part of an extension. It simply means he is not willing to lower his 2019 cap hit if there are no additional contract extension years in exchange for him lowering his 2019 cap hit. Rudolph has stated many times this off season that he would love to help the Vikings save cap space in 2019 in exchange for additional years added onto his contract that also include guaranteed money. The Vikings are actually working on an extension with Rudolph now but they have reached a speed bump in negotiations when it comes to the amount of guaranteed money the Vikings would include in Rudolph’s contract extension. An example of a true “Pay Cut” that took place was what happened with Everson Griffen earlier this off season. The Vikings simply shaved several million dollars off of Griffen’s 2019 cap number without placing the money onto any other years left in Griffen’s contract. The Vikings had leverage to do that in this instance because of the rough year Griffen had last year. 2019 will be a prove it year for Griffen to see if he can bounce back and it will determine whether the Vikings decide to pay him his full $13+ million cap figure next season or if they approach him with another pay cut offer, etc.
A contract extension is different than a restructure in that it adds additional years onto an existing contract. This is actually what Kyle Rudolph wants from the Vikings and what they are working on agreeing to with him. In an extension the player can agree to lower their current cap number for the current year in exchange for the added years in their extension. Earlier this off season Adam Thielen agreed to a contract extension with the Vikings which added 4 more years to his existing contract. In Thielen’s case he did now lower his 2019 cap hit because he was already being grossly underpaid in relation to his performance. If Kirk Cousins has a good season and the Vikings have success as a team in 2019 they could look to extend Kirk Cousins and in exchange Cousins could lower his current 2020 cap hit since he would be getting additional years added onto his contract.
As we can see it only makes sense from a financial standpoint to restructure players with multiple years left on their current deals. To do it with players with only 1 year left on their deal is only going to get you into cap trouble the following year. It also wise to choose a player that you plan on keeping for a long time and not cutting or trading in the near future where you would incur a “dead cap” penalty. That is why a player like Danielle Hunter or Stefon Diggs would make most sense to restructure for the Vikings if they are looking to create more cap space when they need to account for 53 players plus the practice squad under the salary cap when the regular season rolls around. Those 2 players are not going anywhere anytime soon. Former Player agent & cap expert Joel Corry made these exact same points on Darren Wolfson’s SKOR North podcast which you can listen to here. Corry also mentioned that in most long term contracts the player cannot refuse the team if the team approaches them for a restructure. The only long term deals the Vikings have that do not give them this right are with Riley Reiff & Harrison Smith. All the others like Xavier Rhodes, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Stefon Diggs, Linval Joseph etc. contain this clause and give the Vikings to restructure any of these players whenever they feel like it. Eric Kendricks actually had no choice but to agree to his restructure although it appears he did it willingly. Corry also points out that when a player accepts a restructure that converts base salary to signing bonus the player & agent can ask for that signing bonus money to be paid immediately even though the cap hit is spread out over several years. That makes the deal a bit sweeter for the player.
After reading this and understanding the differences between Restructures, Extensions & Pay Cuts who would you like the Vikings to restructure? Are there any Vikings you would like to see get a contract extension? Let me know in the comments below. For more of my content please follow Vikings Spin on Twitter, Facebook & YouTube and of course right here on PurplePTSD! #SKOL