The Vikings’ Finances Need an Overhaul

Kirk Cousins
Oct 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes the ball in the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings fans are looking for some major changes. It’s an understandable position following the 7-9 2020 season and 8-9 2021 season. For many, a large part of the concern rests in the dollars and cents. Indeed, the Vikings’ finances certainly leave one with legitimate concerns.

One of the things I’ll focus on in the coming weeks is the way the Vikings’ (now former) leadership opted to divvy up the resources provided by the Wealthy Wilfs. To begin, I’ll merely offer this recap of the past season’s spending. A handy pair of charts will hopefully provide a fresh perspective.

To make these charts, I turned to the top-10 cap hits for 2021. I then reserved the final slice of the pie for the remainder of the roster. The numbers are taken from the fine folks at Over the Cap. Keep in mind that I (for an inexplicable reason) wasn’t able to get the percentages to be precise in the pie chart. For instance, Kirk Cousins came in at 16.6% of the overall salary cap, not 17%. Alas, I have been forced to provide the precise percentages down below in a different chart.

Minnesota Vikings 2021 Salary Cap
Kirk Cousins16.6%
Danielle Hunter7.2%
Eric Kendricks 6.7%
Patrick Peterson4.3%
Harrison Smith3.7%
Anthony Barr3.3%
Adam Thielen3.2%
Dalvin Tomlinson3.2%
Brian O’Neill3.0%
Dalvin Cook2.7%
Rest of Roster (Including Dead Money)46.1%
The More Precise Percentages – Your Author is a Pie Chart Dweeb

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Ten players equal 18.8% of the overall 53-man roster. The issue, of course, is that these ten players account for 53.9% of the team’s finances. When, say, several of these players go down, things get pretty difficult. The 18.8/53.9 ratio will only work if the team’s top ten players are collectively elite.

Of course, so much of the issue is that almost all of the team’s ten highest earners missed time.

Hunter missed the vast majority of the season. Cook and Cousins both missed crucial games (in back-to-back weeks at the end of the season) due to Covid-19. Thielen ended the year on the IR, Tomlinson missed games, and Barr was in-and-out of the lineup. In fact, the only player in the top ten who didn’t miss at least one game is RT Brian O’Neill.

Moving forward, a large part of the issue is that these percentages get worse. Cousins’ cap number swells to 21.4%. Cook’s grows to 5.7%. Hunter will be 12.4%. I could go on. Mind you, the Vikings could shuffle the finances by doing all sorts of things with those deals: cuts, trades, restructures, and extensions are all in the mix.

Perhaps most frustrating of all, though, is that Barr will be leaving behind a nearly $10 cap hit because of the void years. In other words, the veteran linebacker provided good-but-not-great play for 11 games this season. That came with a 3.3% hit on this season’s cap and a 4.7% hit on next year’s cap even though he won’t even be on the roster. The Barr deal is perhaps the worst one of the offseason.

Put simply, the Vikings took some big chances and it didn’t work out. Two linebackers were in their top ten salaries. A safety and aging corner were in there, as well. It’s hard to think any of this worked out.

The lasting takeaway is that the Vikings opted for their own unique approach to the budget. It was a home run swing that ended in a strikeout. Expect the next GM to pursue a very different approach.