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Today feels like the start of the 2021 NFL offseason because teams are allowed to start designating franchise tags to players. Because of this, I decided to delve into my first, just for fun, as realistic as possible, Minnesota Vikings mock offseason. 

First, as it stands right now, the Vikings are around $9 million over the projected 2021 salary cap space of $185 million. To get under this, I made the following moves:

  1. Cut TE Kyle Rudolph with a post-June 1st designation: The Vikings are trying to get younger and cheaper, and they have two good options at TE with Irv Smith Jr and Tyler Conklin. 

Money saved: $7,937,500

  1. Cut DT Shamar Stephen: Minnesota’s interior defensive line in 2020 was the worst in the NFL, and Stephen was a big part of that. The Vikings are paying him above his pay grade: time to look elsewhere. 

Money saved: $3,750,000

Cap space: + $2,750,000

Second, I restructured Eric Kendricks, saving $4.8 million. This put the Vikings at around $7.6 million which is just enough to sign the incoming draft class. To free up more space, I distributed a few extensions.

  1. Riley Reiff was signed to a four-year contract worth $48 million. While this seems rich, Reiff has been a constant on Kirk Cousins’ blind side and gets rewarded for that. This saves $6 million in the 2021 cap room. 
  1. Harrison Smith is on the final deal of his contract and has zero guaranteed money. It is tough to envision a player wanting to play on that sort of risk. I extended him for a total of three years, worth around $11.5 million. For 2021, this saves $6 million. 
  1. There are a lot of questions around the status of Danielle Hunter, both from the perspective of injury and contract. I have minor doubts about Hunter becoming the same player, and to free up more money for this season whilst appeasing him, I extended him until 2026, signing him to an average of $21 million/year. For 2021, this saves $8 million. 

Cap space: + $24,750,000  

Onto free agency! First, I take a look at the Vikings’ in-house free agents. I pass on both “big names” in LB Eric Wilson and S Anthony Harris. Instead:

  1. Tender ERFA DE Ifeadi Odenigbo: While it seems like Odenigbo may have disappointed in 2020, coming off his seven sack season in 2019, he was the most doubled player on the Vikings DL, due to injuries. He still provides good depth and production should skyrocket with Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce back in the lineup. 

Cap space: -$850,000

  1. LB Todd Davis, S George Iloka, and OT Rashod Hill: I signed three depth pieces back for minimum deals. 

Cap space: -$2,890,000

  1. WR Keelan Cole (two years, $5 million): The Vikings have desperately needed wide receiver depth for a long time. While they have two solid pieces in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, there is not much behind them. Here, Cole adds to the team with his contested catch ability and nuanced route running. He can also assist the Vikings’ weak return game, basically filling two needs.

Cap space: -$2,500,000

  1. DE Carl Lawson (four years, $50 million): This is the big one. The Vikings need a pass rusher to pair with stud Danielle Hunter, and Lawson, who just broke out last season, provides that ability. The 25-year-old is the best pass rusher coming onto the market and gives Minnesota a solid, young duo. 

Cap space: -$8,000,000

  1. CB Troy Hill (two years, $three million): The Vikings have a trio of promising young corners, but Hill, a fifth-year NFL veteran, provides leadership and wisdom in the CB room. He was a part of the best secondary in the NFL in the 2020 Los Angeles Rams and could compete for a starting spot in Minnesota.

Cap space: -$1,500,000

Cap room going into the draft: $10,225,219

2021 NFL Draft: I used the mock draft simulator per 

14: At the Vikings’ first-round pick, there wasn’t too much value, so a trade down ensued with the Jacksonville Jaguars in which Minnesota recoups its second-round pick by getting the 25th and 45th overall picks in exchange for the 14th pick.

25: DT Christian Barmore: An instant starter at three-technique and the best defensive tackle in this class, Barmore provides the type of pass-rushing ability the Vikings haven’t seen since Sheldon Richardson donned purple and gold. 

45: DE Jaelan Philipps: This was a tough pick because while Philipps possesses the talents that should have had him locked into the first round, his medical history, which includes doctors who have told him to retire due to multiple concussions, could cause him to drop like it did in this mock draft. Philipps possesses the size, length, and versatility that the Vikings love in their DEs. He would add a lot to a rotation with Hunter, Odenigbo, and Lawson. 

78: OG Dillon Radunz: With the third trenches pick in a row, I finally address the offensive line. Radunz, who primarily played LT for the Bisons, has the flexibility to play LG and fits the zone blocking scheme Minnesota employs. A player a lot like Ezra Cleveland whom Minnesota drafted last year, Radunz provides day one starter value and rounds out the Vikings 2021 offensive line. 

90: S Ar’Darius Washington: Jeff Gladney’s former teammate rejoins him in Minnesota. The Vikings will need a starting safety with the departure of Anthony Harris and Ar’Darius Washington will have the opportunity to compete for that spot with George Iloka. Although he is smaller, Washington has physicality against the run and is adequate in coverage. 

TRADE: 119 and 143 for 109 with Houston 

109: WR Tutu Atwell: I add to Minnesota’s receiver depth here with an undersized, developmental receiver who can produce from the slot and stress defenses. Atwell has the chance to compete for the WR4 job with incumbent Bisi Johnson. 

Here is how I rounded out the rest of the draft:

125: DT Osa Odighizuwa

134: LB Charles Snowden

158: CB Benjamin St-Juste

172: OG Jack Anderson

201: OT Alaric Jackson

222: S Christian Uphoff

240: P Drue Chairsman