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Now that the Vikings have locked their best linebacker into a long-term deal in Eric Kendricks, there is some fear out there that they won’t be able to afford other players that need extensions (like Stefon Diggs, Anthony Barr and/or Danielle Hunter) or add additional free agents should a need arise. That fear has been around for awhile and was one of the main lines of reasoning for those that were against the signing of Kirk Cousins, as his historic deal did seem like something that could ham-string a team (just look at the available cap space for teams like Green Bay and/or Detroit, teams that have elite quarterbacks and pay them as such (see below)). The Vikings reportedly gave Kendricks a deal worth $50 million over five years, a deal that puts him near the top of inside linebackers in terms of his per year salary. I know what you’re thinking, how can the Vikings keep giving out these huge deals? What does that mean for other players who need extensions like Stefon Diggs or Anthony Barr? Why am I relying on Joe Johnson for this information?

I can answer at least two of those.

I broke down what the recent mega-deal that wide receiver Jarvis Landry received in Cleveland and what it meant in terms of the upcoming Stefon Diggs extension. As a huge Diggs supporter I was surprised to find that he didn’t stack up as well against the top-five receivers in the league as I thought he would, however, you could make the argument that he should receive top-ten money after comparing his output to those receivers (although I would say that he’s a top 15 guy, again in terms of output). Top ten dollars fall within the $12-$14 million per season range. Like I said above, I broke this all down in that Landry piece, you can read that here or check out the tables here.

Here’s the breakdown of the top paid wide receivers in the league:

% Guar.Free
Antonio BrownSteelers$68,000,000$17,000,000$19,000,000$4,750,00027.9%2022 UFA
Mike EvansBuccaneers$82,500,000$16,500,000$38,258,000$7,651,60046.4%2024 UFA
DeAndre HopkinsTexans$81,000,000$16,200,000$36,500,000$7,300,00045.1%2023 UFA
Sammy WatkinsChiefs$48,000,000$16,000,000$30,000,000$10,000,00062.5%2021 UFA
Jarvis LandryBrowns$15,982,000$15,982,000$15,982,000$15,982,000100.0%2019 UFA
A.J. GreenBengals$60,000,000$15,000,000$26,750,000$6,687,50044.6%2020 UFA
Davante AdamsPackers$58,000,000$14,500,000$18,000,000$4,500,00031.0%2022 UFA
Julio JonesFalcons$71,250,000$14,250,000$35,500,000$7,100,00049.8%2021 UFA
Demaryius ThomasBroncos$70,000,000$14,000,000$35,000,000$7,000,00050.0%2020 UFA
Dez BryantCowboys$70,000,000$14,000,000$32,000,000$6,400,00045.7%2020 UFA
Allen RobinsonBears$42,000,000$14,000,000$18,000,000$6,000,00042.9%2021 UFA
TY HiltonColts$65,000,000$13,000,000$11,000,000$2,200,00016.9%2021 UFA
Alshon JefferyEagles$52,000,000$13,000,000$14,250,000$3,562,50027.4%2022 UFA
Doug BaldwinSeahawks$46,000,000$11,500,000$12,000,000$3,000,00026.1%2021 UFA
Keenan AllenChargers$45,000,000$11,250,000$20,656,000$5,164,00045.9%2021 UFA
DeSean JacksonBuccaneers$33,500,000$11,166,667$20,000,000$6,666,66759.7%2020 UFA
Emmanuel SandersBroncos$33,000,000$11,000,000$20,000,000$6,666,66760.6%2020 UFA
Larry FitzgeraldCardinals$11,000,000$11,000,000$0$00.0%2019 UFA
Randall CobbPackers$40,000,000$10,000,000$13,000,000$3,250,00032.5%2019 UFA
Donte MoncriefJaguars$9,600,000$9,600,000$9,600,000$9,600,000100.0%2019 UFA
Pierre Garcon49ers$47,500,000$9,500,000$17,000,000$3,400,00035.8%2022 UFA
Marqise LeeJaguars$34,000,000$8,500,000$16,500,000$4,125,00048.5%2022 UFA
Kenny StillsDolphins$32,000,000$8,000,000$16,950,000$4,237,50053.0%2021 UFA
Albert WilsonDolphins$24,000,000$8,000,000$14,450,000$4,816,66760.2%2021 UFA
Paul RichardsonRedskins$40,000,000$8,000,000$12,500,000$2,500,00031.3%2023 UFA
Marvin JonesLions$40,000,000$8,000,000$13,000,000$2,600,00032.5%2021 UFA
Jordy NelsonRaiders$14,200,000$7,100,000$0$00.0%2020 UFA
Tavon AustinRams$7,000,000$7,000,000$5,000,000$5,000,00071.4%2019 UFA
Michael CrabtreeRavens$21,000,000$7,000,000$8,000,000$2,666,66738.1%2021 UFA


Now, Let’s look at the last three seasons for these guys to see where Diggs’ output stacks up. Up first? Diggs, of course. Who over the past three seasons has had the following output:

Stefon Diggs67824512.6
Antonio Brown11415501013.6
Mike Evans801176714.7
DeAndre Hopkins951284913.4
Sammy Watkins42690616.03
Jarvis Landry10510935.510.46


Let’s take a look at where he lands among the next batch of receivers, with AJ Green making $15 million a season and what Dez Bryant would’ve made had the Cowboys not cut him, at $14 million (and the rest being somewhere between those two):

AJ Green761113714.7
Davante Adams*759411112.65
Julio Jones10215755.515.73
Demaryius Thomas931112511.9
Dez Bryant506785.513.63
*Past Two Seasons

So, long story short, Diggs would probably make top 10 money if he signs right now. If he waits and has a huge year, which is a very strong possibility, he could end up making top five money, but really there’s not a huge difference in terms of what the top five make as compared to the top 10 (although I’m sure there’s a difference in terms of bonuses and guaranteed money). Like I mentioned in the Landry piece, Diggs probably is looking at the decision Adam Thielen made and the low salary he’s receiving (especially as compared to his output) and that could drive him to bet on himself and turn down any extension this off-season. That, then, leaves Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter as two the other two large extensions that need attention. The question becomes, can they afford both? All three?

First off, people also need to realize that the league has been increasing the salary cap by over $10 million dollars per season, each season. That means that the Vikings will have more money to play with when it comes to the cap next season (which means that they can go over the cap right now, or get close to it, for extensions as they only obviously kick in next season). Just check out this table created by /u/JonathantheBrave from Reddit:

This table doesn’t take the Kendricks deal into account but shows that the Vikings are doing better than the Packers and Lions in terms of cap space (especially considering that the Packers’ 2020 numbers don’t take Rodgers’ contract into account, a deal that’ll make Kirk Cousins’ deal look like Thielens). That’s surprising as, granted the Pack/Lions have huge deals at the quarterback position, but the Vikings do as well (with Cousins being the highest paid player in the NFL (ever)) and while the Packers have finally decided to delve into free agency they’ve obviously not really been active in that regard for the past decade. They have a ton of holes on defense especially and while Davante Adams is one of those high paid receivers, you have to wonder where the money is going (Jimmy Graham?). Same goes for the Lions. While the Vikings will end up with the least amount of cap space in 2020, they still obviously have a decent amount of space to play around with this off-season and the next couple, meaning that they’ll be able to resign players like Diggs, Barr and Danielle Hunter if they so please while also being able to be active during free agency. You also have to take any cuts or retirements into account, as well.

There seems to be a weird contingent of people online who would rather have cap space than great players, something that I’ve never understood as the reason you want cap space is to be able to pay great players so why not use it to do just that. Regardless, the question becomes whether the Vikings should extend Diggs now (if he’s open to that) or wait for the upcoming season and pay him afterward. The “risk” that he’ll have a monster year with Kirk Cousins slinging him the ball is high, so the Vikings would be smart to give him a deal now as opposed to waiting until the season is over. Again, that depends on whether or not he’d be open to doing that or if he wants to bet on himself, playing the season without an extension in the hopes that he’ll have a career year that’ll land him a huge contract (either here or elsewhere).

Whether or not that happens remains to be seen but what we know now is that the Vikings have the capability to extend him now or later. So, let’s all calm down a bit and realize that the Vikings are extremely well managed, really in every sense of the word but, in this context I mean in terms of their finances. Sure, it’d be great to have a lot of cap space but the reality is that by extending these players the Vikings are making it so they really don’t need to add any big name free agents because they have amazing players at nearly every position. That means that they really only need to have enough money to sign rookies, something that it appears that they have. In spades.

So, have faith! The real conclusion is that this team has gone all in to attempt to win a championship during this window of opportunity. That’s what looking all-in looks like and while that doesn’t mean that they’re overextended, it does mean that they’re not attempting to save up cap space to make a move in 2019 or 2020 because they already have basically every player they need/believe in. That’s a good thing!

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2 years ago

Thanks for the sober, careful, non-hysterical rundown on the salary cap, Joe. Barr should be extended this off-season, in part to lower his salary cap hit this year. If I were working for Hunter, I’d tell him to wait until next off-season because he should have a very nice bounce back year with Sheldon Richardson providing the most interior pressure we’ve seen since Kevin Williams. Diggs is a tougher call given his injury history, so he might be better off settling for a Top 10 contract with serious incentives baked in. I’m also hoping that Thielen asks for and gets a restructured contract increasing his base pay significantly (if teams can force players to restructure their contracts down, no one should have a problem with players forcing teams to do the opposite). Let’s also not forget that the Vikings will almost certainly offer Trae Waynes a fifth-year tender in the coming days, which should be for just over $9 million according to the charts and articles what I’ve read so far today. Knock on wood, after continuing to improve in the 2018 season, we’ll be looking at extending the contracts of Waynes, Mackenzie Alexander and Nick Easton this time next year (although I think I’ve read rumblings that an extension might already be in the works for Easton).