The Vikings have a decision to make this offseason when it comes to the status of linebacker Anthony Barr.
The first draft pick of the Mike Zimmer era, Barr was a key component of some excellent defenses until missing almost all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. His combination of size, quickness, and ability as both a run defender and pass rusher made him an important chess piece for Zimmer. But Barr has one of the highest cap hits on the team in 2021 and is coming off of a major injury that followed a mediocre 2019 season. In all likelihood, something is going to change heading into this upcoming season.
If the Vikings wanted to keep Barr around at a lower cap hit without extending him, they could approach him about restructuring his deal. But it doesn't sound like that's something the veteran would be open to. When discussing the Barr situation on his podcast, KSTP's Darren Wolfson said this:
"I feel confident in saying this, that I hear Anthony Barr is anti-any sort of restructure. He's got a big [cap] number. Could they extend him, is there a way to do that? Maybe. But I am told he is not interested in a restructure."
The word restructure is used a lot, so it's important to note that it doesn't always mean the same thing. "Restructure" is often used to describe an extension, where a player's cap hit is lowered in the upcoming season but additional years are tacked onto the deal. The Vikings probably don't want to do that with Barr, who hasn't had a good season since 2018 and is under contract through his age-31 season in 2023.
A restructure without an extension could mean converting base salary into signing bonus money and spreading that out over the remaining years on a player's contract. Or it could mean a pay cut for the player, which is what happened with Riley Reiff last offseason. It's not surprising that Barr is against the idea of taking a pay cut, but it sounds like he's opposed to any sort of restructure to his deal.
If that's the case, the Vikings may have to seriously consider trading or releasing Barr. His $15.1 million cap hit in 2021 is the fourth-highest on the team, trailing only Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, and Reiff. Barr has the second-highest cap hit in the NFL for an off-ball linebacker, behind perennial first team All-Pro Bobby Wagner. Barr hasn't made an All-Pro team since his breakout season in 2015.
Barr is clearly better than Eric Wilson and is an important part of Zimmer's defense, particularly against the run. But paying him over $15 million in 2021 just doesn't seem like a smart decision for the Vikings. His cap hits go up to $15.6M in 2022 and $18.1M in 2023. The Vikings could save over $7 million in cap space by releasing or trading Barr this offseason, although they would eat $7.8 million in dead cap.
It'll be very interesting to see how Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski handle this situation. $7.1 million of Barr's 2021 salary becomes guaranteed on March 19th, so we should find out soon enough.
Here are a few other notes from Wolfson's latest podcast, courtesy of Sean Borman:
Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all offseason long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.