The Vikings are doing all that they can to create salary cap space this offseason, much of which includes borrowing money from future years when the cap is expected to bounce back significantly. That's the case with their two latest moves designed to free up space, allowing them to sign Patrick Peterson and have some room left for a couple more minor acquisitions in free agency.
As had been expected for a few days, the Vikings restructured Adam Thielen's contract by converting $10 million of his base salary to signing bonus money and spreading it out over the remainder of his contract (which runs through the 2024 season). That move creates $7.5 million in cap space, which essentially goes straight to Peterson and his $9 million cap hit.
Thielen's cap hit is just $6 million in 2021 but goes up to $16-17 million per year for the final three years of the deal. They can reasonably move on from him starting in the 2023 offseason if needed.
The other move is that the Vikings designated Kyle Rudolph as a post-June 1st cut. That means his $4.35 dead cap hit will be spread over 2021 and 2022. A third of it ($1.45 million) counts against the Vikings' books this year, but the other $2.9 million (his signing bonus prorations for 2022 and 2023 on his old contract) won't hit the cap until 2022.
It also means Rudolph's contract stays on the books until June 2nd. On June 2nd, the Vikings will gain $7.9 million in cap space (the $5 million they were originally going to gain from cutting Rudolph plus the additional $2.9 million). That money will be used to sign their draft class and have some flexibility heading into the season.
So what does that mean right now?
Taking into account all of their moves to create space (cutting Riley Reiff, Shamar Stephen, and Dan Bailey, restructuring Anthony Barr and Britton Colquitt) and all of their signings (Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Nick Vigil, Rashod Hill, Chad Beebe), the Vikings have roughly $4 million in cap space.
They can use basically all of that because they don't need to save money to sign their draft class. They'll have the money to do that when Rudolph's release officially processes on June 2nd.
In addition to that $4 million, the Vikings can create more space by extending Harrison Smith, which is reportedly something that's being worked on. An extension and raise for Danielle Hunter could also lower his cap hit in 2021 while adding a lot of guaranteed money to the rest of his deal. It's possible that those two moves could free up over $10 million in additional 2021 space.
With that in mind, they should have room for a few more moves. Guard, safety, defensive end, and wide receiver are the team's top needs right now after signing Tomlinson and Peterson. They also have 12 draft picks to address those needs, but only one of them currently resides within the top 75 picks.
Here's a list of the remaining free agents at all of the Vikings' positions of need.
The Vikings are taking some risks by borrowing from future years to build what they hope is a contending roster this season. The cap is expected to bounce back in 2022 and beyond, but if it doesn't, Minnesota (and plenty of other teams) could be in trouble.
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