Jason Fitzgerald


Recent Posts by Jason

Dolphins 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: -$300k ($140M cap limit)

 

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 58
Pro Bowlers: 2
Unrestricted Free Agents: 12(6 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 14

Salary Cap Breakdown

Dolphins 2015 Salary Cap

Dolphins 2015 Salary Cap

Dolphins 2015 Salary Cap

Free Agents to Re-sign

Jared Odrick has developed into a solid, all around talent and should be able to give Miami a solid presence for the next few seasons. They should do what they can to bring him back, though he may prefer looking elsewhere as he and the team seem to be at odds. I would imagine he will be looked at as a $5.5 to $6.5 million a year player…Backup QB Matt Moore may arguably be the second best QB available this offseason, which says little for the position. He should receive top backup money around $4-$5 million a season if Miami wants to retain him. I could see that being difficult with their salary cap position but I think its too impotant to have a decent backup in the event of injury….Charles Clay is one of those players with potential that the Dolphins should hold on to, but my guess is he might be considering a one year deal in the hopes of improving his value.

Free Agents to Let Walk

Knowshon Moreno was worth the one year risk, but he couldn’t remain healthy and with the emergence of Lamar Miller probably is not needed anyway…Daniel Thomas never developed for the team and would not seem to have a place going forward…Pro Football Focus graded Daryn Colledge as one of the worst lineman in the entire NFL so bringing him back should not be in the plans for the team next year. Samson Satele was a late signing to fill for injury, but the Dolphins will be better moving Mike Pouncey back to center and finding another guard rather than retaining Satele.

Contracts to Modify

The decision made to pay Mike Wallace well above his performance level led to high expectations by the fans, media, team and player himself. Not surprisingly, things haven’t worked out and now they are stuck with a $12.1 million cap charge and $3 million salary guarantee. The best situation for all is to bring his salary down to a fair level in 2015. At this point he is a $6-$7 million player, which means a $3-4 million pay reduction. Because the guarantees have offsets the Dolphins don’t really need to consider that number as a sunk cost and can renegotiate just as if it is a new contract… Signing Cortland Finnegan to a $5.5 million contract was definitely on the high side and seemed to indicate desperation to find another cornerback. They still need corners so they probably should keep him but his contract needs to be brought down to $2.5 to $3 million in 2015…Randy Starks could be in danger of being cut, but the team should consider it a better option to bring his salary down from $5 million and keeping him for one last season.

Players to Consider Releasing

Signing linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to a big contract in 2013 was a head scratcher and they can finally get out from the contract in 2014. His cap charge is $9.85M and they will save $5.65M by cutting him. He earns more cash salary than any other inside linebacker in 2015, so there is no logical reason to keep him…It’s hard to understand what has happened to Brian Hartline, but he has become the third target on the team and his role looks ready to decrease further in the future. A $7.35 million cap charge for a 3rd target is far too expensive. They will save $3.15 million by cutting him…Nate Garner was barely used in 2014 and landed on the NFI list late in the season. With $1.65M in savings with his release, it seems a guarantee that he will not be back in 2015.

Offseason Plan

Miami needs to question if they have gotten as far as they can with this group and if they need to begin revamping the team, especially on defense where they completely fell apart late last season. Miami has 4 starters on defense over the age of 30 and 10 players in total that were at least 28 last season.  That’s essentially half of the team they need to turn over within the next two years and it includes some of their best players in Cameron Wake, Brandon Albert, Brent Grimes, and Randy Starks. Do they make moves to try to extend the window with this group one more time and perhaps sacrifice the future or do they begin a transition strategy?

If the Dolphins opt for the former it could move their upcoming cap situation into one of the worst in the NFL when you consider than Ryan Tannehill will likely end up with a $14-$15 million per year contract in 2016. The only way they can actively upgrade the roster is with big free agent acquisitions and they are only going to be able to do that by pushing more money into 2016 and 2017 with this current group. Given that the team has shown to be little better than a 0.500 team and doesn’t show a dominant trait this would be a highly risky strategy.

Instead they should consider the process of piecing things together for this season while building up cap space for a splash in the future when Tannehill may be more of a finished product. That will likely mean focusing on the draft to fill major needs at corner, linebacker, and the interior line as well as hoping to find a young pass rusher. The organization is now being run by Mike Tannenbaum, who is not afraid of making a splash, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of those big veterans is moved to build for the future, Wake being the most logical.

My guess is Miami is working hard on identifying possible player cuts  and coming up with ways to entice those players on a low cost one or two year contract. Trades for disappointing first and second round picks would also be something that they could be open to. Actual free agency should just pick and choose some younger players with upside that maybe just need a change of scenery.

I would also expect the Dolphins to get a more defined contract strategy in the future. Recently their contracts have been somewhat haphazard, playing hardball with many of their own players and receiving good terms for players like Hartline and Grimes, but signing outlandish deals for players like Wallace, Ellerbe, and Wheeler. That may be an example of Miami picking their battles or simply going all in when they feel that there can be an open competition. Because Miami had no long term contracts in place when they began their spending spree they were also at a possible negotiating disadvantage since it was obvious they had money to spend. By staying tight on the cap they will have a different perception around the NFL and force players to choose the Dolphins sales pitch rather than just the dollar signs.

While this strategy is probably not what people expect from Tannenbaum he did go through something similar to this with the Jets in 2006. Those Jets were in a worse place than the Dolphins but it was a two year plan with a focus on remaining competitive, finding bargains, and preparing for a big free agent frenzy down the line.  I see this as a similar job with a transition being needed to bridge the gap from a veteran group to a younger one.

Dolphins Links

Dolphins Salary Cap Pages

Dolphins Free Agents

Dolphins Contracts

Dolphins GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

Dolphins Free Agent Simulator

 

Podcast: Championship Games, Deflated Footballs, Free Agent Backs, and More…

In this weeks OTC podcast:

-I give my thoughts on the Packers collapse and the Seahawks great setup for a dynasty

-I look at the Patriots thrashing of the Colts and just what should be in store over this deflated football controversy

-I examine some possible free agent running back outcomes

-I pick out some free agent targets for the Jets

-Plus more of your questions all answered

View in iTunes

Listen via Stitcher

Subscribe to the OTC Podcast

Saints 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: -$25.1 million ($140M cap limit)

 

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 59
Pro Bowlers: 2
Unrestricted Free Agents: 10(1 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 13

Salary Cap Breakdown

Saints 2015 Salary Cap

Saints 2015 Salary Cap

Saints 2015 Salary Cap

 

Free Agents to Re-sign

It is hard to make much of case for the Saints to really bring back any of their free agents. If they do consider bringing any back it would be the lowest cost players. Parys Haralson will play on the minimum and can be a first down player…The Saints could use players in the secondary which could pave the way for Patrick Robinson to return on a one year contract. They should not consider any more years than that with him.

Free Agents to Let Walk

I can understand making a case to bring back Mark Ingram, but the Saints can afford to spend $4 million on a running back- if they could have afforded it they would have kept Darren Sproles. Ingram was a hard runner for the team last year, but they have always been able to find change runners and not miss a beat…Ramon Humber is cheap but not productive.

Contracts to Modify

Junior Galette has a $12.5 million roster bonus due this March and they will save $10 million in cap space by converting it into a signing bonus. Galette is young so restructuring his contract should not be a major negative for the Saints moving forward…The team has a very difficult decision ahead with receiver Marques Colston and I think in these cases sometimes emotions get in the way and that will push the team towards a restructured contract rather than an outright release. Colston can still play, but $14.7 million over the next two years is far too high. They can convert a majority of his $7 million salary into a bonus and add a few years onto his contract to bring his average down to the $5.5 to $6 million level.

Players to Consider Releasing

Because of the Saints salary cap situation they will need to be active in deconstructing the roster if they have any intention of working with an eye towards the future…Pro Bowl or no Pro Bowl, it is time for the Saints to part ways with Jahri Evans and begin the process of getting younger on the line. His $11 million cap charge is far too high for the team and they can’t afford to go deeper in with him especially if they extend Colston. Cutting him frees up $6 million….Releasing Curtis Lofton will save the team $4 million in cap and they can find a player with more upside in the draft that will cost a fraction of Lofton’s salary…Broderick Bunkley had been relegated to a 40% snap player before he was injured. His release creates $2.88 million in cap space…Pierre Thomas had to take a pay cut last year to remain in New Orleans and could be released to save $1.5 million.

Offseason Plan

Saints GM Mickey Loomis recently said that the Saints were in a better place with their salary cap than they were last season and I’m not really sure of the logic behind that statement, unless he simply means they don’t have to worry about a franchise tag player that is contesting his position or that they are two years away from purging all deals. The team is around $25 million over the cap which is about $15 million worse than the next worst team. Even taking the Galette restructure into account they are still far beyond anyone else in the NFL.

The team is in a difficult position because the perception of the team is very good, but the reality is they have had a losing record in two of the last three seasons. The team has been as big an offender as any team in the history of the NFL at playing “kick the can” and deferring salary cap charges to future years, leaving them with a league high 8 players with cap charges in excess of $9 million.

I’m sure the temptation is there to bring most of the players back, which can be accomplished by restructuring more contracts including that of Drew Brees. Brees’, who only has two years left on his contract, would either need to be extended or utilize void clauses to bring his cap hit way down. Neither should be an option. Other big ticket players like Jairus Byrd, who has missed 17 games over the last two years, and Jimmy Graham, who would project to decline faster than his closest comparable in Rob Gronkowski, need to have the contracts left alone for future flexibility.

Teams have to face difficult decisions when they make these contractual decisions that backfire. Last year the Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware and this year the Steelers will likely part ways with Troy Polamalu, one year after also releasing LaMarr Woodley. Both of those teams will be better for those moves and the Saints should look at those two franchises for some guidance as to navigating a bad situation.

The Saints answers for the future do not lie in free agency.  Sure they may find some bargain basement type that excels for a year the way the Cardinals have the last two seasons, but they can not make another short sighted mistake of signing a Byrd type to a monstrous backloaded contract. The Saints need to start picking this roster apart and determining who will not be a big contributor in 2016 and begin the process of designing exit strategies from those players now and getting replacements in the draft.

They also need to be honest with themselves about Brees’ future in the organization. Brees is most likely not going to take a Tom Brady contract in two years and New Orleans needs to determine if they are willing to continue to pay him at a $20M per year rate or if it will be time to explore life without Brees. If it is the latter they should strongly consider a QB in the draft to learn behind Brees and hope for a relatively seamless transition that occurred when Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre.

For New Orleans this offseason should be all about planning for the future and not making it worse by going out and finding a way to bring in superstar free agents on the defensive side of the football. If they don’t consider a developmental QB then the team will need to find a cornerback, pass rusher, linebacker, and younger lineman in the draft. Free agent additions should only be used on players who are being cut by their teams and drawing minimal interest that the Saints scouts have identified as being a good fit. Anything else and we’ll be right back here next season talking about digging out of a bigger salary cap hole.

Saints Links

Saints Salary Cap Pages

Saints Free Agents

Saints Contracts

Saints GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

 

Browns 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $48.8 million ($140M cap limit)

 

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 55
Pro Bowlers: 3
Unrestricted Free Agents: 10(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 12

Salary Cap Breakdown

Browns 2015 Salary Cap

Browns 2015 Salary Cap

Browns 2015 Salary Cap

Free Agents to Re-sign

The team faces an interesting decision with cornerback Buster Skrine. They drafted a replacement for him but Skrine is the more proven commodity and did come up with four interceptions on the year. With all the cap space the Browns have it is probably worth hedging their bets and retaining him…Jordan Cameron struggled with injuries and may have also felt the pressure of a contract year leading to a miserable season.  But Cameron is talented and last year should work in the team’s favor to get a reasonable price….For a low cost Miles Austin is a perfectly fine plyer to keep on the team especially since it seems he embraces the role of working with the younger players on the team.

Free Agents to Let Walk

The Brian Hoyer era came and quickly vanished by December. Cleveland mat have to make a decision on the QB position but Hoyer shouldn’t even be part of that process. Hoyer is not the type of player that a rebuilding team should be committing to. He’s a decent backup on a team with a good quarterback…Jabaal Sheard  hasn’t fared well with the defensive changes and will cost too much to justify the production he is giving. He’ll land with a team that puts him back on the line…Ahtyba Rubin has been one of the worst values at the position and the team will likely look for better value elsewhere.

Contracts to Modify

Tashaun Gipson is one of those hidden gems and will likely be tendered, even off injury, at the first round level. There is no need for the Browns to waste any time in signing him long term once that tender is extended. They will get a much better contract by working it out now than waiting a full year…The Browns has picked up the option year on DE/DT Phil Taylor, but Taylor has missed 20 games over the last three seasons and doesn’t really have a defined role on the team.  I think all sides would benefit from an incentive laden contract than pushing the release of the player. But I can’t see a reason to pay Taylor the $5.47M salary.

Players to Consider Releasing

It seemed as if the Browns and Josh Gordon reached a breaking point when the Browns suspended Gordon for the final game of the year to block him from become a free agent in two years. Gordon is very talented but is always a suspension risk and the Browns did not believe that he is necessarily a team player. It would seem realistic to think the Browns locked his contract down to make him more attractive to another team in a trade….If no deal can be reached with Taylor I would place him in this category as well.

Offseason Plan

For about ¾ of the season the Browns tricked everyone into believing they turned a corner, but by the end of the year they were almost a bottom 10 team. The team will once again have a huge surplus of salary cap space at their disposal to attempt to fix the team and get them back to being a real contender within the next two seasons. Their defense made strides under Mike Pettine and they got a lot out of the secondary and saw Paul Kruger live up to the contract. These seems to be a solid foundation in place on this side of the ball and I don’t believe they will let that go to waste by ignoring the offense in free agency and waiting on draft picks to develop.

Outside of offensive line the Browns are incredibly underinvested in their offense. They are near the bottom of the NFL in spending on the quarterback, running back, and tight end positions. The only reason they are not that far down at receiver is because of a unique frontloaded contract they used when signing Andrew Hawkins.

The Browns approach to offense has been a disaster for the last decade. The underinvestment isn’t because they are necessarily filled with great young prospects or avoided offense in the draft, but simply the fact that they have made poor decisions when it comes to identifying any non-lineman. The names read as a who’s who of underperformers- Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Brian Robiski, Mohamed Massaqui- and there has to be real worry that Manziel is going to fit into that same category after partying his way right out of a starting job in his rookie year.

With so much cap space the team is in a position, similar to the Raiders last season, where they really need to start taking some chances just to bring professional players onto that side of the football.  With the QB position so up in the air they need to upgrade their talent at running back and perhaps identify a blocking tight end, both of which can be found in free agency. The team has a major need for a wide receiver, especially if Gordon is released. There is no shortage of talent available in free agency and finding a quality free agent would allow them to use their draft picks on other areas.

Defensively the team could use an inside linebacker and more help along the line to keep the defense a strength of the team. I would not be surprised to hear the Browns linked to former Jets linebacker David Harris, though they would be better off looking for a younger player to develop and take over for Karlos Dansby in 2016.  There is probably an end or tackle they can find with one of their first rounder’s this year as there is not a great deal available in free agency. They could take a chance on BJ Raji hoping he can stay healthy and rejuvenate his career or look at Damon Harrison depending on what type of tender offer the Jets make to him.

It won’t be an easy path for the Browns. They need to hit in free agency to make the most of what they have now while also getting some younger pieces in place to replace some of those veteran defenders in the near future.  Unless they show real improvement the team will likely find all new coaches and front office personnel in 2016 signaling yet another new start for the team. The GM will keep that in mind when making decisions “for the future” instead of the present.

Browns Links

Browns Salary Cap Pages

Browns Free Agents

Browns Contracts

Browns GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

 

Fanspeak’s Manage the Cap Free Agency Simulator

Our friends over at Fanspeak had a really fun idea that I thought many of the readers at OTC would enjoy and I want to tell everyone a bit more about it.  Fanspeak created a tool called “Manage the Cap” that allows you to simulate free agency from start to finish for your favorite team.  You’ll get to take over your franchise and see if you can put together plan to build your roster for 2015. We partnered with them to supply the salary cap data so the baseline numbers will play outsimilar to the real team numbers.

So how does it work?  Go to Manage the Cap and select the team you want to be GM of. Go in there and make whatever salary cap cuts you want to trim the fat off your roster and then the real fun of Free Agency begins. The Manage the Cap simulator will give a list of players who were cut, had their contracts restructured by their team, or were re-signed right on the eve of free agency.

From there you begin to make your best offers to free agents just as you would in free agency. Set your targets for day 1 because if your offer gets declined the free agent pool will begin to dry up on day 2. Your offers might be accepted or rejected by the players depending on the money offered with the simulator coming up with a salary cap charge for the player.  When you are happy with your team simply let Manage the Cap simulate the rest of free agency for the league and then share some of the results with your friends.

I’ll put some links up on the site to it over the next few days, but I definitely recommend having some fun with it and seeing what you can do in free agency. If you want to play around even more with the numbers come back here and use the calculators to see how much more you can minimize the cap hits of your signings and how it impacts you in the future to see if your free agent plan leads to the 2015 New Orleans Saints or the 2015 Seattle Seahawks.

Manage the Cap Free Agency Simulator

Super Bowl Titles and High Salary Quarterbacks

With Aaron Rodgers now eliminated from winning the Super Bowl, it means that Steve Young’s record as the highest salary cap clogging QB to win a Super Bowl remains intact. Young’s cap figure that season took up 13.1% of the 49ers salary cap. That year was 1994, the first year the salary cap was in existence. So in 20 years no Super Bowl winning team has invested a higher percentage of their cap on a QB than the first team to ever win one in the cap era.  Yet teams continue to pour more and more money into that position each season.

Since Young’s championship in 1994, only three other quarterbacks have eaten up 10% of their teams salary cap- Eli Manning in 2011 (11.7%), Peyton Manning in 2006 (10.4%), and Brett Favre in 1996 (10.2%). The average spend on a Super Bowl QB has been just 6.4%. If Brady wins the Super Bowl his cap percentage will fit between the Manning brothers at 11.1%. Russell Wilson’s 0.49% would rank below all others except for Brady in 2001 who cost just 0.47% of the Patriots salary cap. If Brady wins he will become just the fourth QB to win a title after signing a large contract extension. The others to do so were the Manning’s and Ben Roethlisberger.

The funny thing about discussing Brady this way is that in today’s era Brady is considered “cheap” because he took a team friendly contract to allow the Patriots to build a team around him of talented players.  It’s a game of many moving pieces and too much investment in one player can often mean disregarding those other pieces whose role is also important to success. Brady and his team realized this and acted accordingly.

If we assume next year’s salary cap to be $140 million six quarterbacks will eat up more cap space than Young. Those players include Tony Romo, Drew Brees, both Mannings, Ryan, and Roethlisberger. Half of that group didn’t make the playoffs in 2014 and none advanced beyond the second round.

If we extend that figure out to the 11.7% mark set by Manning as the modern age high water mark then we add Rodgers, Matt Stafford, Philip Rivers, Sam Bradford, and Jay Cutler to the list.   That’s now 1/3 of the NFL that is already locked into more QB money than the most ever committed to a winning QB since 1995.  If we look at the average spent on quarterbacks of just 6.4% we are now eliminating every veteran long term contract in the league. Our list drops all the way down to Andrew Luck at 5% and RGIII at 4.8%.

I can understand the logic in paying Rodgers, Manning, etc… those big dollars. The regular season success of most of those players is off the charts and irreplaceable.  But if it compromises your ability to get better more and more teams need to question whether it is worth it or not.  This is what sets New England apart from so many other teams and will continue to set them apart over the next few seasons. They can build around their starting QB’s contract in a manner the most successful teams of the past have done.

It will be interesting to see if Brady wins if more of the veteran players consider signing lower cost contracts to try to gain a competitive advantage and win one more before they ride off into the sunset. Brady has alternate sources of income that dwarf the salaries of these players, but players like Brees and Peyton (who did turn down more money to play in Denver) have certainly done well for themselves. But if a change occurs at the top it will have to come from the players side as the team has no leverage to force a paycut. There is simply no better alternative available in free agency or the draft.

The changes should start with the mid range QB contracts that have now become cap cloggers.  The odds are strongly against winning with a Cutler type of player, but they become increasingly more difficult when you invest money in him as if he is a top tier player. That limits what you can do with the rest of your team.

One of the problems with the NFL is that everyone wants to follow a similar model of success. It’s very easy to say that the NFL has become a passing league and that we need to “get with the times” and get a modern offense in place. The NFL goes through trends like this all the time. The problem is there are only so many Aaron Rodgers out there, yet in today’s league little separates the Stafford’s and Cutler’s from the Rodgers’ of the league when we look at salary cap impact.

The trick in the NFL is when you don’t have that player that can drive the latest style to find a way to be unique and exploit mismatches. That’s one of the reasons why Seattle has been so successful.  As the Bears scrambled to turn a run based program into a downfield passing attack the Seahawks recognized whatever limitations existed and focused on building their defense and maintaining a power running game behind Marshawn Lynch. Invest heavy in a great safety that can shadow a great corner and shut off a side of the field. Nobody else does it and teams have a hard time with having a whole half of a field taken away. It’s something that hasn’t happened in ages. Its unique.

Now there is a great deal of luck in how the Seahawks found so much talent, but give them credit for recognizing that a player like Percy Harvin had no role and moving him out. That move extended their window of opportunity by a season. They know what they are and work within those parameters rather than investing huge cap room in a Stafford esque offense that runs in neutral and costs $20-$30 million more.  Maybe Seattle will fall into those problems when they do re-sign Wilson and pay him at the high end of the salary spectrum, but for now they have an identity that is so different few teams are equipped to deal with it.

We can all see the Patriots thinking outside the box for this year’s playoff run. They saved a number of plays and formations just for this run. A Julian Edelman pass to Danny Amendola? Shane Vereen offensive lineman?  Nate Solder down the field tight end?  Where was this during the year?  It was being saved to catch teams off guard when they were ill equipped to deal with it. Teams will all use it next season, we’ll all go crazy as soon as we see it happen, and very quickly all defenses will be ready to recognize it and stop it. Meanwhile the Patriots will be one step ahead and doing something different while everyone tries to imitate what New England thought had a shelf life of three games.

Teams in the NFL are not going to be successful by settling for Cutler and paying him and attempting to play him like he is Rodgers. That is the model that needs to stop. History more or less shows you are not going to win with this kind of investment specifically for this kind of player. The Bears have a top 10 draft pick that will  likely cost 1/3 or ¼ of Cutler. While there is no guarantee that the QB will be as good as Cutler right away I bet the added $10-14 million a season would go a long way towards building a team far better than the one on the field now.

But clogging the salary cap on this one position is not going to help a team win a Super Bowl. Eventually someone will but I can almost guarantee that it will be one of the players considered an elite level talent, not a second or third tier guy simply being paid like one.

 

% of Cap Spent on SB Winning QB

YearNameCap %
1994Young13.1%
1995Aikman6.7%
1996Favre10.2%
1997Elway5.2%
1998Elway5.0%
1999Warner1.3%
2000Dilfer1.6%
2001Brady0.47%
2002Johnson9.6%
2003Brady4.4%
2004Brady6.3%
2005Roethlisberger4.9%
2006P. Manning10.4%
2007E. Manning9.2%
2008Roethlisberger6.8%
2009Brees8.3%
2011E. Manning11.7%
2012Flacco6.6%
2013Wilson0.56%

Vikings 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $13.0 million ($140M cap limit)

 

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 64
Pro Bowlers: 0
Unrestricted Free Agents: 8(1 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 11

Salary Cap Breakdown

Vikings 2015 Salary Cap

Vikings 2015 Salary Cap

Vikings 2015 Salary Cap

 

Free Agents to Re-sign

Veteran defensive tackle Tom Johnson very quietly posted 6.5 sacks in 2014 and seems to have found his niche with Minnesota. He made $845,000 last year on a one year deal and I would think this time it may be a two year deal in the $2.5 million range….ILB Jasper Brinkley played well in the defense last season and there is no reason to part with him until a draft pick is established….C Joe Berger is familiar with the team and can either start on the interior line or be a valuable backup. He’ll likely only cost the minimum.

Free Agents to Let Walk

The Christian Ponder era never really got off the ground and he won’t even be in consideration as a backup for them next season…The Vikings took a cheap flier on Corey Wootton and he never really did enough to merit any significant playing time. Those depth roles usually turn over to a new player…Vlad Ducasse couldn’t play on the Jets and didn’t do much better in Minnesota.

Contracts to Modify

I was down on the signing of Greg Jennings from day one as a major reach on both price and expete role, but the team needs wide receivers and Jennings can still fill a void as a mid level number 2 capable of 700 yards a season. Considering the development of a young QB is of major importance it would be wise to find a way to bring his contract in line with his production rather than just releasing him. He’ll make $9 million on his current deal and they should be able to cut that down to $5 million.

Players to Consider Releasing

I don’t think Adrian Peterson wants to remain a Viking and I am not sure the Vikings really need to deal with the headache of reinstating him. The organization should be looking toward the future and he is the one link to the past. Releasing him saves the team $13 million in cap space…Chad Greenway’s best days are behind him and the Vikings should get younger and faster at the position. Cutting Greenway saves $7.1 million.

Offseason Plan

I kind of feel as if the most important decision right now for the Vikings is to decide whether or not Matt Kalil is their left tackle moving forward or if they need a contingency plan. Kalil has tailed off and while they will likely pick up his option year for 2016, the cost of that option is high and may make negotiating the parameters of an extension more difficult. Being proactive and making that contract extension offer before picking up the option might be worthwhile, but if they decide that an extension will likely not happen or they don’t want it to happen then they may want to focus their draft on finding a new offensive tackle that will take over for Kalil in 2016.

The Vikings as of now do not have a large surplus of cap space to work with so if they do not decide to release Peterson and Greenway they will have a harder time making significant additions in free agency if they get into a bidding war. That said, outside of an interior lineman or cornerback I don’t believe the Vikings would plan on being very active in free agency. The release of one of those players and reworking Jennings deal would allow them to potentially target the top potentially available names at those positions (Mike Iupati and Byron Maxwell). If the release Peterson they may go after a low cost player at the position to add to the running back mix next season.

Based on where the Vikings currently stand they should focus on the draft where they can improve the core of their team and find help in the secondary, linebacker, offensive line and wide receiver. If Kalil is indeed the guy for them then they can bypass tackle and probably land a very good corner in the draft and potentially address most of their needs in the first three rounds and making one free agent splash.

If they believe strongly that Bridgewater ends up as a solid starter they should like their current position as the young upstart of the North. They finished better than an aging Chicago team this season and not much separates them from the high priced Lions. Reaching the Packers level, if Rodgers is healthy for 16 games, is always difficult but building that core in the draft for one more season before going crazy with free agents would probably give them a better chance at doing it than trying for a short term fix and throwing money at players now. I think by saving some money this year and continuing to build their nucleus they will be in a great position come 2016. They can work their way to wildcard contention next season by staying the course and then make the leap heavy into free agency to fill the voids that remain on the team.

Vikings Links

Vikings Salary Cap Pages

Vikings Free Agents

Vikings Contracts

Vikings GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports