Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $13.0 million ($140M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 64
Pro Bowlers: 0
Unrestricted Free Agents: 8(1 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 11
Salary Cap Breakdown
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.
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.