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Riley Reiff vs the Minnesota Vikings Salary Cap

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Riley Reiff is a 32-year-old left tackle entering the last year of his contract with the Minnesota Vikings. After taking a pay-cut, from $11.3 million against the salary cap in 2019 to $8.2 million against the cap in 2020, Reiff is currently set to account for $13.95 million in 2021.

That’s nearly $3 million more than any of his prior seasons with the Vikings. As of now, it would be good for the 11th biggest cap hit among NFL left tackles for next season.

That puts the Minnesota Vikings in a tough spot since they are already over the 2021 salary cap, even if it doesn’t shrink for a season like many expect it to (Spotrac OR OverTheCap).


Riley Reiff Cap Hits
SeasonCap HitNFL Rank (LT)
2018$11.4M5th
2019$11.7M10th
2020$8.2M15th
2021$13.95M11th
Spotrac.com


The problem

But the Vikings may have a bigger problem heading into this offseason, than their salary cap woes. The offensive line sucks and seriously lacks depth. And after all of that preseason contract consternation, Reiff had the best year of his career in 2020.

Without Riley, who was arguably their best lineman, Kirk Cousins might not be alive.

So what are the Minnesota Vikings going to do? Well, they have four realistic options and they fully control three of them. Reiff would have to agree to the 4th.

1: Do nothing

Let’s get the obvious option out of the way. Riley played 2020 like a top-10 left tackle so paying him $14 million (11th in NFL) in 2021 is absolutely fair, especially when he took a pay-cut last year.

If the Vikings choose to let the final season of Reiff’s contract play out as written, they’d solve their LT tackle questions for one more year, while keeping flexibility for the future.

It would mean less flexibility in other areas of need this offseason, however.

Cut him

On paper, Riley Reiff looks like an easy cut option for Spielman. If let go, he carries just a $2.2 million dead cap figure. That means the Vikings would net nearly $12 million in additional cap dollars for this offseason if Rick decides to cut Reiff loose.

That’s money they could use elsewhere… or maybe not.




Cutting Reiff would leave a GAPING hole somewhere on the line. If you move Ezra Cleveland back to his natural left tackle position, then you’re leaving Bradbury on an island next to God knows who on each side.

I’ve seen a lot of fans calling for Joe Thuney, who would cost just as much, if not more than Riley Reiff. Now we’ve definitely sured up one guard spot… but are we sure Cleveland is ready to handle LT in the NFL?

If you cut Reiff and leave Cleveland at RG, then you still need a legitimate left tackle to protect Kirk Cousins’ blindside. How much would that cost? $10+ million or a lucky draft pick…

Trade

This is the last, and least likely of the options that Reiff doesn’t have to sign off on, in order to complete. The Minnesota Vikings could trade Riley Reiff to fill another hole or add draft capital. I’m not going to go down this rabbit hole because I see it as the most unlikely.

The Vikings won’t get back what they’d want when shipping Reiff out of town.

Restructure

As mentioned, Riley would have to sign on the dotted line to complete this deal… but a fair extension wouldn’t be difficult to talk him into.

At 32, Reiff isn’t going to get many more chances at a long-term contract with guaranteed money. The Vikings could offer an extension that would give him another year or two of guaranteed cash, in exchange for cutting his cap hit down closer to the $8-11 million it’s been for previous years.

This decision, however, comes with its own set of consequences for Spielman. What if Reiff regresses after the best season of his career? Then the Minnesota Vikings are stuck with a declining left tackle who they now have under contract for more years.

Decisions, decisions…

Honestly, I think the Vikings will have to keep Riley Reiff under contract. Forget the money, they can’t afford to go without him on the field. If I’m Riley, I won’t take any contract extension that doesn’t have my best interest first, after what happened with my pay-cut last year.

But at the end of the day, if I’m Rick Speilman, I can’t extend Reiff. I might try to threaten another cut, like last year, but that’s VERY risky to try again.

So while Reiff looks like an easy way for the Vikings to find some more spending money for this offseason… Rick might be best just leaving well-enough alone for one more season.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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