With the NFL season quickly approaching, there is still a mountain of questions yet to be answered. Everything from official season roster size to what happens when a team has a coronavirus outbreak. But one question that could have far-reaching implications on the Vikings and the entire NFL is the fluid status of the salary cap entering the 2021 season.
According to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, the NFL and NFLPA are discussing the impact of any revenue shortfall from the 2020 season. They are discussing how to spread the damage over the course of the next few seasons.
The proposal being discussed by the NFL and NFLPA would spread the impact of any revenue shortfall in 2020 over four years, with a 2021 salary cap of at least $175 million, sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo. No change to the 2020 cap despite owners' proposals.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 24, 2020
THE VIRUS THROWS THINGS INTO CHAOS
This comes down to whether fans are allowed into games or if NFL teams can manufacture alternative ways to generate the loss of gameday revenue this fall. With that being a tall task in a short amount of time, the two sides are trying to get ahead of the curve to minimize any future labor disputes.
As Mike Garafolo states, both parties are looking towards lowering the 2021 salary cap to $175 million from an originally projected $210 million. However, that $175 million number is fluid. If teams find a way to bring in substantial revenue, that number could climb.
Next year’s salary cap would be no lower than $175m. If revenues are better than expected, it could be higher. If worse, it would have to be accounted for in future years through 2024. But a cap minimum to assure a reasonable floor in 2021 was important to the players.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 24, 2020
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE VIKINGS?
This would mean big cuts for the Vikings in the coming spring. According to Over The Cap, the purple and gold are slated to spend around $189 million on their top 51 players in 2021. That projects to be more than $14 million over the proposed cap.
If the salary cap is $175 million in 2021, it should be noted that, according to Overthecap the #Vikings currently have $189.438 million of "under 51" liabilities on the books for 2021. They could be looking at big cuts next spring. https://t.co/B9gZOc8Rya— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) July 24, 2020
So who do the Vikings look to when finding ways to shed salary? Well, one big name comes to mind right off the bat in offensive tackle Riley Reiff. Although he has solidified an horrific offensive line since signing as a free agent in 2017, he has just been…ok.
While the Vikings could definitely utilize his services in helping the younger players on the line mature into their roles, he engulfs a large chunk of the payroll. He along counts for $13.95 million against the cap in 2021. Cutting Reiff alone would put the Vikings in a more manageable situation to get under the cap next year.
Khalil Mack throws Riley Reiff down with one arm pic.twitter.com/seWvBnspeV— Vikings Blogger (@firstandskol) November 19, 2018
However, how much do the Vikings trust rookie tackle Ezra Cleveland? Do they say screw it and throw him into the fire or try and go out and find someone cheaper and sacrifice potential ability?
The Vikings could also look to move on from interior defensive lineman Michael Pierce ($5 million) and inside linebacker Eric Wilson ($3.259 million). But they would then need to focus on replacements for those positions alongside shedding more salary.
New Vikings' NT Michael Pierce is an⚓️in the middle of the defensive line. Here are a number of plays that show that from the Ravens' game against the Patriots, with two of the best Gs in the NFL in Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney. pic.twitter.com/GdTd3RzFjN— Matt Fries (@FriesFootball) March 19, 2020
Outside of those three options, the team could look to restructure other contracts. Kirk Cousins for example could restructure to a more back-loaded contract or Dalvin Cook could agree to a more team-friendly deal with back-loading as well. Cousins’ restructuring may be more of a pipe dream considering he just signed an extenaion after last season. But these are options the team has to look at to ensure they aren’t penalized next season.
It will be a tricky situation to navigate. But it is nothing general manager Rick Spielman or Rob Brzezinski haven’t dealt with before. Heck, they did it earlier this year when everyone was screaming about the team’s cap issues.
Whatever happens, in Spielman and Brzezinski we trust.
Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan