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How the Vikings might create cap space for new Bradford, Rhodes deals

Two of the biggest storylines of the 2017 Minnesota Vikings season will surround contracts. Unrestricted free agents Sam Bradford and Xavier Rhodes will both be under scrutiny as they look to earn long-term deals. But after giving out several big contracts this offseason, the Vikings will have to be creative if they want to afford both players.

Because the NFL does not have guaranteed contracts, teams can structure deals to appear much longer and more lucrative than they actually are in order to have lower salary cap numbers. For example, Riley Reiff’s five-year, $58.75 million contract only carries along $26.3 million in guaranteed money and after 2019, the Vikings could release him and gain $8.8 million in cap space while carrying a hit that season of $4.4 million. You can see below (via OverTheCap.com) how his cap number rises throughout the contract while the dead money if he’s released goes down. If Reiff is still playing at a high level by the end of 2019, it’s very likely the Vikings would restructure his deal.

That’s just one example of how teams can either walk away from contracts or rework them in order to create more space.

If the Vikings choose to sign both Bradford and Rhodes long term, they may have to find ways to create room for deals that could combine for close to $40 million per season.

There are currently seven starters who the Vikings could either release or restructure their deals without facing significant cap penalty (all numbers via Overthecap.com):

LB, Anthony Barr

2018 cap hit: $12.3 million

Dead money: $0

If Barr returns to 2015 form, the Vikings might be looking at signing him to a long-term contract, too. But if he doesn’t bounce back from a down 2016, he could be released with zero cap penalty or the Vikings could release him and work out a new deal.

G, Alex Boone

2018 cap hit: $6.7 million

Dead money: $0

While Boone turned in a solid first year in Minnesota, it does not seem likely they would keep him at $6.7 million next season. He is a prime candidate for a restructure. If he wasn’t willing to rework the deal, the Vikings could move on.

S, Andrew Sendejo

2018 cap hit: $3.5 million

Dead money: $0

Sendejo had the best season of his career in 2016. If he repeats that performance, Harrison Smith’s cohort in the defensive backfield could be a bargain at $3.5 million. However, if his play drops off, the Vikings could look to the draft or one of their recent picks Jack Tocho or Jayron Kearse to replace him.

DE, Everson Griffen

2018 cap hit: $9.7 million

Dead money:  $1.2 million

Everson is set to hit free agency after 2018 and will make less base salary than his cap hit, which might allow the Vikings to re-work his contract to give him an extension. Griffen is one of the elite players at his position in the NFL, so Minnesota will want to do everything they can to keep him.

TE, Kyle Rudolph

2018 cap hit: $7.3 million

Dead money: $1.3 million

The Vikings’ tight end is coming off a career year in 2016, but he’s set to have a large cap hit for his position. If one of the other tight ends on the roster like Bucky Hodges or David Morgan emerges as a starting-caliber player, the Vikings could let him go and pick up $6 million in space.

Linval Joseph

2018 cap hit: $6.85 million

Dead money: $600,000

Like Griffen, Joseph is a free agent after 2018, will be making less in base salary than his cap hit and a must-keep player for the Vikings. An extension seems imminent.

Latavius Murray

2018 cap hit: $6.35 million

Dead money: $1.2 million

The takeaway:

Murray’s three-year, $15 million contract is essentially a one-year deal. If Dalvin Cook emerges as a monster all-around back, the Vikings could let Murray hit the market or restructure his contract to fit his No. 2 role.

All said and done, between those seven starters there is around a $50 million difference between the cap hits and dead money. Letting Barr walk and releasing Boone alone would pay for Bradford’s 2018 cap hit.





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