Cost-Effective Moves the Minnesota Vikings Can Make This Offseason
The Minnesota Vikings head into the 2013 offseason with $101 million committed in salaries for next season. With a salary cap somewhere around $121 million, don't expect them to push their payroll to that limit.
General manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier put together a successful playoff season by putting together a mix of youth and experience. The Vikings had one of their most successful drafts, adding key players to all phases of the game.
Their strategy has been to forgo the big-name free agents, adding second-tier players who don't need to outbid anyone to sign. They've dropped expensive veterans whose better days have passed. The plan appears to be developing talent, instead of taking the perceived easy road of acquiring it.
In order to be deemed a success, their plan will need to extend the improvements made in 2012 to the upcoming 2013 season. If 2012 was a fluke, and the Vikings are nothing more than the 2011 version of the Detroit Lions, then things could get ugly around here really quick as a new publicly financed stadium is built.
Look for this offseason to be another of frugal free-agent shopping, signing a lot of under-the-radar players to future/free-agent contracts.
Here of some moves that Spielman may make in order to sustain the success from 2012.
Restructure Jared Allen's Contract
Jared Allen's cap hit cost the Minnesota Vikings $15.2 million in 2012. While it was the highest salary on the roster, and the seventh-highest in the NFL, surprisingly, he was the third defensive end, behind Dwight Freeney ($19.0 million) and Elvis Dumervil ($18.9 million).
Since joining the Vikings in 2008, Allen has recorded 74 sacks, second only to DeMarcus Ware in the NFL over the last five years. In five seasons, he ranks third in franchise history behind John Randle and Chris Doleman, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
In the last year of the six-year deal he signed in 2008, Allen will cost the Vikings $17.8 million against their salary cap with a $14.3 base salary and a another $3.5 million in bonuses.
By signing him to a contract extension, Rick Spielman could restructure Allen's contract in 2013, and lock up their top sack producer for another three to five years.
Part Ways with Michael Jenkins
The Minnesota Vikings signed wide receiver Michael Jenkins after he was released by the Falcons in 2011. Hoping to add some depth to the receiving corps, Jenkins has averaged only 39 receptions for 458 yards and two touchdowns during his two seasons in Minnesota.
This is an area the Vikings still need to improve. In order to do that, they will need to spend some money. According to a report by Tom Pelissero from 1500ESPN.com, if the Minnesota Vikings Jenkins before the start of the season, it will save them $2.5 million against the cap. It's money that can be used to upgrade the position.
Say Goodbye to Another Veteran
Last season, general manager Rick Spielman didn't have any problems cutting overpaid veterans Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera and Cedric Griffin. This year, Charlie Johnson could be on the chopping block after two mediocre seasons in Minnesota.
Set to count $4.5 million against the salary cap in 2013, the Vikings could save $2.9 million against the cap to use toward an upgrade.
Figure out What to Do with Kevin Williams
The Minnesota Vikings need to make a decision about defensive tackle Kevin Williams. In 2012, he had the third-highest salary cap hit at $8.4 million. Only Jared Allen ($15.2 million) and Adrian Peterson ($11.1 million) counted more.
There seems to be some confusion as to the status for the 10-year veteran the Vikings drafted ninth overall in the 2003. Spotrac.com lists Williams as an unrestricted free agent, while Rotoworld indicates that his contract is worth $7 million in 2013 and 2014.
Tom Pelissero tweeted in July that there is no two-year option for Williams.
Not sure where the confusion lies but I've seen #Vikings DT Kevin Williams' deal and asked people who know and there is no 2013-14 option.
Either way, the Vikings need to find a way to keep the five-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler. Williams will turn 33 just before the start of the 2013 season. That's the same age Pat Williams joined the Vikings after playing eight seasons in Buffalo. Pat Williams played another six seasons in Minnesota alongside Kevin Williams.
Cut Ties with John Carlson
Rick Spielman's biggest free-agent signing last season was tight end John Carlson. The Vikings signed the Minnesota native to a five-year, $25 million contract, despite the fact he missed the entire 2011 season due to an injury. It was a curious move with Kyle Rudolph coming off a successful rookie season.
An MCL sprain of his right knee prevented Carlson from playing a snap in the entire preseason and limited his effectiveness when the season opened. Things didn't get any better when he suffered a concussion in Week 7 and missed a couple of games.
For the season, he finished with only eight catches for 43 yards and no touchdowns.
Carlson's contract counted $4.25 million against the cap in 2012. He's set to make $2.9 million in base salary in 2013 with another $1.3 million in bonuses. According to a story by Tom Peliserro on 1500ESPN, depending on when the Vikings cut him, he may count as little as $1.2 million against the cap in 2013.