5 Cuts That Could Create Serious Cap Space for the Minnesota Vikings
It could be a very entertaining offseason for the Minnesota Vikings.
According to Spotrac.com, the Vikings are expected to have $22.9 million available to re-sign their own players or sign free agents.
And with starters like Chris Cook, Charlie Johnson, Jared Allen and Jerome Simpson set to hit the market in addition to contributors like Fred Evans, Marcus Sherels and Everson Griffen, the Vikings have important decisions to make.
To make things more interesting, the team owns a top-eight pick and has a dire need to find a franchise quarterback.
But if the Vikings want to, they could make the offseason more interesting by severing ties with veterans under contract for 2014 and beyond to create additional cap space.
Now, Minnesota could cut Adrian Peterson and create substantial cap space. But we all know that won't happen, and it'd be foolish for the team to do that.
The purpose here is to assess which contracts the Vikings could do without to create even more cap space for what should be an exciting offseason.
The Vikings could cut plenty of people toward the bottom of their depth chart. But that wouldn't do much good for creating cap space.
All players on this slideshow are veteran players who would create at least $1 million in cap space for 2014 (and potentially beyond).
The following five players aren't listed in any particular order and all have contracts through at least the 2014 season.
Safety Jamarca Sanford
If Jamarca Sanford were a few inches taller and at least 30 pounds heavier, this wouldn't be considered.
The way that Sanford (5'11", 200 lbs) fills in as a run defender would make him an adequate linebacker for the Vikings defense.
But Sanford is a safety, and as a safety, his pass-coverage skills are weak.
The 28-year-old was a key component to Minnesota ranking as the NFL's 31st-best pass defense (287.2 yards per game).
Sanford, a five-year vet, recorded 75 tackles and two forced fumbles last season. He provides nice depth at the position, but he shouldn't enter the 2014 season as the starter alongside Harrison Smith.
Savings if cut: $2.5 million in 2014, according to Spotrac.com
Defensive Tackle Letroy Guion
Sharrif Floyd will likely be one of Minnesota's starting defensive tackles in 2014.
The other starter?
That's more of an unknown.
Letroy Guion started all 13 games he participated in this past season, recording 21 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
Guion (6'4", 303 lbs) was a fifth-round pick in 2008 and is known more for his speed and quickness than his power. However, he has recorded just five sacks in 66 career games.
According to ESPN's Ben Goessling, it's "possible" the Vikings cut Guion because of how cap-friendly the maneuver would be. Goessling also points out that the limited depth at the position will make Minnesota think twice before doing so.
Savings if cut: $4 million in 2014, according to Spotrac.com
Outside Linebacker Chad Greenway
As a flat-out cut, this would be the least likely on this list.
Chad Greenway has been a mainstay on the Minnesota defense for the past seven seasons. In that time, he's never missed a game.
And while Greenway led the Vikings in tackles and reached triple digits for the fourth straight season (134), his skills seemed to decline in 2013; a big part of that likely had to do with a broken wrist he played much of the season with, as ESPN's Ben Goessling points out.
As Goessling opines on Greenway:
Chad Greenway played with a broken wrist for much of the season that impaired his ability to tackle and also seemed a step late in pass coverage too often. He might have been caught trying to compensate for the instability at the linebacker positions around him.
The Vikings are more likely to try to restructure Greenway's contract given his age (31), his play this past season—broken wrist and all—and cap space than they are to cut him.
Savings if cut: $4.8 million in 2014, according to Spotrac.com
Linebacker Erin Henderson
Unlike Greenway, this is one of the most likely cuts on this list.
Beyond the off-field issues, the highlight of Erin Henderson's 2013 season was his transition to middle linebacker—which didn't stick toward the end of the season after injuries impacted the linebacking corps.
Henderson, 27, has played with the Vikings for six seasons and posted a career high in tackles in 2013 (112). Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of the three best linebackers in the NFC North last season, although it basically says Henderson is the best of the worst in the division.
Savings if cut: $2 million in 2014, according to Spotrac.com
Quarterback Matt Cassel
The only reason why the Vikings would opt to cut Matt Cassel is if they're strapped for cash and have concrete leads on solving their quarterback situation for 2014 and beyond that don't involve him.
As ESPN's Ben Goessling opines, making a decision on Cassel will be atop Minnesota's to-do list now that the Super Bowl has passed.
In the eyes of many, Cassel should—and will—enter 2014 as the team's starting quarterback, assuming he picks up his player option to return to the Vikings. That makes cutting him seem unlikely unless another option becomes available and Minnesota needs cap space to pursue that or another option in free agency.
Cassel, 31, threw for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season while completing 60.2 percent of his passes.
Savings if cut: $3.7 million in 2014, according to Spotrac.com