When the Lockout is finally over, (hopefully today) all 32 NFL teams will have to move quickly to build their rosters before training camp. There will be a plethora of player transactions for a multitude of reasons, most notably, under the new CBA only four years of service will be required for a player to be deemed an Unrestricted Free Agent.
However, with a new CBA comes a new Salary Cap—one that likely will be set at $120 million.
This means that of those 32 teams, many will have to drop "dead-weight"; players who are making more money than their play would lead you to believe.
ESPN's John Clayton recently reported that the Vikings are roughly $5 million over the cap limit. Even though I find his calculations wrong, let's play devil's advocate and say he is right.
This means that the Minnesota Vikings will have two options:
1. Restructure some inflated contracts.
2. Cut players outright who aren't producing.
Also, if a player is cut due to high salary, the team could always resign that player to a cheaper contract, i.e. how the Packers handled A.J. Hawk's contract.
With that said, here is a list of some potential cap casualties of the Minnesota Vikings this offseason.
WR Bernard Berrian—With a 2011 salary currently at $3.7 million, Berrian's production on the field the past season would have Vikings fans believing 'B-Twice' got the better deal in Minnesota. But he has shown he can be a legitimate deep-threat receiver and if the Vikings lose Sidney Rice, they may look to keep Berrian on the team, however, with a restructured deal.
RG Anthony Herrera—For a while, Herrera was a solid guard for the Minnesota Vikings running game, but age and injury have caught up to the man. Coming off of ACL surgery and with a 2011 base salary of roughly $2 million, that is money the Vikings would most likely rather spend on younger prospects—making Herrera most likely expendable.
LG Steve Hutchinson—Allow me to be the first to say Hutchinson will remain with the Minnesota Vikings for the 2011 season, just not at his current salary of $6.68 million. Hutchinson is a seven-time Prow Bowl (and five-time All Pro) Left Guard, but last year he was placed on IR after 11 games and will turn 34 this season. Still an above average guard, his pay is far too steep for his age and performance.
WR Greg Camarillo - Last season, the Vikings were desperate for wide receiver help and traded a solid cornerback (Benny Sapp) to the Dolphins for a guy who has excellent hands. Unfortunately for the Vikings, those "excellent hands" only averaged 1.25 catches a game. I think Camarillo had a rough time adjusting to a new system and new team, but he's nearly 30 years old and carries a price tag of nearly $2 million. Whether the Vikings lose Rice or not, don't expect Camarillo to be back with Minnesota next season.
TE Jim Kleinsasser—I'm a big fan of Kleinsasser. He's the longest tenured Viking (12 years) on the roster and he's been a class act since being drafted in 1999. He even recently signed a three year extension ($3 million per year) to remain with the team. But at age 34, he's likely to lose significant playing time after the Vikings drafted Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph, and the Vikings cannot afford $3 million a season to ride the bench. He could be resigned later.
FS Madieu Williams—I think every Viking fan has been waiting for this move to happen. Williams very well could be the nicest man on Minnesota's roster. But the 2010 'Walter Payton Man of the Year' recipient is probably the worst defensive player on the team. He has an outrageous 2011 salary at $5.4 million and most likely will be released as soon as the Lockout is lifted. In three seasons with the Vikings, Williams has compiled 140 tackles, three interceptions, and nine pass deflections. There has to be a better, younger and cheaper replacement.
DT Jimmy Kennedy—Signed to a two-year $5 million contract in 2010, the 31-year-old Kennedy was expected to rotate with the ageless Pat Williams. However, last season he was inactive for seven games and rarely produced when on the field. The former first-round pick is due $2.5 million in 2011, pretty steep for someone who doesn't see the field and complains about it.
DB Cedric Griffin—It's unfortunate, but Cedric Griffin was just starting to become a solid cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings secondary before tearing two ACLs (left in 2009 and right in 2010). The Vikings front office indicated that if healthy, Griffin will retain his starting left cornerback position. The problem is, he may not be able to. If Griffin is able to possibly make the switch to Free Safety in 2011, the Vikings will keep him (and his current contract) but if not healthy after training camp, Griffin could be out of the starting lineup and not worth his $3.35 million salary in 2011. Look for the Vikings to restructure his deal if he is unable to retain his starting job.
TOTAL SAVINGS (before restructure deals): $28.63 million
There you have it. The Minnesota Vikings may be able to clear some much needed space within the Salary Cap this offseason if they are smart with their personnel moves. I have a feeling that there will be quite a few changes to the lineup, cutting out expensive salaries and older players. In order to compete in the NFC North again, the Vikings need to use their money on difference-making players.