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Vikings' Griffen: Adding Sheldon Richardson 'is music to my ears'

The Vikings’ pass rush didn’t produce the way Mike Zimmer wanted at the end of a 14-win season, including the first playoff win since 2009.

There were many reasons. Everson Griffen’s “completely” torn plantar fascia suffered in Week 8 is one. A lack of pass rush up the middle is another.

Griffen, speaking to reporters Tuesday from the Vikings’ new Eagan headquarters, expects both problems to be in the past in 2018.

“It bothered me,” Griffen said. “If anybody has had a torn plantar fascia — I completely tore mine.”

Griffen had 10 sacks in eight games before the injury. He finished the year with a career-high 14 sacks in 17 games. Now he said the injury is behind him as Vikings players participated Tuesday in offseason workouts.

“It’s doing great,” Griffen said. “I feel good.”

The Vikings needed a full-time defensive tackle next to Linval Joseph, so they signed Sheldon Richardson to a one-year, $8 million contract in March.

With some refining, Richardson can free up Griffen to make more plays off the edge.

“Bringing in Sheldon Richardson is music to my ears,” Griffen said. “I love seeing that, because the fastest way to the quarterback is up the middle. If he’s getting pressure up the middle and push up the middle, that means we can use more speed and we’re not getting as many chips.”

Griffen pointed to defenses of Mike Zimmer’s past coaching jobs as examples of why a “dominant” three-technique defensive tackle is needed in the system.

“[Richardson] is dominant,” Griffen said. “He’s got to learn how to pass rush a little bit, but that’s why we’ve got the best D-line coach in the NFL. [Andre Patterson] is going to help him tremendously, because that’s what he does.”

Salary cap update: Vikings have $15.7 million left after Kendricks contract

The Vikings’ deal with Eric Kendricks, which pays the linebacker $50 million in new money over the next five years, puts $10.5 million of extra cash in the linebacker’s pocket this season, in the form of the signing bonus the team agreed to give Kendricks when it finalized the deal last week.

The $1.138 million base salary Kendricks was originally scheduled to make in 2018, though, remains unchanged, which means his one-fifth of signing bonus is the only effect his new deal has on this year’s salary cap.

Minnesota still has about $15.73 million in space under the 2018 cap, after adding Kendricks’ deal to the ledger. Signing bonuses are amortized over five years for cap purposes in the NFL, meaning Kendricks’ payout will hit the cap in $2.1 million increments each season from 2018 through 2022. The final year of his deal, in 2023, includes no signing bonus proration, and thus carries no dead money.

Kendricks’ deal includes a total of $22.938 million in guaranteed money, though only his $10.5 million signing bonus and his $1.138 million base salary for this season are fully guaranteed as of now. He has base salaries of $4.15 million in 2019 and $7.15 million in 2020 that are guaranteed for injury at the moment, and would become fully guaranteed if Kendricks is on the roster on the third day of the league year.

His deal allows him to earn up to $250,000 each year in per-game roster bonuses, as well as $100,000 in annual offseason workout bonuses.

The Vikings would need about $5.8 million in 2018 cap space to sign their eight draft picks, according to Over the Cap (though that number will change as the Vikings trade picks this weekend). It’s safe to assume, though, the Vikings will have about $10 million in cap space left for 2018 once they’ve signed their draft class.

We’ll see if any of that money winds up as part of a signing bonus for another contract extension, for Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter or Anthony Barr, by the time training camp or the start of the regular season rolls around.

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