As the Vikings head into the final two weeks of the season, they’ll play a pair of division games to sew up a wild-card spot and keep their slim hopes alive for a NFC North title.
But a number of players have a chance to make a little extra cash at the end of the regular season, or increase their paychecks in the coming years, based on their individual performances in the final weeks.
The Vikings have a handful of veterans closing in on incentives or base salary escalators in their deals. We’ll get to a brief rundown below of which players have a chance to make some extra money. But first, a quick answer to the questions about how this affects the salary cap: If a player hits an incentive, he gets the cash at the end of the year, and the amount is accounted for in a cap adjustment before the 2020 league year — unless the incentive in question is based on a threshold the player hit the year before, in which case it’s considered “likely to be earned” and is already counting against the cap. If it’s “not likely to be earned” (as in the Dan Bailey figures we’ll discuss in a minute), it means the player didn’t hit the statistical threshold the year before and it doesn’t currently count against the cap.
Here’s a look at where things stand for several Vikings players with two games to go.
Bailey: The kicker, who’s in the middle of a bounceback season, might come out as the big winner in the Vikings’ incentive payouts. He’s hit 91.7 percent of his field goals this season, and is in line to make an extra $1 million if he keeps that percentage. Bailey would earn the incentive if he makes over 90 percent of his field goal attempts; he’d get $750,000 if he finishes over 87.5 percent, $500,000 if he finishes above 84 percent and $250,000 if he makes at least 80 percent of his kicks in the regular season. Bailey, it should be noted, is playing on a one-year, $1 million contract; he could double his 2019 salary if he stays accurate in the final weeks.
Kirk Cousins: While he’s not able to tap into any of the incentives in his contract unless the Vikings win the Super Bowl, how they perform on offense during the final two weeks of the season can put Cousins in line for a bigger bonus if the Vikings hoist the Lombardi Trophy. He gets $1 million if the Vikings win the Super Bowl after finishing in the top 5 in scoring offense, and $1.5 million if they win the Super Bowl following a top-3 offensive finish. If they win it with Cousins being named Super Bowl MVP, and finish in the top 8 in scoring offense, Cousins gets an extra $2 million. Right now, the Vikings are fifth in scoring offense.
Stefon Diggs: The receiver, who has 1,073 yards with two games to go, can boost his base salaries in the final three years of his contract by finishing with 1,375 receiving yards. Diggs, who triggered an escalator for each season by posting more than 100 catches last year, can add another $666,667 to his 2021 base salary, $750,000 to his 2022 base and $800,000 to his 2023 base if he hits 1,375 yards (he already boosted his salaries for those years by the above amounts last year).
Danielle Hunter: With 13 1/2 sacks so far this season, the defensive end triggered a $500,000 escalator for the second year in a row by eclipsing 13 sacks. He can add another $500,000 by hitting 15 sacks, boosting his 2020 base salary by a total of $1 million.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen has the same incentives in his contract as Diggs, and linebacker Anthony Barr can earn a $1 million base salary escalator if he eclipses 10 sacks, but neither player has a realistic chance to hit their incentives this season; Thielen only has 30 catches for 418 yards after missing all or most of seven games with a hamstring injury, while Barr only has 1 1/2 sacks this year.