As the Vikings mark the anniversary this week of the three-year, $84 million deal they gave Kirk Cousins — a move designed to solidify their status as championship contenders — they find themselves facing a pressing set of tasks, and an unusual set of financial constraints within which to accomplish them.
The Vikings are projected to have just $5.24 million in salary cap space when free agency kicks off on Wednesday, meaning they’re headed toward some difficult decisions on veterans this week as they try to clear room for the rest of their needs following a disappointing 8-7-1 season. What remains to be seen, though, is how many new challenges the Vikings could face if they’re forced to jettison key contributors.
Here's a position-by-position look at the Vikings’ roster headed into free agency, and how it could change in the coming days.:
Quarterback (2019 salary cap figure in parentheses)
Current roster: Kirk Cousins ($29 million), Kyle Sloter ($645,000)
Pending free agent: Trevor Siemian
Big decision: Whether the team’s new offensive staff — filled with coaches who were in Denver when Siemian lost his job as the Broncos’ starter in 2016 — will want to bring Siemian back on a new deal. It could depend on whether the Vikings see Sloter as being ready to assume the No. 2 job behind Cousins.
Current roster: Dalvin Cook ($1.732 million), C.J. Ham ($645,000) Mike Boone ($572,500), Roc Thomas ($570,000)
Pending free agents: Latavius Murray, Ameer Abdullah
Big decision: With little security behind Cook, who has played only 15 games in two years, the Vikings could look to add here. It’s tough to see Murray returning unless there’s not an offer he likes on the open market, but a reliable, affordable veteran, such as Eagan native Zach Zenner, could make sense.
Current roster: Stefon Diggs ($12.468 million), Adam Thielen ($8.1M), Laquon Treadwell ($3.161M), Chad Beebe ($570,000), Brandon Zylstra ($570,000), Jeff Badet ($532,500)
Pending free agent: Aldrick Robinson
Big decision: There’s little depth behind Diggs and Thielen (who could be in line for a raise after back-to-back Pro Bowls). It’d make sense to bring back Robinson, who played with Cousins in Washington and clicked with him last year. Though the Vikings would save $654,770 by cutting Treadwell, coach Mike Zimmer said new assistant head coach Gary Kubiak has “big plans” for the former first-round pick.
Current roster: Kyle Rudolph ($7.625 million), David Morgan ($753,864), Tyler Conklin ($640,258), Cole Hikutini ($570,000)
Pending free agents: None
Big decision: It’s believed the Vikings are in talks with Rudolph — who turns 30 in November — about a salary reduction in the final year of his deal, but it remains to be seen if the tight end would accept a restructuring or look to play elsewhere. Nonetheless, the Vikings, who pursued Jared Cook in free agency two years ago and talked with the Rams about a trade for Tyler Higbee last year, could be in the market for a tight end who can run.
Current roster: Riley Reiff ($11.7 million), Mike Remmers ($6.35M), Pat Elflein ($1.043M), Brian O’Neill ($1.001M), Danny Isidora ($695,487), Aviante Collins ($650,000), Cornelius Edison ($570,000), Adam Bisnowaty ($495,000), Storm Norton ($495,000)
Pending free agents: Nick Easton, Brett Jones, Tom Compton, Rashod Hill, Cedrick Lang
Big decision: There are a few of them here: Whether to bring Remmers back, or free up $4.55 million by cutting him; how much to bet on Easton’s healthy return from a herniated disk; whether Reiff needs to stay at left tackle, or if there’s another option available; and whether to look for help on the free-agent market or in the draft. If such free agents as the Rams’ Roger Saffold or the Broncos’ Matt Paradis get too expensive for the Vikings, one name to keep in mind is Jets center Jonathan Harrison, who played for offensive line coach Rick Dennison last year and could potentially move to guard.
Current roster: Danielle Hunter ($13.5 million), Everson Griffen ($11.743M), Linval Joseph ($10.668M), Jaleel Johnson ($814,590), Jalyn Holmes, ($752,849), Stephen Weatherly ($720,000), Tashawn Bower ($650,000), Ifeadi Odenigbo ($632,500), Ade Aruna ($524,602), Curtis Cothran ($495,000)
Pending free agents: Sheldon Richardson, Tom Johnson
Big decision: Richardson has expressed interest in returning after a strong season, but that might not happen if agent Ben Dogra is looking for top-of-the-market money. There’s been chatter in NFL circles for months about the possibility of Griffen moving on. If the Vikings decide they need to either release the 31-year-old defensive end — or potentially force his hand by seeking a salary reduction — they could turn to Weatherly, who could be a candidate for a sensible long-term deal before he hits free agency next year. Johnson, a solid contributor for the Vikings, wants to return; he’ll be 35 before the season.
Current roster: Eric Kendricks ($6.568 million), Ben Gedeon ($803,132), Kentrell Brothers ($778,170), Eric Wilson ($648,333), Devante Downs ($593,600), Reshard Cliett ($495,000)
Pending free agent: Anthony Barr
Big decision: It seems as if Barr — the No. 9 pick in the 2014 draft — might be moving on, especially if there’s a fit closer to the West Coast, or a team that wants to pay him to rush the quarterback in a 3-4 defense. If Barr leaves, the Vikings will have to decide whether they can turn to Wilson to replace him full-time, or whether they’ll need another dynamic player in the draft.
Current roster: Xavier Rhodes ($13.337 million), Harrison Smith ($10.75M), Trae Waynes ($9.069M), Mike Hughes ($2.242M), Mackensie Alexander ($1.373M), Jayron Kearse ($736,056), Holton Hill ($575,000), Jalen Myrick ($570,000), Craig James ($570,000)
Pending free agents: Andrew Sendejo, Marcus Sherels, George Iloka, Anthony Harris
Big decision: The Vikings figure to place a restricted free-agent tender on Harris that ensures them compensation if he leaves. If he received a second-round tender, he’d make more than $3 million next season. It seems unlikely the Vikings would pick up a $5.5 million option on Sendejo, and they could have competition for Sherels, especially with Mike Priefer now the special teams coordinator in Cleveland. Waynes’ fifth-year option becomes guaranteed on Wednesday, and if the Vikings are confident in their depth with Hill and Hughes (returning from a torn ACL), they could look to deal Waynes to create cap space.
Current roster: Long snapper Kevin McDermott ($960,000), punter Matt Wile ($645,000)
Pending free agent: Kicker Dan Bailey
Big decision: New special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf will quickly have to evaluate Bailey, who missed seven field goals after signing with the Vikings last year. The Vikings met with rookie kickers at the NFL combine, but given Zimmer’s checkered history with young kickers, a veteran might be the better option. In that case, the Vikings could opt for consistency with Bailey and explore options for holders other than Wile, who struggled at times last season.