Riley Reiff’s restructured contract creates $5 million in salary cap savings for the Vikings, while giving the left tackle a chance to recoup $2 million through playing-time incentives.
Reiff agreed to drop his salary from nearly $11 million to about $6 million, according to a league source, to stay in Minnesota. Teammates were under the impression Reiff was going to be released Tuesday until he and his agent, Neil Cornrich, accepted a steep pay cut the Vikings broached after trading for Jacksonville defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
Reiff, the 31-year-old team captain, avoids searching for a new team amid COVID-19 restrictions and NFL revenue shortfalls.
The Vikings’ front office structured Reiff’s incentives in a way that will allow him to recoup money while keeping it off the salary cap this season. Reiff can earn back $1 million for reaching 86% playing time, and another $1 million for 93.75% playing time, according to a league source.
If healthy, both incentives are attainable for Reiff. But because he played 85.7% of the snaps last season, they’re deemed “not likely to be earned” for salary cap purposes and, if achieved, won’t count against the cap until after the season.
Reiff returned to practice Thursday after missing three sessions earlier this week, when the shake-up included Brian O’Neill moving to left tackle. With O’Neill back on the right side and a new starter expected in left guard Dakota Dozier, coaches hope for offensive line stability.
“We’ll settle down now and get back to work here with our guys,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “We probably have an eight-man, seven-man type rotation going on as far as how we’re working getting into [Week 1 vs. Green Bay].”
Hollins in WR race?
Second-year Alexander Hollins is a good example of the Vikings’ tough decisions ahead when NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. Hollins is coming off a strong camp, where he better grasped the playbook and held his own as a wiry 6-1 target.
“He’s made more competitive football plays this year,” Kubiak said. “He is a small guy. He weighs 160-something pounds, and it gets dirty in there. It gets physical in this game. But he’s held up better physically on the field in those competitive situations this year, so he’s taken some good steps forward.”
General Manager Rick Spielman, coaches and scouts need to decide if Hollins’ upside is worth keeping him over fellow receivers such as Chad Beebe or fifth-round rookie K.J. Osborn.
“We’ve got two days here to answer some really tough questions,” Kubiak said.
Ngakoue gets No. 91
Ngakoue practiced with the Vikings for the first time Thursday, wearing his usual No. 91, which was formerly worn by Jalyn Holmes, another defensive end. Holmes, a 2018 fourth-round pick, has switched to No. 90.
The Vikings moved Thursday’s practice inside the fieldhouse at TCO Performance Center because of 20 mile-per-hour winds.
Danielle Hunter remained sidelined while the Vikings take a “cautious” approach to an undisclosed injury, according to head coach Mike Zimmer. Defensive tackle Armon Watts also did not practice.
Cameron Smith rejoins meetings
Linebacker Cameron Smith, who had open heart surgery Aug. 24 in Philadelphia, has taken part in the Vikings’ virtual team meetings, co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said. Smith is in his second week of a 12-week rehab process and intends to be around the team as much as possible while aiming to play again one day.
“He’s in full recovery now,” Zimmer said Thursday. “We’re looking forward to getting him back in the building.”
Star Tribune writer Ben Goessling contributed to this report.