The first draft pick of the Mike Zimmer era will be on the Vikings' roster for at least one more season,
Linebacker Anthony Barr is finalizing a restructured deal that will keep him in Minnesota for 2021 and lower his cap number from $15.062 million, a source confirmed. In exchange for the cap relief, the Vikings will void the final two years of Barr's deal, allowing him to become a free agent again in 2022. Barr was scheduled to make a $12.3 million base salary in 2021, and $7.1 million of it would have become guaranteed at the end of this week.
Barr, who turns 29 this week, missed 14 games in 2020 after tearing a pectoral muscle in a Week 2 loss to Indianapolis, and a restructured deal seemed like a distinct possibility in a year where the Vikings would have to clear space with the cap dropping by nearly $16 million. It is not known exactly how much money the Vikings will save on Barr's 2021 deal, but the move seemed similar to the one the team made with defensive end Everson Griffen — who is represented by the same agency as Barr — in 2019, allowing him to void the final three years of Griffen's deal while clearing $4.5 million from his base salary.
That restructure, which came minutes before Griffen's base salary was to be guaranteed, cleared the way for the Vikings to sign Barr to the contract he just redid.
The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker's relationship with the Vikings has contained its share of twists since the team drafted him ninth overall in 2014. It appeared he would be the player left out of the Vikings' effort to keep their young core together in 2018, when the team gave lucrative deals to Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs, while Barr took a break from organized team activities to buy an insurance policy before returning.
He played that year on his fifth-year option, and had verbally agreed to a five-year, $77.5 million deal with the Jets before having second thoughts on the eve of free agency in 2019. The Vikings worked late into the night with Barr's agent on a five-year, $67.5 million deal to keep him in Minnesota, in a move that made safety Harrison Smith tear up at a press conference when discussing Barr's decision to stay a month later.
As they reached another inflection point two years later, the Vikings and Barr again decided to stay together. Keeping him could mean the team loses linebacker Eric Wilson in free agency this week, but it seemed this offseason like the team still saw enough value in Barr's command of the defensive huddle and his ability to present matchup problems that it would find a way to keep him.
"Anthony is a critical piece — I know Coach Zim has spoken about it — of our defense. Just him on the field creates some offensives coaches, they have to scheme for him… But it's all going to depend how the pieces are going to fit in place," general manager Rick Spielman said earlier this month.