Even as the Vikings officially agreed to terms with linebacker Anthony Barr on a deal that should help them navigate their straitened salary cap situation, they remained relatively quiet on the first day of the new league year, as they waited for moves that could break their financial logjam.
The team announced Wednesday it agreed with Barr and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen on the deals it had negotiated with both players earlier in the week, and it will hold a news conference for both players Thursday afternoon. Further deals, however, could be at a premium until the Vikings know whether defensive end Everson Griffen will accept their offer for a restructured deal that should reduce his $11.75 million cap number for 2019.
Griffen’s $10.9 million base salary would become guaranteed if he is still on the roster Friday, meaning the Vikings could release the 31-year-old if he does not agree to the restructure offer. Once their deals for Barr and Stephen are signed, the Vikings will have less than $2.5 million in salary cap space.
Barr’s deal — which came after the linebacker had second thoughts about going to the Jets on a contract that would pay him $15 million a year — features the type of dexterous cap management the Vikings have typically employed under VP of football operations Rob Brzezinski.
It includes a $13 million signing bonus and a fully guaranteed 2019 base salary of $2.9 million, according to sources with access to NFL Players Association salary data. Throw in a $100,000 workout bonus, and Barr’s deal counts for just $5.6 million against the Vikings’ 2019 salary cap.
Of Barr’s $33 million in guaranteed money, only $15.9 million — his signing bonus and his 2019 base salary — is fully guaranteed at the time the deal is signed. The four-timePro Bowl defender will have to be on the roster by the start of the 2020 and 2021 league years to earn any of the deal’s other guaranteed money.
He has a 2020 base salary of $10 million that is currently guaranteed against injury only and would become fully guaranteed if Barr is on the roster by the third day of the 2020 league year. Barr’s deal has the same structure in 2021, with $7.1 million of his $12.3 million base salary set to become fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster by Day 3 of that league year.
Stephen, whom the Vikings took with the 220th pick after selecting Barr ninth overall in the 2014 draft, returns after a year with the Seahawks on a three-year deal worth $12.45 million. He started 14 games for the Seahawks a year ago, and made 20 starts in four years with the Vikings.
As the new league year started Wednesday afternoon, 11 Vikings became unrestricted free agents, with running back Latavius Murray and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson having previously agreed to deals with the Saints and Browns, respectively. The Vikings have just one guard with NFL experience (Danny Isidora) on their roster, and they have to address needs at kicker, backup quarterback and wide receiver, among other spots.
Whether they sign additional free agents from other teams, however, could be dictated in part by how those players would affect the Vikings’ chances of landing a high compensatory pick in the 2020 draft. If Richardson — who received $36 million over three years from Cleveland — stays healthy and earns plenty of playing time in 2019, he could be worth a third-round pick to the Vikings. Their chances of landing such a high pick could be reduced if they sign more significant contributors than they lose, which would factor into the NFL’s formula for determining compensatory selections.