Though the Vikings had announced deals for former Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and former Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks — their two most expensive additions of free agency so far — they hadn't actually arranged for either player to sign his contract before Friday.
There was a very good reason for that: The Vikings needed to clear space to fit both players under their salary cap.
They've done that now, after converting safety Harrison Smith's $8 million roster bonus to a signing bonus. Smith was due the roster bonus, as well as a $2.95 million base salary guarantee, on Friday. By converting the roster bonus to a signing bonus, the Vikings spread the $8 million cap charge out over the final four years of Smith's deal and pushed $6 million of cap costs into future years.
Smith's cap numbers in 2023, 2024 and 2025 increase by $2 million each year. He'd carry $11.75 million of dead money if the Vikings released him before the 2023 season, so the signing bonus conversion could buy him a measure of security through each of the next two years.
The move should give the Vikings enough cap space to fit the contracts of punter Jordan Berry, tight end Johnny Mundt and offensive lineman Austin Schlottmann under the salary cap, though they'd need to create more space if they plan to do anything else.
They could save about $13.2 million in 2022 cap costs by converting Danielle Hunter's $18 million roster bonus — due to the pass rusher on Sunday — to a signing bonus, though sources have said this week the Vikings are exploring trading the defensive end, who's played just seven games in the past two seasons because of injuries. The team added the $18 million roster bonus to Hunter's contract last year to resolve a salary dispute that had him skipping its offseason program, but it remains to be seen if Hunter would be interested in a long-term deal with the Vikings.
For now, the Vikings have enough cap space to cover the moves they've made this week, before they introduce Phillips and Hicks in a news conference on Thursday afternoon.