Thank you for submitting questions for this week's Vikings mailbag. You can always send questions to @Andrew_Krammer on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org, and find answers here or on the Access Vikings podcast. Let's get to it.
Q: Are the Vikings going to release or restructure anymore contracts? — @varichak
AK: They're under the $182.5 million salary cap after a flurry of moves this week, releasing left tackle Riley Reiff, kicker Dan Bailey and tight end Kyle Rudolph, as well as getting punter Britton Colquitt to take a pay cut. Now they need spending money, so – yes, more moves are expected on the current roster. The Vikings still have 10 unrestricted free agents – some of whom they would like to re-sign – as well as restricted free agents expected to be tendered in running back Mike Boone and receiver Chad Beebe. They need cap space for that, plus whatever they'd like to do externally to bolster the depth chart, and for the 2021 draft class, any injury replacements, extensions, etc. An extension or two could also lower cap figures, which is eventually expected for safety Harrison Smith while he enters a contract year. Linebacker Anthony Barr's contract starts a lot of rumors, as his $15 million hit on the 2021 books trails only Seattle's Bobby Wagner at his position. But would the Vikings really cut Barr to save less than half ($7.2 million) of that? They'd most likely look at trading him before that. There are other avenues, too. The Vikings still have six players – Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Barr, Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks and Smith — counting at least $10 million against the cap. Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen at about $5 million is currently the eighth-highest figure on the team; can they afford to keep it that way?
Q: What's the best free-agent option: defensive tackle or offensive line? The draft is deep with offensive linemen, but I don't see too many defensive tackles who could be of help. — @richardsroydon
AK: General manager Rick Spielman said last week he liked this year's offensive line class. And esteemed NFL draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah called 2021 one of the worst defensive tackle classes "in the past decade" during a conference call with reporters this week. That doesn't mean the Vikings will forgo a splash, whether via trade or free agency, to repair the offensive line after creating a second opening by cutting Reiff. And it's a thin free-agent tackle group after Carolina's Taylor Moton and Jacksonville's Cam Robinson received franchise tags this week. Checking in on Baltimore tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who is seeking a trade to play left tackle, is an obvious connection for a front office that explored a Trent Williams deal last year. There are more guards expected to be available in free agency, from Joe Thuney and Kevin Zeitler to Nick Easton. If they had to spend on one position, my money would go toward finding value in a mid-tier guard. For what it's worth, the Vikings were interested in trading for Zeitler before he was dealt from Cleveland to New York two years ago.
But what about addressing both positions this month? A trade for Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins is enticing. Cincinnati would look for something before likely releasing him, and Atkins may be amenable to redoing his contract to play for former Bengals coaches Mike Zimmer and Paul Guenther. Ex-Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is expected to be the top name available. I don't envision the Vikings topping the market for any player (they've rarely done so unless it's Kirk Cousins), but there are some second-wave and trade possibilities. They need depth, too.
Q: I believe the Vikings' big free-agent get will be ex-Patriots guard Joe Thuney. Your thoughts? — @vikeman1977
AK: Thuney had another strong year while earning nearly $15 million on the franchise tag at left guard for the Patriots. He'll be the best interior offensive lineman in free agency. But I have a hard time seeing the Vikings getting into that game, especially if Thuney is going to make anywhere near that much again. Remember, right tackle Brian O'Neill is due for an extension this offseason as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. The Vikings have to pay him. Can they pay top dollar to fill either of the remaining two holes in the O-line? Maybe at left tackle, but it's hard to justify spending that much at guard, even with how poorly they've played there.
Q: It feels like a concrete decision with Kirk Cousins seems important right now for the future. What, in your opinion, is the best option: trade, extend, or draft the future quarterback? — @stevelamplugh
AK: That third option, drafting the future quarterback, could include a trade or the Vikings riding out the remainder of Cousins' contract through 2022. They haven't shown any interest in trading him at this point. Extending seemed the most likely option when Cousins signed this most recent deal a year ago, given how he accounts for $45 million on the books in 2022. All of that becomes guaranteed as of March 19, meaning a trade or seeing through the deal are the only outs should the Vikings seek one. They're tied to him pretty tightly. Renegotiating a deal right now is no layup as some players and agents may want to wait until after the stadium gates reopen and money from the NFL's new broadcasting rights deals enter the equation. There could be a massive spike in the 2022 cap. If you're a player, why pin down your future earnings right now? It makes a wait-and-see approach into next year seem the most likely with the Vikings and Cousins, who turns 33 in August and is well positioned to keep maximizing his career earnings.
Q: What do you think of the Ravens' new overtime proposal? Would Mike Zimmer like this idea? — @vikesfan1930
AK: Baltimore will reportedly propose a couple changes to overtime, including an intriguing "spot and choose" approach, in which one team decides the yard line to place the ball and the other chooses whether to play offense or defense. The coin toss winner would get to pick which decision they want to make. I can't speak for Mike Zimmer, but I don't know if a quirk that messes with field position would be to his liking. For what it's worth, the Vikings haven't lost an overtime game since 2016 and are 5-1-1 in such games under Zimmer. The proposal will be voted on at virtual league meetings scheduled for March 30-31.