MINNEAPOLIS - The NFL informed teams on Tuesday the salary cap for the 2021 season will be set at $182.5 million.
As of Wednesday, the Minnesota Vikings are about $176,000 over that number, and need to create more space if they intend to be aggressive when free agency starts on March 17. The Vikings have already been busy trying to shed salary. They cut veteran kicker Dan Bailey on Tuesday, and last week, said goodbye to veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph.
The Vikings have also released Tae Hayes, Cordrea Tankersley and Chris Jones. That leaves 15 free agents the Minnesota front office has to make decisions on, as they did not use the franchise tag before Tuesday’s deadline. Here’s a look at a few of the key players, and what will they do with Kirk Cousins?
KIRK COUSINS (NOT A FREE AGENT)
Kirk Cousins is locked into make $21 million in base salary in 2020, and is a $31 million cap hit. If the Vikings stand pat, his 2021 salary becomes fully-guaranteed. That’s $35 million in base salary, and a $45 million cap hit. The Vikings would be best served to restructure that before March 19, or try to find a suitable trade partner to take on that salary. That’s why we’ve heard so many rumors about Cousins the last month. General Manager Rick Spielman said last week, "Kirk Cousins is our quarterback." He threw a career-high 35 touchdowns last season, but still struggles under the spotlight. What the Vikings do with his contract leading up to March 19 will be telling.
Anthony Harris made $11.4 million in 2020 under the franchise tag. He didn’t live up to expectations after a career-high six interceptions and a defensive touchdown in 2019. In 2020, he didn’t have a single turnover. He finished with 104 tackles, and two tackles for a loss on a defense depleted by injuries. He’s an unrestricted free agent, and the Vikings may let him walk.
The Vikings have a tough decision to make with linebacker Eric Wilson. With Anthony Barr missing most of the season and Eric Kendricks missing five games, Wilson stepped in with 122 tackles, three sacks, eight tackles for loss and three interceptions. Wilson made $3.2 million in 2020, and with Kendricks back and Barr under contract for three more seasons, Wilson might be the odd man out in Minnesota’s linebacker corps.
Ifeadi Odenigbo is a restricted free agent in 2021 and made less than $1 million last season. He got 15 starts at defensive end last year, collecting 35 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and forcing a safety. He’s an affordable option with a high ceiling to return.
Chad Beebe made $750,000 last year and in 14 games, made 20 catches for 201 yards with two touchdowns, one of them being a game-winner in overtime. He played just six games combined in 2018 and 2019 due to injuries. With Rudolph gone, he’s another receiving option in the offense behind Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
Rashod Hill made less than $1 million last season and is now an unrestricted free agent. He gave the Vikings depth on the offensive line, but only played meaningful snaps in two games last season. He’s started 17 games over five seasons, but Minnesota may opt to find more offensive line help in the NFL Draft.
Dakota Dozier won the left tackle job in modified training camp last year and started all 16 games, playing every offensive snap for the Vikings. He made less than $1 million last season, and it’s a safe bet he’ll return to Minnesota for his third season despite being an unrestricted free agent.
Free agency starts March 17, buckle up and enjoy the ride.