Free Agency is officially underway as the NFL season officially started Wednesday. Expectations were fairly low for Free Agency considering the cap issues the team had. Spielman managed to shed some cap to create space, and the team wasted little picking up their guys in what could be one last kick at the can for Zimmer and Spielman.
With the reduced Salary Cap the team was forced the shed a few contracts just to get below the cap ceiling. Starting with the release of Offensive Tackle (OT) Riley Reiff which saved the team $11.75M against the cap. Unfortunately this move also makes a mediocre Offensive Line (OL) worse as Reiff was a bright spot for the team.
The team also announced the release of Kyle Rudolph, a long time fixture in the team’s offense. This came as no surprise when you consider Rudolph’s cap hit as well as the team’s depth as the position with Irv Smith and Ty Conklin. I love Rudolph, hard not to, but it’s a numbers game and when the cap shrunk, you knew he would be gone. Rudolph is technically still on the roster as the team plans to use a post-June 1st designation in order to help spread the dead money over multiple years.
While these moves may not have given the Vikings the room to go after the top names, it did allow them to make a couple signings with intriguing upside. During the legal tampering window the team agreed in principle to a deal with former New York Giants Defensive Tackle (DT) Dalvin Tomlinson. The former second round pick has been consistent through out his career, but has been much more successful at creating problems in the opposition’s backfield the past couple of seasons. He has 3.5 sacks each of the last two seasons with 15 Tackles for Loss (6 in first two seasons) and 19 QB Hits (1 in first two seasons). (Credit pro-football-reference.com)
Tomlinson is known more as a run stopper which makes sense for the Vikings considering what guys like Alvin Kamara did to the defense last year. With Michael Pierce back after opting out due to health concerns last season, the Vikings have a stout 1-2 punch in the middle of the defensive line. There are concerns that Pierce and Tomlinson have similar playing styles and strengths, but I have learned, never question Zimmer.
The team was not done there, singing veteran Pro-Bowler Patrick Peterson. An odd move because I expected the team to draft a Corner in the first as per the annual tradition! Jokes aside I love this signing for the team even if Peterson is on the wrong side of 30. Optimistically he will be able to assume the shut down role to allow the team’s young core of Cornerbacks time to find their feet in the NFL. Last season was an absolute s*** show defensively after losing several starters from the 2019 defense. Peterson also brings in a level of talent and experience the team desperately needs and is one of the best mentors you can have for this position group.
Both of these moves took up basically all remaining salary cap space at the moment. The team however continues to make moves to shuffle some money to make more room. The team announced Thursday that they restructure Adam Thielen’s contract to save around $8M against the cap in 2021. This gives the team just below $4M in cap space to continue to fill out their roster before June 2nd, when Rudolph’s contract comes off the books. This will give the team an additional $7M+ that can be used to sign the incoming rookie class.
The team does have a few additional options to create cap space like extending Safety Harrison Smith. It would be well deserved and it would fix some short-term problems while simultaneously keeping a fan favourite on the team for longer. Something they did the opposite with Anthony Barr, where the team was able to save roughly $2M in exchange they voided the last two years of his contract so that he can become a Free Agent in 2022.
All of these roster moves are nice but fail to address the real potential issue looming in the shadows, will Danielle Hunter report to camp? It is clear that he is not happy with his contract (do you blame him) which see’s him being paid about half of what the top Edge Rushers are earning. He wants to be one of the top paid player’s at his position and it is hard to argue that he does not deserve it. As far as I am concerned you ask him how much he wants and you sign on the dotted line if you’re Spielman.
It is a good start to the season for the Vikings, relatively speaking. They have made the most of their bad cap situation, however they seem to have created a hole on the offensive line in order to fix the defence. With Zimmer still the team’s head coach this should not be a major surprise and the team cannot afford to miss the playoffs two years in a row. If they do, I think some personnel changes may take place next off-season, so if Zimmer is gonna go down, he will go down fighting the only way he knows how. Defense and running the ball!
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce Sports family! This week on the Chtib & Zhang show, the duo talk NBA Free Agency, the dumpster fire that is the Buffalo Sabres and Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua.