The Vikings will want to be involved in a rushed free-agent market that is expect to commence at the end of July, shortly after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is ratified by players and owners.
But how active can the Vikings be in free agency once the player market does open? That may depend upon the team's ability to renegotiate contracts or their willingness to depart with some highly paid veterans.
According to NFL.com, the projected cap will be approximately $123 million per team, and that should already put the Vikings squarely up against it, according to ESPN's figures. But there may be some relief – the NFL.com report states that it will "feel" more like $130 million because of exceptions being made and cap credits being allowed.
The Vikings should have no problem reaching the expected minimum spending of 90 percent of the cap due to a number of large contracts and cap numbers. Two players – Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen – are expected to have cap numbers that, combined, take up close to 20 percent of the cap.
Peterson is entering what is, for all intents and purposes, the final year of his contract. His cap number of $5.695 million from 2010 (if there was a cap last year) is expected to jump to $12.775 million in 2011. Allen's cap number actually falls in 2011, from nearly $17 million to $11.6 million. Combined with Peterson's impact on the cap, those two players are believed to account for $24.3 million of the projected $123 million cap.
The Vikings and Peterson are likely to start talking about a contract extension in the coming months. Giving Peterson four or five more years could help reduce the impact of his 2011 cap number. Allen's cap number only goes up in the next two years – to $14.2 million in 2012 and $16.9 million in 2013.
So who could be some of the casualties of the new economics in cap accounting?
Bernard Berrian always seems to be at the forefront of such discussions, and in 2011 his cap number jumps more than $1.5 million to $6.3 million, with similar escalations in the final two years of his contract. But, if signing-bonus money spread over the length of the contract for cap purposes accelerates if he is released, the Vikings would only get relief from about half of his $6.3 million cap number, and they likely wouldn't make that move unless they have Sidney Rice or a free-agent replacement already on the roster.
The Vikings also have several starters, including Steve Hutchinson, Bryant McKinnie, Antoine Winfield, E.J. Henderson and Kevin Williams, in the $5.4 million to $7.4 million salary-cap-impact range. Which brings us to another common player bandied about when discussions turn to players who may be on the cap-cutting chopping block, or at least the economic radar – safety Madieu Williams. His salary-cap impact is expected to reach $6.1 million in 2011 and remain there for the following two seasons, as well.
All of this doesn't even include the Vikings' own free agents left to sign. Beyond Rice, there are Ray Edwards, Pat Williams, Ryan Longwell, Ben Leber and several other backups, but it's unclear who was all counted in Clayton's estimate that the Vikings would be pushed up tight against the cap or over it. What is clear is that the team has two top-heavy contracts from Peterson and Allen they could look to renegotiate and two other starters, Berrian and Madieu Williams, may also be examined.
Somehow, the Vikings have found a way to make it work and still add Brett Favre in 2009, the last year of a salary cap, and their creative accounting may be called upon again.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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