In the midst of signing nearly 30 players over the next week, the Vikings' biggest challenge could be to start conversations about restructuring the contracts of a few players already under contract.
Linebacker Chad Greenway received the franchise tag that will pay him about $10.1 million on a one-year guaranteed contract, and running back Adrian Peterson is in the final year of his rookie contract, one that gets expensive this year. With the Vikings being close to $5 million over the $120.375 million salary cap, according to ESPN, they will need to find room wherever they can.
We know where we're at from a cap standpoint and we know where we have to be at from a cap
standpoint," Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said Monday before the flurry of free-agent activity could officially start. "We've got a game plan in place on how we need to get there, so
we'll start executing a lot of that. We have to be in compliance by Aug. 4."
Aug. 4 is expected to be the date that NFL players officially ratify the collective bargaining agreement that players and owners agreed to on Monday and therefore the official start of the new league year. At that point, all NFL teams will have to have their top 51 players' salary be lower than a combined $120.375 million.
However, there is some wiggle room. Teams will have the option for $3 million in additional cap room by taking up to $1 million off the cap charge for up to three players with five or more accrued seasons. The Vikings have plenty of players that would qualify for that cap credit, but they would need more than just that to be in compliance, not to mention signing additional outside free agents after Friday's 5 p.m. start time for that.
The biggest cap savings, however, would likely come in restructuring some of their biggest contracts. Peterson's contract calls for a $10.72 million base salary and a prorated signing bonus of $2.055 million for a total cap hit of $12.775 million.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Peterson was among the players he spoke with directly on Monday, and he said Peterson entering the final year of his contract won't keep the star running back from reporting to training camp on time.
"We had a good conversation and that's not an issue and he's looking forward to camp like all of our guys are," Frazier said. "There were other guys I talked to as well. Everybody is going to try to be there
Restructuring Peterson's contract could benefit him by giving him a longer deal with more guarantees in future years, and it could benefit the Vikings by lowering his cap number this year and spreading the heavy lifting of his contract throughout the coming years of an extension.
"I don't want to get into our business upstairs," Spielman said. "We've identified all of our key guys and identified at what points we'll be approaching those guys and just work from there."
The Vikings could come to terms with free agents on Friday that would put them over the cap, but then renegotiate contracts of expensive veterans before Aug. 4.
There are other options for restructuring as well, including several players counting more than $6 million each against the Vikings' cap this year: Jared Allen (an $11.56 million cap hit in 2011), Kevin Williams ($7.42 million), Antoine Winfield ($6.85 million), Steve Hutchinson ($6.73 million), Bernard Berrian ($6.258 million) and Madieu Williams ($6.13 million).
"You also know you have to do some things in free agency or sign your own free agents, so there's a lot of different ways we can look at things," Spielman said. "We want to be under the cap on Aug. 4, but you also have to have room to do some things if you want to do it."
How to create that room is the key question facing the Vikings even while they try to sign other players to fill out their training camp roster to 90 players.
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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