Sunday slant: A Vikings $30M saving plan

The Vikings spent nearly to the salary cap in 2013, but some big salaries coming off the books could free up nearly $30 million in cap space. We do the accounting with their cap numbers.

Under the constraints of their salary cap situation, the Vikings did about all they could from a financial perspective in 2013. Arguments can be made, however, that they didn't spend it wisely … or in the right places.

But with low-level moves made this week the Vikings have less than $1 million left in cap space for 2013, with only four teams with less (the average was $5.89 million). Considering only 10 teams carried over more cap space from the previous year, it's hard to blame the amount of spending effort that went into the season.

But it's that time of year when the auditors are calling for projections into 2014. It doesn't matter what type of business you are in, somewhere up or down the flowchart of authority, numbers are being crunched.

Let's follow suit without donning our high-end executive suit. These numbers are for boots-on-the-ground grunts wanting to know the real numbers, not some way to massage them.

From some inexplicable reason, one of the biggest beefs fans had with the Vikings' spending this year came in the form of quarterback Josh Freeman. Outrage was felt from the International Falls to international Vikings fans and the line of thinking was that spending $2 million on Freeman was a waste of money.

Consider that part of the defense budget, i.e. defending against spending big bucks on Freeman in free agency next year. General manager Rick Spielman loved Freeman prior to the 2009 draft, but Spielman already knew Favre was a likely addition after his "retirement" (which version was that?) from New York Jets. No sense in spending close to $20 million on Favre in addition big bucks for a first-round draft pick at quarterback. But when Freeman was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in October, Spielman pounced and less than two weeks later, Freeman's passes bounced.

So how was that a good investment? Because by spending $2 million now to look at Spielman's fascination up close, the Vikings, both coaches and front office types reviewing practice film, have discovered that he's not worth spending $10 million or more on in free agency in March. In this case, a penny (or 200 million pennies) spent equal a billion pennies saved in the future.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave continues to talk kindly of Freeman, but actions – or Freeman's inaction – speaks louder.

"He's more comfortable with everything involved. Every day he works hard with individual drills with quarterbacks and then he gets to work our post-practice periods where we work our game plan on Wednesdays, and then of course he works the scout team. He's working each and every week to improve," Musgrave said Thursday.

"Josh works hard, pays attention in meetings. He's definitely still involved."

But he isn't likely to see the field for the Vikings again, this season or next. Matt Cassel seems to have it taken care of this season at least and maybe into the future.

So put Freeman at the start of your accounting savings for 2014. But that's only the beginning when talking about the Big Knockers – Jerry Burns' affectionate reference to the stars of the team. There is so much more saving to be realized in this season of giving.

The trimming we are about to enact has nothing to do with a Christmas tree, but plenty to do with green. Here is a down-and-dirty way for the Vikings to save more than $30 million by simply not re-signing some of their pending free agents.

  • DE Jared Allen (contract expiring, $17.1M cap number in 2013)

  • DT Kevin Williams (contract expiring, $5M cap number in 2013)

  • CB Chris Cook (contract expiring, $2.3M cap number in 2013)

  • DT Fred Evans (contract expiring, $1.75M cap number in 2013)

  • Freeman (contract expiring, $2M cap number for Vikings in 2013)

  • RB Toby Gerhart (contract expiring, $1M cap number in 2013)

    There are free agents coming up, too, like Jerome Simpson, who cost the Vikings $2.1 million this year. He's worth that if he would re-sign for that number again, even if there is a suspension coming for him in 2014.

    Evans might be worth keeping if Kevin Williams is gone, and either way the team needs to look at bolstering their nose tackle position (Williams would offer a nice bridge if he's willing to play there in 2014). Cook, too, would be worth keeping if he's willing to sign for cheap with no guarantee of starting.

    In a bottom-line business like the NFL, you can probably add TE John Carlson to the list, too. Whether it's his decision to retire because of concussions or the Vikings' decision to move on without him, the team would save almost about $1 million on the 2014 cap – his $3.9 base salary for next year minus three years of prorated signing bonus money accelerating.

    The list above represents about $30 million in savings from the 2013 salary cap. But, of course, the Vikings will also have to spend to replace some of them.

    With Allen comes the reality that Everson Griffen is also a pending free agent, so it's either re-sign one of those two or go looking in free agency or high in the draft for the bookend to complement Brian Robison.

    And, finally, there is case of Matt Cassel. He has the option to get out of his contract after this season or stick with the $3.7 million salary for 2014 (or renegotiate for more if the Vikings believe that is what it will take to keep him has the bridge quarterback until a high draft pick is ready).

    QUICK SLANTS

  • Some of the top underclassmen quarterbacks are at least considering declaring for the NFL draft early. According to NFL Network, both Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley have submitted their names to the draft board for an estimated draft grade. Johnny Manziel wasn't among the names, but he might have already made up his mind to leave Texas A&M after this season.

  • The 763 points scored in the NFL last Sunday was a league record for one day, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous high was 759 points on January 1, 2012. The perception that scoring is up is a correct one.

  • Last week, Matt Asiata became the first player since Daunte Culpepper in 2000 to run for at least three touchdowns with fewer than five lifetime carries entering the game. The last running back to do that had been Marshall Faulk in 1994. Culpepper did so in his first career start. Asiata was questionable on the injury report, and given the Vikings' move to promote RB Joe Banyard from the practice squad Saturday, Asiata's status for Sunday truly does look questionable.

  • Jared Allen told reporters he never looked at film of his long snap last Sunday when he filled in for Cullen Loeffler, who was getting his hand examined after it was stepped on, but Allen sounded proud of his blocking after the snap. So does fellow defensive end Brian Robison have an interest in long snapping? "I attempted that once and it didn't go too well for me so I don't think I'll be trying that anytime soon," Robison said.

  • More praise for Vikings rookie WR Cordarrelle Patterson, this time coming from fellow WR Greg Jennings: "I treat him like a little brother. There's not a lot of people that amaze me, but there is just some talent within him. He's going to be special. … He's just scratching the surface. He is a special, special player and it's all about getting the ball in his hands. Get it to him. I don't care how. Just let him touch it and something special can happen on any given play."

  • Gambling site Bovada.lv promoted their odds for three NFL coaches to be fired after the season. Leslie Frazier was not among them. They were Jim Schwartz, Dennis Allen and Jason Garrett.

  • Bovada is also giving 11/10 odds that Matt Cassel will be the Vikings' starter in Week 1 of the 2014 season.


    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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