This weekend, they will also be without their star running back (Adrian Peterson), their most tenured linebacker (Chad Greenway) and their former Pro Bowl tight end (Kyle Rudolph).
It’s not just the amount of injuries the Vikings have, it’s that they will be missing five of their most highly regarded players, including three of the top-10 highest paid players on their roster.
Here is a breakdown of who is missing and how much of their cap dollars – about 25 percent – will be sidelined this weekend, and in the case of two of them, Cassel and Fusco, for the rest of the season.
Peterson’s legal troubles could keep him out for the rest of the season, if not beyond. On Friday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the only way for Peterson to resolve his legal issues in 2014 is to reach a plea deal. He was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child in Texas, where Montgomery County assistant district attorney Phil Grant said that a trial wouldn’t be likely until 2015. Peterson’s first hearing is scheduled for Oct. 8. But whether Peterson is back or not, the Vikings are required to cover his salary while he remains on the NFL’s exempt-commissioner’s permission list. It is the heftiest contract the Vikings own, calling for an $11.75 million base salary in 2014 with a salary-cap number of $14.4 million.
The Vikings’ longest-tenured linebacker missed practice all week and his 90-game streak of consecutive starts will be coming to an end. While he will return from his injury the quickest – perhaps as early as next Thursday against the Green Bay Packers – he has the fourth-highest annual average earning on the Vikings. He is scheduled to make $5.5 million in base salary and carries a $7.2 million cap number.
Cassel opted out of the second year of the deal he signed with the Vikings in 2013 and then re-signed a bigger deal in March before the start of free agency. That placed him in the top 10 of the Vikings’ average annual salaries. He played less than three games before suffering broken bones in his left foot that had the Vikings placing him on season-ending injured reserve this week. His cap number for 2014 is $5.75 million with a base salary of $2.65 million (the team gave him a $3 million roster bonus this year in lieu of a signing bonus).
Rudolph suffered a sports hernia on Sunday after looking gimpy for a couple games leading up to Sunday’s injury. He had surgery in Philadelphia on Tuesday to repair the sports hernia and could be out for six weeks. The Vikings decided against placing him on the injured reserve/designated to return list for now, which would have required him to not practice for six weeks and not play for at least eight, because they are optimistic he could return before then. In late July, Rudolph signed a contract extension that kept his base salary the same for 2014 but increased his cap number to $2.77 million this year. The total value of the five-year extension could be worth as much as $36.5 million.
The Vikings gave their starting right guard a five-year, $24.5 million contract extension before their first game this year. It doesn’t kick in until next year, so Fusco still only counts $1.54 million against this year’s cap, but in addition to his $4 million signing bonus, $2.62 million of his base salary next year is guaranteed against injury and they can count $800,000 of his signing bonus against this year’s cap, according to ESPN. Injuries are part of the game, but the Vikings’ injuries and legal situations over the last two weeks will have almost $32 million of the $124 million in cap dollars they spent this year – or about 25 percent – on the sidelines.