In a month where free agency piques the passion of fans, the impatient ones were blasting the Vikings for being dollar-conscious. But a look at their spending on offense versus defense shows that spending big doesn’t always pay off.
With a salary cap of $143.28 million for each team, the Vikings have $76.76 million dedicated to the offensive side of the ball for 2015, according to overthecap.com. That’s the fourth-most money in the league on the offense. Their offensive ranking in 2014: 27th. In 2014, they were ninth in offensive spending.
Meanwhile, on defense, they have $59.48 million dedicated to player salaries in 2015. That’s 21st in the league on defense. Their defensive ranking in 2014: 14th. They were 23rd in defensive spending in 2014.
Consider, also, that top-notch starting quarterbacks can eat up $20 million per year against the salary cap while Teddy Bridgewater is counting only $1.56 million against the 2015 cap with his rookie contract and you see why general manager Rick Spielman would prefer to build through the draft rather than spending lavishly (foolishly?) in free agency.
Here is breakdown of the Vikings’ positional spending, according to overthecap.com, and where each position ranks in relation to the rest of the NFL at that position:
OFFENSERunning back (ranked 2nd): Of course, Adrian Peterson’s contract is easily the biggest on the roster. Between his $12.75 million base salary, a $2.4 prorated portion of his signing bonus and a $250,000 workout bonus, he counts $15.4 million against their 2015 cap. That’s almost 11 percent of the cap, and it’s easily the main reason the Vikings are ranked second in cap dollars at the running back position.
Quarterback (25th): Their ranking of No. 2 at spending on running backs is easily the highest position ranking for the team, with their quarterback spending of $5.4 million ranking 25th, their lowest positional ranking.
Wide receiver (12th): After ridding themselves of Greg Jennings, he will still count $6 million against their 2015 salary cap because of his accelerated prorated signing bonus money over the next three years falling on this year’s cap. But dead money isn’t counted in overthecap.com’s 2015 positional spending, so adding that would move the Vikings into the top 10 in receiver spending. Trading for Mike Wallace and his $9.8 million cap number in 2015 makes up the majority of their $15.4 million dedicated to the wide receiver position.
Offensive line (7th): With big contracts for center Phil Loadholt ($6.75 cap number for 2015), Matt Kalil ($6.29 million), John Sullivan ($5.75 million) and Brandon Fusco ($3.55 million), the Vikings are currently scheduled to have $27.89 million dedicated to their offensive line in 2015, the ninth-highest figure at the position in the league. Of those four, only Kalil is still on his rookie contract and early first-round picks get the big money when it comes to rookie contracts.
Tight ends (9th): The Vikings rank ninth in tight end spending at $9.7 million, with Kyle Rudolph’s $6.55 million cap number taking up most of that.
DEFENSEThe defense is much more palatable.
Defensive line (9th): The highest-ranking position on defense when it comes to 2015 cap money is the line, where $26.1 million is dedicated, ranking ninth in the league. Everson Griffen’s $8.8 million cap number leads the way, followed by Brian Robison’s $5.65 million cap hit. The free-agent signing of Linval Joseph last year puts $4.6 million in 2015 cap dollars on the ledger, with all other defensive lineman counting less than $2.5 million under the cap.
Cornerback (17th): Cornerback is next in line among positional spending on defense, ranking 17th in the league. Predictably, it’s Captain Munnerlyn, a 2014 free-agent signing, that costs the most at that position with a $4.3 million cap number this year. Xavier Rhodes, a 2013 draft pick, is about half of that, at $2.1 million for 2015 while he is still under his rookie contract.
Linebacker (19th): The Vikings’ linebacker spending is ranked 19th, but that number could drop if Chad Greenway restructures his contract to lower his cap number from $8.8 million, which is third-highest on the team behind Peterson and Wallace. Anthony Barr counts only $2.9 million with his rookie contract, and no other Vikings linebacker was over $1 million (with Casey Matthews’ contract still be registered).
Safety (30th): Of all the positions, safety is the lowest-ranked for the Vikings in relation to league-wide spending. That’s because Harrison Smith is still in the final year of his rookie deal and his 2015 cap number is only $2.27 million. After him, Robert Blanton and Andrew Sendejo are both between $1 million and $1.6 million. With a $4.28 million cap figure for 2015 at safety, the Vikings are 30th in the league at that position.
With four first-round picks dedicated to defense over the last three drafts and all of them yielding starting roles, and understanding that rookie contracts are the best bargain, it’s easy to see why the defensive payroll is about $17 million lower than the offensive payroll while the defense ranked higher. That could change in the near future, however, as those contracts come up with the anticipation of big-money extensions.
For now, though, the defense is young and talented while the two biggest contracts (Peterson and Wallace) reside on the offensive side of the ball.