The Minnesota Vikings are finding it harder to sign replacement players due to injury because so much of their salary cap is wrapped up in players on the reserve lists that aren’t playing.
The Vikings had less than $50,000 in salary-cap space before trying to sign veteran offensive tackle Jake Long this week. So how could they have possibly afforded his $885,000 veteran minimum salary, even if it is prorated for only the final 11 games of the regular season?
General manager Rick Spielman credited Rob Brzezinski, the Vikings’ executive vice president of football operations and manager of their salary cap, with some creative accounting.
“I think Rob with his little magic wand was able to create some cap room so we can get Jake Long done,” Spielman said. “Again, we’re pretty much strapped against the cap right now with the amount of money we have on IR and with what we’re able to do going forward.
Spielman said the Vikings didn’t have to restructure anybody’s contract to make it happen, saying only that they “did some things,” which could mean having a contract provide some cap relief with an injury clause.
The reason the Vikings are up against the $155.2 million salary cap so tight is because they have approximately $33 million in cap money this year dedicated to players that are on reserve lists like injured reserve, reserve/non-football injury and reserve/non-football illness.
Adrian Peterson’s $12 million cap hit leads the way, followed by Matt Kalil at $11 million. Those two contract alone account for almost 15 percent of the salary cap. Both of them are on injured reserve, but Peterson could potentially return in late November or December after having surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee last month. Kalil suffered a hip injury that also required surgery and he is expected to miss the entire season.
The latest casualty to go on injured reserve was tackle Andre Smith, who suffered a triceps injury requiring surgery, creating the need to sign Long. Smith had a cap hit of $3.4 million and he was 10th player to be placed on a reserve list this year.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of injuries, I know. Just to give you a little bit of an idea, I think we have 10 guys on reserve lists right now (and) I think we’re almost at, or right around, $33 million that is on injured reserve, which is a pretty significant piece of your player costs at this point.”
Despite all the issues with injuries, which have hit especially hard on the offensive line, the Vikings are 5-0 and the only undefeated team left in the NFL this season.
“Just like the coaches and players, I think the whole building has a no-excuse mentality, and we’ve tried to do everything we can to make sure the player personnel department does an extremely thorough job in trying to find the best options out there, so that when we do have some of the injuries we’ve had to face so far, you’ve got the combination of the scouts and personnel people, they’re trying to find the best solutions out there,” Spielman said. “You’re working with Rob Brezinski and the cap to make sure what will work financially. And then when we’re able to bring in new players, the coaches are doing an unbelievable good job trying to get them caught up as quickly as they can.”