To many of us at VU, it was a clear sign of things to come when the Vikings shuffled money around from unreached incentive bonuses to get their salary cap figure from approximately $20 million under the salary cap to $33 million a week ago.
The team didn't have to shift that money, thus creating considerably more cap room. But it was obvious the Vikings intended to go shopping in free agency. Antoine Winfield's record free agent contract and giving Jim Kleinsasser more years and maybe more money than he would have received had he been franchised again were proof of that. But what comes next?
Most figures still have the Vikings somewhere in the neighborhood of having $25 million available under the 2004 salary cap. Barring a trade up into the top 10 draft picks, the NFL will likely allocate the Vikings about $3 million in reserved cap money to sign rookies, which leads to a happy problem for Vikings fans.
Thanks to the awful business practices of Mike Brown of the Bengals, the league instituted not only a salary cap maximum, but a salary cap minimum -- the least a team could spend on salaries for a given year. With the intention of keeping teams from lowballing salaries and pocketing more money than the salary cap was designed to allow, teams can earmark a minimum of $67-68 million in salaries for 2004 -- within 15 percent of the $80 million salary cap.
Because of that, the Vikings MUST spend up to $10 million more in 2004 salaries just to meet that minimum threshold. What that means for Vikings fans is that we may well see one more big ticket free agent -- either before the draft or after the annual June 1 veteran cuts -- signed or a handful of mid-level free agents inked to deals.
With the team still looking for a No. 2 wide receiver and help at defensive end and linebacker, free agency is far from over for the Vikings. The question that remains is where will they go to fill those needs. That will be the $10 million (minimum) question between now and when training camp opens in July.
Where Next In Free Agency
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