After the completion of Kyle Rudolph’s four-year contract extension, the Vikings bought themselves some breathing room under the salary cap for the 2019 league year. They’ve now got $4,686,926 under the cap, having created $4.075 million of cap space with Rudolph’s new deal.
Their 2020 cap situation, which was tenuous before signing Rudolph, will still require some work between now and next spring.
According to sources with access to NFL Players Association salary data, Rudolph received a $7.25 million signing bonus, and retains the ability to make up to $250,000 in per-game roster bonuses and $100,000 in offseason workout bonuses in each year of the deal. His annual base salaries and cap numbers are as follows:
2019: $1.75 million base (fully guaranteed)/$3.55 million cap number
2020: $7.025 million base (guaranteed for injury)/$8.825 million cap number
2021: $7.65 million/$9.45 million
2022: $8.45 million/$10.25 million
2023: $9.85 million/$11.65 million
The Vikings would incur $5.8 million in dead money charges — against $3.025 million in cap savings — if they released Rudolph before 2020, so the team might look at the deal as a two-year proposition before it would make much sense to get out of it. It’s not believed that Rudolph’s $7.025 million base salary in 2020 — which is currently guaranteed against injury only — becomes fully guaranteed before next season, so if Rudolph stays healthy, the team could always think about releasing him with a post-June 1 designation, which would allow them to push $4.35 million of dead money charges into 2021, when Kirk Cousins will either have a new contract or the team will have a new quarterback.
As it stands now, though, the Vikings are carrying $211.638 million worth of cap charges into 2020. Even if they’re able to carry over some of their remaining cap space into next season, and the NFL salary cap spikes to $200 million, they’ll again need to clear space to be able to do much in free agency and sign draft picks.
Veterans like Riley Reiff, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes — who will all be at least 30 and carry cap numbers of at least $12.9 million in 2020 — could be candidates for release or restructured deals before next season. The Vikings will have decisions to make on cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, as well as safety Anthony Harris and defensive end Stephen Weatherly, so it’s possible they’ll part with a couple of longtime fixtures in Mike Zimmer’s defense in an effort to keep some of their younger players. Reiff, who turns 31 on Dec. 1, would likely need a better year than he had in 2018 to remain in Minnesota on his current contract. But then again, if the Vikings release him, they’ll have to be confident enough about their options at tackle to move on.
The Vikings’ deft salary cap management under VP of football operations Rob Brzezinski will likely continue into another year of tough decisions. But after an offseason when the Vikings had to restructure contracts of three veterans — Griffen, Rudolph and Eric Kendricks — just to sign Josh Kline, keep Anthony Barr (among others) and sign their draft picks, the set of decisions facing them in 2020 might involve some big names once again.