Minnesota Vikings salary cap outlook: Decisions looming at defensive end

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

The "Shutdown Countdown" is going full steam ahead. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Minnesota Vikings.

2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $129.793 million (12th-largest in the NFL in 2013)

2013 Cap Room Remaining: $7.011 million (17th-most in the NFL, as of July 16) The Vikings have yet to sign first-round picks Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarelle Patterson, who will have first-year cap numbers totaling $4,200,682. The three contracts Floyd, Rhodes and Patterson will replace in the "Top 51" contracts that apply against the Vikings' cap total $1,552,273, so the Vikings will have around $4.363 million in cap space once those rookie deals are done.

Best Bargain: Defensive end Everson Griffen posted eight sacks last season and the 2010 fourth-round pick out of USC is expected to push for a larger role on defense in 2013. Griffen will earn $630,000 in base salary this season, the fourth and final year of a $2.48 million rookie contract. Griffen could have increased his 2013 base salary to the low RFA tender ($1.323 million) with two seasons of 35 percent playing-time (plus team qualifiers). Griffen had playing-time percentages of 6.5 percent as a rookie and 25.5 percent in 2011 before playing in 53.6 percent of the Vikings' snaps last season, which means the only increase to his salary came when the new collective bargaining agreement beefed up the minimum base salaries. Griffen has a $765,000 cap charge in 2013, which ranks 77th among current NFL defensive ends.

Potential Camp Cap Casualty: If Griffen steps up and wrestles the starting job away from Brian Robison, it might put Robison's future with the team in jeopardy. The 30-year-old defensive end has played very well opposite Jared Allen (a pretty sweet gig, if you can get it), but is due $4.4 million in non-guaranteed base salary — a figure that is 15th among current NFL defensive ends — in the final year of his contract. With Lawrence Jackson adding veteran depth at the defensive end posiiton, two former Trojans could push Robison off the roster. (Robison, a Texas alum, retains bragging rights over Jackson for the 2006 national championship game)

Looming Contract Issues: Vikings general manager Rick Spielman appears to be content with letting Jared Allen play out the sixth and final season of his current contract, which calls for a $14,280,612 base salary with a cap hit of $17,063,957. Since he was acquired by the Vikings via a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, the now 31-year-old Allen has twice led the NFL in sacks and has gone to five straight Pro Bowls, posting 74 sacks in 80 regular season games. Allen had 12 sacks last season and remains one of the most fearsome pass rushers in the league.

If the Vikings do not extend Allen's contract this season, there's a very good chance he'll be playing elsewhere in 2014 as the franchise tag would not be a practical option to restrict his movement. With Allen's cap number this season exceeding the projected defensive end franchise tag for 2014 (around $11.4 million, based on a $123 league-wide cap number), Allen's franchise tag in 2014 would be worth around $20.477 million, a 20 percent increase over his 2013 cap number.

Allen is not the only current Vikings defensive end headed towards free agency. Robison, Griffen and Jackson are also unrestricted after the season, leaving D'Aundre Reed, George Johnson and undrafted rookies Collins Ukwu and Marquis Jackson as the only defensive ends who are signed for next season.

Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: Including the projected Year 2 cap hits for the three unsigned first-round picks, the Vikings have around $105 million in salary cap commitments for the 2014 season. With Allen, Robison and defensive tackle Kevin Williams scheduled for unrestricted free agency, over 62 percent of the team's 2014 cap dollars are on the offensive side of the ball, which is currently the highest percentage in the league. The percentage of cap dollars spent on offense increases to 75.6 percent in 2015, which is alarming since the only quarterback the Vikings have under contract for that season is undrafted rookie James Vandenberg.

Previous salary cap outlooks

32. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Buffalo Bills
28. Cleveland Browns
27. Tennessee Titans
26. Kansas City Chiefs
25. New York Jets
24. San Diego Chargers
23. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Miami Dolphins
21. St. Louis Rams

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