The Vikings are entering into an offseason of tough business decisions.
Minnesota already released TE Kyle Rudolph and reportedly are signing former Minnesota DE Stephen Weatherly, so 2021 free agency is off to a hot start.
From an outside perspective, it’s hard to tell what the team is able to do. That’s because the salary cap isn’t locked in just yet. There is a confirmed salary cap floor, but that’s about it.
The Vikings may have to cut back on some big-time contributors in order to get under the 2021 salary cap. However, the team should try and keep these four players around, whether that means restructuring with them or extending. Hopefully, Minnesota can keep all of them, but if not, I listed how much of a priority each player should be.
Just a note: QB Kirk Cousins is not on this list, because Minnesota can obviously not cut him, due to the way his contract is structured, so he’s guaranteed to be back, barring anything very unexpected, like a trade.
Here it is:
LT Riley Reiff
Minnesota Vikings LT Riley Reiff. Photo: AP Photo/David Berding
Reiff is on a big contract, but for a pretty good left tackle, the deal isn't egregious. Hopefully if the team has to make cutbacks, it can either restructure or keep him. He gave up just one sack in 2020, per PFF. He earned a PFF grade of 71.4. With all the issues the Vikings have had on the offensive line, letting one of the better pass blockers go would be a mistake. Priority level: High
LB Anthony Barr
Minnesota Vikings LB Anthony Barr. Photo: AP Photo/Jim Mone
Barr is set to have a cap hit of more than $15 million for 2021, via Over The Cap. That's a steep price, so the Vikings may have to restructure in order to keep him, if that is a possibility. However, keeping Barr is important. From how he guides the defense, to his role in the pass rush, he does things that don't always show up in the stat sheet. Eric Kendricks and Barr make for a great linebacker pairing. Vikings fans should hope that pairing stays that way, even though Barr's price tag appears high. Priority level: Medium
S Harrison Smith
Minnesota Vikings S Harrison Smith. Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn
It seems like Minnesota has to let S Anthony Harris walk this offseason. If that's the case, then the Vikings should really try to keep Harrison Smith around. Smith has another year on his contract, but his cap hit is over $10 million. A great solution could be to extend Smith, giving him more years under contract and lessening the cap hit on 2021. Priority level: Medium
WR Adam Thielen
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen. Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports
Thielen's cap hit for 2021 is more than $13 million, per Over The Cap. That said, Thielen is simply too important of a player to let walk. He finished 2020 with 925 receiving yards and 14 touchdown receptions. Losing Thielen would mean that teams could simply hone in on Justin Jefferson in coverage next season. Minnesota should try its best to hang onto Thielen, given how good the offense looked in 2020. Priority level: Very high