Minnesota Vikings Cut and Restructure Candidates on Roster

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The off-season is in full swing in the NFL and it’s now time for the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the teams in the league to make some tough decisions with the current players on the roster ahead of the new year. Before the NFL Draft or free agency periods arrive, teams make moves to free up cap space. Whether that be by cutting a player or restructuring their contract.

For Minnesota, it is in a tough situation this off-season and that will involve some popular players. Some of whom some may find surprising to be cut or restructured. As of now, the Vikings are currently $15 million over the salary cap allotment, according to Over the Cap. Due to that cap situation, there are a few players on the roster who could be forced to make a decision on their future in Minnesota and if they want to take a pay cut for the betterment of the team.

Minnesota Vikings Cut and Restructure Candidates on Roster

Defensive End Danielle Hunter

One of the biggest objectives for the Vikings this off-season should be restructuring or moving on from defensive end Danielle Hunter. Hunter, whose cap hit for 2022 is second to only Kirk Cousins, has dealt with various injuries in recent years.

Over the last two seasons, Hunter has appeared in just seven games. 2022 will mark his eighth season, one that requires a cap hit of roughly $26.1 million. There is no doubting Hunter’s talent, hence, why the Vikings would likely prefer to restructure his contract. If not, Minnesota’s hand may be forced in looking to move on from the defensive end. After all, there are numerous ways the Vikings must improve the roster ahead of 2022.

Should a restructure come about, Over the Cap projects nearly $14 million saved in cap space. In other words, Minnesota needs to figure out however possible to re-work or move on from Hunter’s deal.

Safety Harrison Smith

A veteran cornerstone of the defense and a popular player among Vikings fans who could either be cut or restructured this off-season is veteran safety Harrison Smith. Like Hunter, Smith falls into the restructuring category in order to remain in purple and gold.¬†Since entering the league in 2012, the Notre Dame safety has been amongst the NFL’s best. His absence, if cut, would be felt by more than just the backend of the defense.

Smith, who has made the Pro Bowl six of the last seven seasons, is entering his 11th in the NFL in 2022. With a cap hit of $13.5 million, converting most of his salary into a signing bonus would go a long way. According to Over the Cap, doing so would create a little over $7 million in cap space.

Expect Minnesota to try and rework Smith’s contract before the new year begins.

Wide Receiver Adam Thielen

One thing is almost certain at this point in that the Vikings and wide receiver Adam Thielen would like to remain together while keeping the homegrown product with his home state squad. However, Thielen makes the second-most on the offense, despite being an aging number two receiver behind Justin Jefferson.

Thielen, who will soon be 32 years old, is under contract through the 2024 campaign. Obviously, Thielen is still among the better receivers in the league, but his price tag is high. In his ninth year, Thielen will carry a cap hit of nearly $17 million, with a base salary of about $12 million. Restructuring his deal could create around $7 million in cap space per Over the Cap.

Now, Thielen may be willing to discuss being a Viking for the rest of his career. However, if a restructure doesn’t come to fruition, Minnesota may be forced to cut or deal the veteran receiver.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks

One of the key players on the Vikings defense that has locked down the middle of the defensive unit the last handful of seasons has been linebacker Eric Kendricks. Earlier this off-season, NFL.com speculated that Kendricks could be a player who ultimately finds himself getting cut by the Vikings. Specifically, citing how his value to their defense will put the Vikings in a tough position. In 2022, his cap hit is just north of $13.5 million, while his base salary is over $9 million.

Kendricks, who had his contract restructured in 2020, is familiar with the process. A player willing to take a pay cut to help his team, Kendricks could help make about $4 million available. Thus, allowing the Vikings to shore up other areas on the roster this off-season.

This will be a tough decision for the Vikings, as at 30 years old, Kendricks is a leader on the team. Then again, something will need to give as the Vikings attempt to fit his contract into their 2022 plans.

Defensive Tackle Michael Pierce

Defensive lineman Michael Pierce is another prime candidate to either be restructured or cut ahead of the 2022 season. Signed as a free agent in 2020, the deal hasn’t worked out in Minnesota’s favor.

After sitting out the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Pierce appeared in just eight games in 2021. Not to mention, his contract has continued to increase since, despite his lack of play. In what will mark year six in the NFL for Pierce, he is due to make $10.5 million. For a player who has missed as much time as Pierce the last two seasons, that’s a high price tag.

Minnesota would likely try and kick the tires on a restructuring of Pierce’s contract, which would create roughly $3.5 million in cap space, but it’s more likely that he will be a candidate to be cut over anything else.

Running Back Dalvin Cook

It’s hard to imagine the Vikings moving on from running back Dalvin Cook by cutting him, given the fact he’s been one of the top running backs in the NFL over the last few years and is still young at the age of 26. Cook is a unique and special talent, meaning Minnesota should and likely will hold onto him either way in 2022.

With that said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings ask Cook to restructure his contract to convert some of his deal into a signing bonus while clearing up some immediate cap space. Cook, who will have a cap hit of just over $12 million this season, could restructure his contract and help Minnesota save $5.5 million to give someone else in order to improve the roster.

The shelf life of running backs and the longevity of their dominance in the NFL seems to be getting shorter and shorter the last few years. Minnesota might not want to tie itself to a running back as pricey as Cook for much longer, meaning the Vikings could approach him with a plea to rework his contract as he enters his sixth season in 2022.

Notable Others

Outside of the players listed, there are obviously some other players on the roster that would be nice to see restructure their contracts to help the team in 2022. Notably, a few players include Cousins, linebacker Anthony Barr, offensive lineman Brian O’Neill, defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson and others. Whether or not those roster adjustments and moves take place will be equally as interesting.

Either way, the Vikings and the players currently on the roster have some decisions to make this off-season. And we will certainly see some cutting or restructuring taking place before the 2022 campaign kicks off.

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