Vikings doing more subtracting than adding, so far

Published 2:05 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS — With the NFL market now open, as teams try to make the math work to support their offseason shopping, the Minnesota Vikings have so far been doing more subtracting than adding.

Their first official move of the new league year that began on Wednesday afternoon was to shed yet more salary, with the termination of right guard Josh Kline’s contract after just one year in Minnesota. Kline joined fellow starters defensive tackle Linval Joseph (Chargers), cornerback Trae Waynes (Bengals) and wide receiver Stefon Diggs (Bills) on their way to other teams.

The Vikings made their biggest move on Wednesday night, agreeing to a deal with former Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who would replace Joseph. The 6-foot, 340-pound Pierce is a run-stopping specialist entering his fifth NFL season.

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Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, who was released last week along with Joseph, and Mackensie Alexander are also free agents, unlikely to return. Defensive end Everson Griffen and kicker Dan Bailey, whose contracts also expired, are the regulars who remain strong candidates to re-sign.

So while the Vikings have deftly stockpiled for the draft, now boasting a pair first-rounders after the four-pick package they’re set to receive from the Bills in the headliner deal for Diggs, they’ve embarked on a daunting revamp at several positions as their tight cap situation suggested was imminent. That’s in part a product of having a veteran quarterback on a market-rate contract, which was extended this week for Kirk Cousins by two years and $66 million.

The new deal allowed the Vikings to slash their 2020 cap charges by $10 million. The unexpected jettisoning of Kline, who made $7.25 million for 18 games after signing a three-year deal as a free agent in 2019, saved them approximately $1.5 million. But they’ll have to carry more than $20 million in dead money on the cap of about $198 million. Kline missed two games due to a concussion and one to a foot injury.

As they have long prioritized under general manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings have locked up some of their own players before they hit the market. Fullback C.J. Ham and punter Britton Colquitt got new contracts, as did backup quarterback Sean Mannion. Safety Anthony Harris received the non-exclusive franchise tag. Restricted free agent backup linebacker Eric Wilson was extended a one-year deal with a second-round tender, ensuring compensation if the restricted free agent were to join another club.

The Vikings kept their decision makers quiet on Wednesday, in light of an NFL mandate to require contracts to be signed to be formally announced by the teams. Because of the virus pandemic, free agent visits to team headquarters have been banned, and clubs have been hesitant to permit physical exams for players with their local doctors and thus approve the deals.

This much, however, is clear. This remains a team that will win and lose with Cousins — and Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, for that matter.

“Julie and I are thrilled to be staying in Minnesota for the next several years. People have embraced us and treated our family incredibly well. We also believe we are building something special at the Vikings. We know how much this team means to the fans and the state, and we want to do everything we can to help this team bring a championship home,” Cousins said in a statement distributed on Tuesday by the Vikings.