MINNEAPOLIS -- The sticker shock of defensive end Everson Griffen's new deal with the Minnesota Vikings -- five years, $42.5 million -- probably hasn't worn off quite yet. But the way the Vikings structured the deal, they won't feel any major effects if they decide to cut Griffen sometime after the 2015 season. And Griffen, for all his potential, essentially has less time to turn it into production than the initial numbers suggest.
Griffen got just a $6 million signing bonus, meaning the Vikings will have to count only $1.2 million of bonus money against the cap each season. He has a fully guaranteed base salary of $6.9 million in 2014, plus a $100,000 workout bonus, and has the same deal in 2015. In other words, all $20 million of Griffen's guaranteed money will have come out of the Vikings' pockets in the first two seasons, and if they cut him after 2015, 2016 or 2017, they'd have to count just $3.6 million, $2.4 million or $1.2 million in dead money against the cap, respectively.
It's a classic pay-as-you-go deal, the kind that Vikings assistant general manager Rob Brzezinski has been structuring for years to keep the Vikings out of cap purgatory. Since most of Griffen's guaranteed money comes through base salary in 2014 and '15, not a big signing bonus, the Vikings won't push major cap charges into future seasons.
Salary data from the Matt Cassel, Linval Joseph, Larry Dean and Joe Berger deals isn't yet available to ESPN Stats & Information, so we'll have to wait to see the Vikings' updated cap figure, but it's probably safe to assume the team is under $20 million in cap space at this point. But the Vikings will need money to sign their draft picks, and they still have a few holes to fill on the roster; plus, they might want to think about a contract extension for tight end Kyle Rudolph. So their cap situation isn't quite as roomy as we would have thought based on all the money they'd cleared before the start of free agency.
Even for a team playing with a $133 million salary cap, it's amazing how quick it goes, isn't it?