MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will return to the team's facility in Eden Prairie, Minn., on Tuesday for the start of a three-day voluntary veteran's minicamp, which will give new coach Mike Zimmer his first real chance to work with his team on the field.
Before that, we thought it'd be a good idea to take stock of the Vikings' financial position after a busy offseason and see how their salary-cap picture compares to the rest of the league. The team has about $10.3 million in cap space remaining, according to ESPN Stats and Information. We'll start our discussion today with a look at the team's offense:
Percentage of salary-cap space: 7.18
Total cap charge: $8.98 million
NFL average: $11.67 million
Biggest cap hit: Matt Cassel, $5.75 million
Biggest bargain: Cassel
Thoughts: The Vikings aren't spending much money, by NFL standards on the position, counting only Cassel's $5.75 million and Christian Ponder's $3.23 million against the cap. That's obviously because they don't have a franchise player commanding a large chunk of their salary cap at the position, but while they'll try to get by with Cassel this season and possibly add a young quarterback in the draft, they'll at least know they won't have the major cap charges at the position that many other teams -- including all three of their division foes -- face. That's a silver lining of not having the position settled, though the Vikings would like to be in a Seahawks- or Colts-esque situation, where they're getting great production from a young quarterback who's still in his rookie deal.
Percentage of salary-cap space: 9.82
Total cap charge: $12.29 million
NFL average: $13.56 million
Biggest cap hit: Greg Jennings, $7 million
Biggest bargain: Jarius Wright, $675,027
Thoughts: Cordarrelle Patterson looks like a star in the making, and Wright can be a capable No. 4 receiver, but the Vikings do have some things to figure out at the position. Jennings will be 31 in September, and Jerome Simpson could face NFL discipline after being arrested for a DUI last November. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings add a receiver on the second or third day of the draft for some extra depth, and practice squad players like Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith could emerge in their second year with the team.
Percentage of salary-cap space: 4.93
Total cap charge: $3.26 million
NFL average: $6.12 million
Biggest cap hit: Kyle Rudolph, $1.47 million
Biggest bargain: Chase Ford, $495,000
Thoughts: Rudolph could be a candidate for a contract extension if he has a strong season this year, though the Vikings haven't approached his agent about a new deal yet. Ford looked like a threat in the passing game late last season, and the Vikings will have room for another pass-catcher in Norv Turner's offense. Rhett Ellison has been a reliable run blocker at both tight end and fullback the past two seasons.
Percentage of salary-cap space: 14.8
Total cap charge: $18,51 million
NFL average: $7.75 million
Biggest cap hit: Adrian Peterson, $14.4 million
Biggest bargain: Matt Asiata, $570,000
Thoughts: Peterson has the biggest cap charge of any running back in the NFL, and with each passing year, his contract is more of an anachronism; as running backs continue to make less and less money, Peterson is the highest-paid player on the Vikings' roster at age 29. There's little question he's been worth the money, but it's worth noting there's no guaranteed money left in his deal and he only has $4.8 million left of signing bonus proration remaining on the contract he signed in 2011.
Asiata could be the Vikings' No. 2 running back this year, though it stands to reason they'll draft someone, and Zach Line, who had an impressive preseason last year before going to injured reserve with a knee injury, could find a role in Turner's offense catching passes out of the backfield.
Percentage of salary-cap space: 18.43
Total cap charge: $23.05 million
NFL average: $21.45 million
Biggest cap hit: Phil Loadholt, $5.75 million
Biggest bargain: Brandon Fusco, $1.45 million
Thoughts: Loadholt is in Year 2 of his new contract, and remains one of the highest-paid right tackles in the league. Matt Kalil will count $5.39 million against the cap in Year 3 of his rookie deal, and even though he didn't follow up a Pro Bowl rookie year with a big progression in Year 2, he can set himself up for a big payday with a good third season -- the Vikings will have to decide by next May whether or not to pick up the fifth-year option on his deal and potentially pay him more than $12 million in 2016.
Fusco gets little attention, but continued to develop into a solid right guard last season, and triggered escalator clauses in his rookie contract by starting 15 games after playing all 16 in 2012. He'll be a free agent after this season, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings begin to explore a new deal for him before next March.