Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff has had a rollercoaster week.
He was approached by the Vikings on Sunday that he either restructure or be released after the team acquired ex-Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. He said his goodbyes to teammates on Monday but returned on Tuesday and agreed to take a pay cut.
The Vikings slashed his $10.9 million base salary nearly in half as the nine-year veteran agreed to a $6 million base salary for the 2020 season, Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday. He can make back up to $2 million of his pay cut through playing-time incentives.
Reiff was poised to make the seventh-highest salary among left tackles before restructuring, per InsideTheVikings’ Will Ragatz. A $6 million salary ranks him 18th among tackles, which aligns more with Reiff’s production as Pro Football Focus’ 37th-ranked offensive tackle last season.
The Vikings now have $4.5 million in salary-cap space, according to Sportrac.
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Reiff Can Earn Back $2 Million
The conditions of Reiff’s incentives are likely attainable for the nine-year veteran.
If Reiff plays 86 percent of the Vikings’ snaps this season, he will earn $1 million. If he plays 93.75 percent, he gets the other million. Reiff has played an average of 89 percent of offensive snaps over the past seven years as a starter. He was a cornerstone with the Lions, playing 97 percent of offensive snaps in 2013 and 100 percent in 2015, Ragatz said.
The incentives are classified not likely to be earned (NLTBE) as Reiff played 85.5 percent of Vikings offensive snaps in 2019. NLTBE incentives count against the following season’s cap that they are applied, versus likely to be earned (LTBE) incentives — which are applied towards the same year’s salary cap.
The Vikings are guaranteed to reap the $5 million in saving from Reiff’s pay cut with this distinction.
Vikings Offensive Line Continuity
The Vikings offensive line was considered a buoy of continuity this offseason amid the release of seven starters.
For the past three years, Reiff has been an average pass-blocker in protecting Kirk Cousins’ blindside while the rest of the Vikings offensive line continues to develop.
Adam Thielen attributed Reiff to a culture change in the offensive line room in his virtual press conference on Tuesday.
“When (Reiff) first came here, he changed the culture of the offensive line room…it really started with him when he first got here,” Thielen said.
Reiff has been a veteran anchor for the defensive line that introduced 2019 first-rounder Garrett Bradbury and 2018 second-rounder Brian O’Neill — who both were named among the NFL’s most underrated players and have the potential to become stars at their respective positions.
Pat Elflein was drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft and is getting a fresh start at right guard, his preferred position he played in college.
All other starters other than Reiff are all on their rookie contracts still, and if they see some future success, could become mainstays for a Vikings franchise that hasn’t had a Pro Bowl offensive line appearance since Matt Kalil’s rookie year in 2012.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.