Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham has been largely an unexamined cut candidate this offseason with much pricier contracts to consider this offseason.
However, after a year in head coach Kevin O’Connell’s new offense, Ham’s departure has been deemed a logical move.
KSTP’s Darren Wolfson consulted Joel Corry, a former NFL agent and CBS Sports contributor, about the Vikings’ push to clear cap space and rebuild their defense. Ham is considered a “logical move” in those efforts.
“We love C.J., but a fullback just isn’t used in this offense,” Wolfson said on a January 24 episode of the SKOR North podcast. “For the most part, C.J. Ham was on the field in such a limited capacity that you don’t pay a fullback with a cap hit of over $3.5 million.”
A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Ham went undrafted out of Augustana University and emerged as one of the league’s most talented fullbacks, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2019.
Ham has proven to be a diverse weapon to deploy amid offensive scheme changes in the past, but after three seasons of 350 or more offensive snaps, he saw the field for just 169 offensive snaps under O’Connell, roughly 10 snaps per game.
He carries a cap hit of $3.8 million next season and will turn 30 before next season. The Vikings can create over $3 million in cap space by cutting him.
However, Ham’s locker room presence and leadership along with his contributions on special teams could make him a candidate to restructure and take a veteran minimum. Entering his eighth NFL season, Ham is eligible for a $1.17 million salary in 2023 under the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Homegrown Vikings WR Adam Thielen Also a Difficult Decision This Offseason
In the past two offseasons, the Vikings have restructured Adam Thielen‘s contract, pushing his earnings down the line to create immediate cap space as the organization continued to go all-in.
However, those restructures have made Thielen’s cap hit nearly $20 million for the 2023 season. He’s unlikely to return on those terms as he’s once again asked to go to the negotiating table — but this time, for a true pay cut.
Thielen, appeared on KFAN’s Power Trip Morning Show on Monday, January 16 following the Vikings’ disappointing 31-24 loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Wild Card round, addressing his future with the team as a veteran with a pricey contract.
“Obviously, I would love to finish my career here and retire a Minnesota Viking and have my entire career be here. But I also know that this is a business and there’s going to have to be some business decisions being made,” Thielen said. “I have a lot of ball left. I feel great. I feel like I can play at a really high level still. With that being said, I know I’m going to be playing football still [in 2023]. I don’t know how [much longer] that will be, but I will be playing football 100% [in 2023].”
Thielen’s wife has vented on social media that he feels he’s not being used to his full capability in the team’s offense and wants to feel valued.
However, the Vikings, currently $24 million over the salary cap, cannot afford to keep his contract as is and hope to rebuild the defense for another run to the postseason next year.
Kirk Cousins Not Expected to Take a Pay Cut, But Could Provide Cap Relief in 2023
The biggest decision that will have to happen before any other roster moves this offseason will be what to do with Kirk Cousins.
Cousins is entering the final year of his contract, carrying the sixth-highest cap hit among quarterbacks with a guaranteed $36.3 million on the books. Minnesota may let it play out and be hamstrung with less cap to spend this offseason.
They could also extend him and see some cap relief for the 2023 season with the drawback of pushing some of his signing bonus onto later years.
The decision will be telling of whether the front office believes they can win with their current roster or if they are ready to move on and rebuild the team and move on from Cousins after the 2023 season.