The Minnesota Vikings spent last week tidying up the books by slashing their roster, but spring cleaning ain’t over yet in Minneapolis.
Minnesota started the veteran tear down last week by cutting linebacker Eric Kendricks on March 6. Four days later, the team cut wide receiver Adam Thielen before waiving cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr., the latter of which was something of a surprise move.
The Vikings’ next salary cap casualty could easily be safety Harrison Smith, who is due nearly $15 million in 2023 and will count an even higher $19.1 million against the cap. Perhaps the only way to avoid a cut is if the safety agrees to a decrease in pay, according to a Sunday, March 12 report by Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
“The Vikings … [have] released three veteran players thus far — including legacy player Adam Thielen — and multiple teams believe Minnesota has had trade talks centered around running back Dalvin Cook,” the report said. “The team is attempting to re-sign Cook’s backup, Alexander Mattison, who is poised for a starter’s role somewhere. Safety Harrison Smith most likely needs to take a pay cut to remain with the team. He’s due $15 million-plus in cash and the Vikings are in clear scale-back mode.”
Smith Remains Quality Safety, Will Cost Vikings Too Much on Current Deal
The Vikings can save $7.37 million by letting Smith go prior to June 1, which is the most likely scenario as that is near to the precise amount ($7.44 million) that Minnesota must slash from its budget ahead of the start of the new NFL season on March 15.
Minnesota can save north of $15 million against the cap by designating Smith as a post-June 1 cut, which is better for the balance sheet overall, though waiting that long would mean trimming elsewhere on the roster in the coming days. Smith is under contract with the team through 2025.
Smith remained a more than serviceable player for the Vikings in 2022, his 11th season in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked Smith the 37th-best safety out of 88 players qualifying at the position last year with an overall grade of 68.4. His coverage grade of 69.1 was Smith’s highest among all skill measurements, which fits with the kind of work Minnesota has been generally lacking in its secondary and will need from its defensive backs next season.
Injuries hampered Smith to a degree in 2022, though he missed only three regular season contests, starting the other 14. He amassed 85 tackles, 10 defensed passes, five interceptions and forced a fumble across those 14 appearances, per Pro Football Reference.
Vikings Secondary Full of Young Players on Rookie Contracts
Minnesota is getting younger and cheaper in the secondary, an area of the team that has been a primary focus since Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took over as general manger last offseason.
Safeties Lewis Cine and Camryn Bynum will enter their second and third seasons in the NFL, respectively, in 2023, which makes moving on from Smith more manageable. Cine, a first-round pick in 2022, missed most of last season after suffering a broken leg. Bynum, a fourth-round selection in 2021, played in and started all 17 regular season contests last year.
Smith is the resident senior in the Vikings secondary at 34 years old, followed next by free agent cornerback Patrick Peterson who is 32. While Graziano and Fowler reported that Smith may need to agree to a pay cut to remain with the team, Vikings brass and new defensive coordinator Brian Flores are apparently keen on bring Peterson back into the fold. However, no details of any contract discussions between Minnesota and Peterson have yet been reported.