The Minnesota Vikings are suddenly out of salary cap hell — but it came at the expense of the offensive line’s veteran leader.
Minnesota released left tackle Riley Reiff on Wednesday, leaving two vacancies on the offensive line the Vikings must fill after deciding to not re-sign Dakota Dozier earlier this offseason.
The 32-year-old played 58 regular-season games for Minnesota over four seasons, starting all of them at left tackle. The Vikings save over $11 million by cutting Reiff, per the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling and have roughly $8.5 million in cap space entering free agency.
The Vikings now need to rebuild the offensive line and can do so by shifting Ezra Cleveland or Brian O’Neill to left tackle, or fill the void in the upcoming draft or free agency.
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Vikings Gifted Reiff $1 Million Bonus in Good Faith But Couldn’t Reach Agreement
Reiff took a $5 million pay cut last offseason with performance-based incentives in his contract that allowed him to earn a $1 million bonus for playing in 86% of the team’s offensive snaps and another $1 million for reaching 93.75% of snaps.
The veteran left tackle put forth one of the best performances of his career, allowing just one sack on 567 pass-blocking snaps and played in 15 games this season — missing only an irrelevant season finale against the Detroit Lions due to COVID-19 protocol.
The Vikings renegotiated his contract and gave Reiff an extra $1 million as a nice gesture, per Tom Pelissero, after Reiff narrowly missed the second incentive, logging 92.6% of snaps in the 2020 season. The bonus was made in good faith, but it could also be seen as a sweetener for potential negotiations this offseason.
However, Reiff’s release was due to his agent and the Vikings not reaching an agreement on restructuring his contract in 2021, per Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson.
Tomasson reported that the second $1 million bonus he received counts against the 2021 cap.
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Reiff Was a Team Captain and Leader on the Line
Vikings team reporter Eric Smith wrote that “Reiff was one of the most well-respected players in the Vikings locker room and was a mentor for younger players.
“Riley hits the weight room hard every day,” Ezra Cleveland, who was a rookie in 2020, said in December. “He shows up and works and puts his heart and soul into his work. It’s just a great thing to see [from] a guy in his ninth year.
Adam Thielen acknowledged that Reiff has been a foundational leader on the offensive line.
“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 following Reiff’s pay cut.
Mike Zimmer also touted Reiff’s work ethic throughout his time with the Vikings.
“I love the kid. He’s a tough, physical guy,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of Reiff at the end of the 2020 season. “He’s a pro’s pro. Comes out and works every single day. He’s had a really good year. He’s a big-time battler; he’ll fight you all day long, so he’s really everything you want in an offensive lineman.”
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