The veteran lineman, after taking a $5 million pay cut at the start of the season, allowed 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.
Reiff had two performance-based incentives in his restructured contract that promised $1 million for playing in 86% of the team’s offensive snaps, and another $1 million for reaching 93.75% of snaps.
The Vikings renegotiated his contract and gave Reiff an extra $1 million in good faith, per Tom Pelissero, after Reiff narrowly missed the second incentive, logging 92.6% of snaps in the 2020 season.
The #Vikings renegotiated LT Riley Reiff’s contract and gave him a $1 million signing bonus — making up for the $1 million playtime incentive he narrowly missed because he sat out the season finale on the COVID list, per source. A nice gesture from the Wilf family to step up.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 11, 2021
The Athletic’s Chad Graff speculated that it could be a sign that Minnesota wants Reiff back, however, it could prove costly with the 2021 salary cap still in flux and several other veterans vying to keep their contracts untouched.
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Vikings, Against the Cap, Play to Reiff’s Favor
From a strictly budgetary lens, Reiff seemed to be the prime candidate to be a cap casualty in 2021. The Vikings could save $11.75 million by cutting Reiff in the final year of his contract.
However, Minnesota needs to reinforce its offensive line — not dismantle it. Reiff was one of the stronger anchors of the group this season and has been a veteran leader throughout his four seasons with the Vikings.
The $1 million bonus comes as a not likely to be earned incentive (NLTBE) on his contract. This distinction, opposed to a likely to be earned incentive (LTBE), means the $1 million will be paid out of the 2021 books.
In the short term, that only hurts Minnesota, which still needs to create more cap space this offseason. However, the bonus Reiff received could mean he’s ready to take another pay cut in 2021, saving the Vikings money in the long run while also keeping Reiff as a veteran presence.
Reiff’s willingness in taking a pay cut could come down to the type of interest he could garner if he became a free agent. Minnesota denied a trade offer from the Tennessee Titans for Reiff before the trade deadline, an indication there has been past interest in Reiff amid his resurgent 2020 season.
Reiff is due a $5 million roster bonus on March 19 but could cut Reiff with no guaranteed money left on his contract.
Reiff’s Leadership Will be Considered
Adam Thielen has vouched for the significance Reiff’s brought to 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.
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.
The unit as a whole struggled given inconsistent interior guard play, which will be an area the team addresses this offseason either through free agency or the draft.
Reiff could lay his stake with the franchise by restructuring or extending his contract as a veteran leader of the team.
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