The Minnesota Vikings face some key decisions on players as they start working through the early portion of the offseason.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has rebuilt the Vikings with a lot of young and up-and-coming talent, but as those young players age, the time comes for some key decisions.
Over the last three seasons, Spielman and the Vikings have made seven draft picks in the first round.
- 2012: Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith
- 2013: Sharrif Floyd, Dominic Rhodes, Cordarrelle Patterson
- 2014: Anthony Barr, Teddy Bridgewater
The most immediate decisions will affect Kalil and Smith. Since both were selected in the first round of the 2012 draft the Vikings must decide whether they will exercise their fifth year contract options, attempt to sign each to a contract extension or allow them to play the final year on their rookie deals and become free agents after the season.
The toughest decision might be on Kalil. According to the Star Tribune, Kalil, who was drafted with the fourth overall pick in 2012, would be due to make the average salary of the top ten highest salaries for players at the same position during the previous year.
Considering Kalil is a left tackle, that could be a big paycheck for a player coming off his worst season in the NFL.
In Smith's case the decision could be a little simpler. Smith was drafted 29th overall, if the Vikings were to exercise his fifth-year option he would be paid the average salary of the third through 25th highest salaries at the same position.
According to the Vikings Journal, Smith was the Vikings best player in 2014 and the Vikings should consider locking him up long term.
"In short, he's one of the best safeties in the game, he turns only 26 in a few weeks (Feb. 2) and he's eligible for unrestricted free agency following the 2015 season. He deserves to get paid."
The Journal thinks the Vikings could lock him up to a contract similar to what they gave to Kyle Rudolph last season – five years worth a reported $36.5 million.
That's not it for the Vikings though.
ESPN reports that if Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison and Robert Blanton return to the Vikings in 2015 they also will receive substantial pay raises.
The increases those four players alone will bump the Vikings payroll up by just over $3.5 million, according to ESPN.