Wide Left: Why the Los Angeles Rams are a glimpse into the Vikings' future

Paying your quarterback top dollar has its share of consequences.
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Rick Spielman

The Wide Left blog is written by Vikings superfan Blair Anderson, who somehow convinced Bring Me The News that it was a good idea to give him a platform to express his joys and frustrations about his favorite football team. 

I know it's April, but I'm going to start off this article with a reference from "A Christmas Carol." You know, when the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Ebenezer Scrooge on a joy ride through his life, revealing to him that he's basically been an insufferable jerk the entire time?

"OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?!" says Scrooge when he realizes what he'd done.

Well, I'm going to play the role of a Ghost of Minnesota and head over to Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman's house. Actually, my bosses informed me that not only does that violate social distancing protocol, it's also trespassing. Who knew? 

But the good news is we don't need time-traveling powers to have Mr. Spielman look into his future. That's because the Vikings' future may look very similar to what the Los Angeles Rams have been doing the past couple of seasons.

Like the Vikings, the Rams are currently stuck in salary cap hell. Coming off a season in which they took a big leap forward with the greatest coach in the history of modern football, Sean McVay, they forked out the largest contract ever to a running back.

The four-year, $60 million contract handed to Todd Gurley included $45 million guaranteed, which is basically like lighting money on fire in today's NFL. With running backs having a shorter shelf life than the milk everyone hoarded at Costco, it was only a matter of time before they had to eat all that money.

But it gets better. After making the Super Bowl the following season, the Rams doubled down, handing their good, but probably never great quarterback Jared Goff, a four-year, $134 million contract with $110 million guaranteed.

To the Rams, this was a great move. They were capitalizing off the success in a season where they probably overachieved and were going for that next step. Good for them!

But then the season started. Gurley got what I like to term "Bradford Knee" and was mothballed throughout the season. The Rams added more expensive pieces like they were playing Madden with the salary cap off and because that important factor actually exists in the NFL, they were faced with their own "OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?!" moment.

That led to this offseason. After locking up Goff to an expensive deal, the Rams needed to clear cap space. They cut Gurley two years into his huge contract, sent Clay Matthews packing and then traded Brandin Cooks to the Texans for a second-round pick.

After all that, the Rams are still $5.3 million OVER the salary cap, according to Over The Cap. But that's the least of their problems...

That's right, the Rams are paying a ton of money for players not on the team and paying their mediocre quarterback $36 million to not have those players. This also bumps the Rams' total amount of dead money to just over $41 million, which is second only to the Carolina Panthers ($48.1 million).

The Vikings happen to be sixth on that list and run many parallels to what's going on in L.A. 

After one good season and one bad season with Kirk Cousins, the Vikings decided to sign him to a two-year extension worth $66 million. With the 2020 season also included, it's basically a three-year deal worth $96 million.

That's a lot of money for a team pressed up against the salary cap, so the cuts started to happen. 

Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph were cut. Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander straight up left. Everson Griffen saw all of this and decided to go somewhere else and Anthony Harris, one player actually in his prime, might get traded to find someone younger and cheaper. Now the vikings are eating $20.3 million in dead money, and that total could rise. 

All the while, the Vikings opted to pay Cousins, fullback C.J. Ham, kicker Dan Bailey, and punter Britton Colquitt. Priorities, people.

But this could all get worse! Running backs don't play into the final year of their contract after Le'Veon Bell took a year off from football and decided to spend it partying in Miami instead of...you know...staying in shape? So Dalvin Cook wants to get paid on one good year.

Common sense says that Cook should get a moderate deal considering he's missed a total of 17 games over his first three seasons and three more where he left early due to injury. But, Cook had the best season of his career, so he's sprinting into Spielman's office like he's cashing in the Money in the Bank contract.

So if the Vikings come close to matching Cook's demands, which let's all hope aren't around the six-year, $90 million contract Ezekiel Elliott got from the Dallas Cowboys, things are going to get really ugly when they need to re-sign some of their younger players to keep this afloat (much easier when you realize Spielman bombed the ENTIRE 2016 draft class).

"But Blair, we have Rob Brzezinski! He's a salary cap god!"

Yes, Brzezinski is good at his job to the point it's like Mickey Mouse and the broomsticks in Fantasia. But eventually, the broomsticks force Mickey into submission and when he wakes up, his pissed-off boss is waiting to fire him.

So if Rick is reading this, please fire up your iPad and read what the Rams are doing. If this looks familiar, there's still time to turn around. Otherwise, there's going to come a time in the near future where you're asking yourself, "OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?!"

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