The NFL informed teams on Wednesday that the salary cap for the 2021 season will be set at $182.5 million. While that number is not the $70-to-$80 million drop that was projected last August, it's still one that creates a challenge for the Minnesota Vikings.
After releasing Dan Bailey and Riley Reiff, the Vikings are $8.5 million under the salary cap according to Spotrac. That number is misleading, however, as Over The Cap estimates the Vikings will need $10.2 million to sign their 2021 draft class.
This leaves the Vikings to go looking through their roster to find ways they can manipulate the salary cap.
The contract of Anthony Barr is a potential target as he carries a cap hit of just over $15 million. While the Vikings could save $7.26 million by releasing Barr, that's an unlikely scenario with how much he's valued in the team's defensive scheme.
"[Barr] is really good at getting everybody lined up on the defense," Co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said in an interview with the Vikings Entertainment Network. "He calls the huddle, he gets everybody set. He helps Kendricks immensely as far as setting the front, setting the pressure, and everything we do defensively."
KSTP's Darren Wolfson said on "The Scoop" podcast last month that Barr is unwilling to renegotiate his contract.
Harrison Smith is another candidate to have his deal restructured. With a $10.25 million cap hit and no guaranteed money on his deal, an extension with Smith could lower that number and allow him to finish his career in Minnesota.
Adam Thielen's deal is another area the Vikings, could re-arrange with a $13.4 million cap hit for next season. The Vikings could move some of Thielen's salary into a signing bonus in the same fashion that $8 million of Danielle Hunter's salary was converted last offseason.
Unless the Vikings make an unlikely trade, there's a good chance that several players could be released. Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen ($5.08 million cap hit) and Mike Hughes ($3.1 million) are two names to watch heading into next week's deadline.
With limited cap space, the Vikings figure to lean heavily on the draft. After selecting an NFL-record 16 players last season, the Vikings will enter the 2021 NFL Draft with 12 picks after receiving two compensatory selections on Tuesday.
With an additional fourth and sixth-round pick, the Vikings now hold four selections in the fourth round. That capital could be used for trading up, as the Vikings traded their second-round pick when they acquired Yannick Ngakoue or acquiring capital for the 2022 draft where Minnesota has eight selections.