<
>

Vikings salary-cap breakdown: Defense

4/29/2014

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings begin their three-day voluntary minicamp on Tuesday, and as players head back to work at the team facility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, getting on the field with coach Mike Zimmer for the first time, we're continuing our look at the team's salary cap picture with a breakdown of the Vikings' defense.

Defensive line

Percentage of salary-cap space: 22.26

Total cap charge: $27.86 million

NFL average: $21.65 million

Biggest cap hit: Everson Griffen, $8.2 million

Biggest bargain: Corey Wootton, $1.7 million

Thoughts: This position represents the biggest investment on the Vikings' roster, with the team banking on young players like Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph to succeed Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and -- in some senses, since the Vikings haven't found a solid nose tackle since his time with Minnesota ended in 2011 -- Pat Williams. There are some potential key contributors on the lower end of the salary structure, though, like Wootton, who had seven sacks in 2012, and Tom Johnson, who could provide some value in a three-technique tackle rotation with Rhodes. He's making just $845,000, but if he gets around 20 snaps a game, he could make a meaningful contribution to the line.

Linebacker

Percentage of salary-cap space: 9.28

Total cap charge: $11.60 million

NFL average: $15.64 million

Biggest cap hit: Chad Greenway, $7.2 million

Biggest bargain: Audie Cole, $570,000

Thoughts: The Vikings have plenty to figure out at the position, where only Greenway seems like a lock as a starter right now. There will be competition at both middle linebacker (between Cole, Michael Mauti and Jasper Brinkley) and weak-side linebacker (between Gerald Hodges, Terrell Manning and possibly Mauti and Cole, who have both played outside before). Greenway will have plenty to prove this season, as well, after the Vikings asked him to restructure his deal following a disappointing and injury-plagued 2013 season. He'll be a free agent after 2015, and with an $8.8 million cap hit for 2015, he could be a candidate for another restructuring -- or a release, if the Vikings feel they can go younger. It also wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings address this position high in the draft.

Safety

Percentage of salary-cap space: 6.34

Total cap charge: $7.93 million

NFL average: $8.19 million

Biggest cap hit: Jamarca Sanford, $2.5 million

Biggest bargain: Andrew Sendejo, $866,666

Thoughts: There will be competition at the spot opposite Harrison Smith, where Sanford, Sendejo and Kurt Coleman could all compete for playing time. Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton are still on the roster, too, so the Vikings will have no shortage of options. Smith should be recovered from turf toe after missing half of last season, and if he's on the field for 16 games, the Vikings could see him continue to turn into a star. He's got great range, plays with an edge and seems to have an innate feel for the position.

Cornerback

Percentage of salary-cap space: 7.34

Total cap charge: $9.18 million

NFL average: $12.29 million

Biggest cap hit: Captain Munnerlyn, $3.33 million

Biggest bargain: Marcus Sherels, $1 million

Thoughts: It's likely the Vikings will add another cornerback in the draft, but they should be better here in 2014 than they were in 2013, after adding Munnerlyn in free agency to solve their problem at slot cornerback. Xavier Rhodes looks like he could be a fixture at one cornerback spot, and if the Vikings can add another one and make Josh Robinson a dime cornerback, they should be in good shape. The undersized Sherels acquitted himself well when injuries forced him into action last season. He always gives a full effort, and has become a good punt returner.