- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In terms of 2015 expenditures, the Minnesota Vikings' decision to sign veteran cornerback Terence Newman last week was the second-biggest move the team has made in free agency this offseason. But thanks to the long-expected restructuring of linebacker Chad Greenway's contract, and the Vikings' conservative approach to the open market, the team is still in a solid salary cap position.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Vikings still have about $16 million in salary cap space for 2015 -- and that doesn't take into account Newman's $2.5 million deal, which hasn't hit the league's books yet. If we account for Newman's contract, the Vikings should still be sitting on roughly $13.5 million of cap space, which gives them enough room to make another move or two in the coming weeks.
We've talked on a couple occasions about how the Vikings planned to limit their activity in the unrestricted free agent market, as long as they could instead sign players who wouldn't hurt their chances at compensatory picks in 2016. Now that the Vikings have signed Newman, Taylor Mays, Casey Matthews and Shaun Hill, they might not have as strong a chance at a compensatory choice for losing Jerome Felton, Jasper Brinkley, Christian Ponder and Vlad Ducasse -- though it's worth noting that two of the players the Vikings lost signed multi-year deals, while the team brought in only one player (Hill) on a multi-year contract.
Still, as picked over as the free agent market is, the Vikings might be able to wait to sign a player who is released after the draft -- particularly if, as Pro Football Talk reported on Tuesday, the league moved up a key deadline for signing players without effect on next year's draft. Previously, players who signed after June 1 weren't figured into compensatory pick calculations; according to PFT, the league now has moved up that deadline to May 12. That should help some veterans find homes sooner and could help teams get some of their last additions signed earlier in the offseason.
The Vikings have addressed a few of their needs, at least nominally, in free agency. They've got their backup quarterback, they added a veteran corner and signed players who might help at safety and middle linebacker. They also traded for a deep threat in wide receiver Mike Wallace. While the Vikings could revisit a number of these positions in the draft, they still haven't found any more defensive end depth or help for their offensive line. They worked out Pitt tackle TJ Clemmings last month, according to a league source, and were reportedly set to work out South Carolina guard A.J. Cann in the near future. Either player could fill a hole at left guard, or Clemmings could give the Vikings another option if they were concerned about their future at tackle. The feeling around the league is that the Vikings could venture back onto the open market for a veteran guard later this offseason, too, especially if they find one they like after the compensatory pick deadline.
It makes sense for the team to take a little cap space into the season, to cover unexpected costs, and I'd expect they'll work on a contract extension for safety Harrison Smith this summer, as well, though they could keep Smith on his rookie deal for 2015 and start the new deal in 2016. In any case, the Vikings should still have enough flexibility to make a couple more moves and sign their draft picks.
(Some of you reading out there might have noted we made it through this entire post without discussing the significant cap ramifications of Adrian Peterson's status. Really, we wanted to, but we couldn't resist a last-second twist on this first day of April. No doubt Greg Jennings would be proud.)