If you are like me, you grew up thinking professional football teams were limited by the mystical overlord known as the salary cap. It was a deity that dictated how your roster was constructed. It would rise, seemingly arbitrarily, every year and we all just go along with it. Well, no more. I would like to take this moment to declare myself a salary cap atheist. It exists the same way as Santa, the middle class or Jesus. It doesn’t.
I could go into detail about non guaranteed money and how signing bonuses are prorated over the life of a contract but numbers are boring and I would much rather give real world examples.
Proof We Are Alone: 2018 Offseason
During the previous offseason, the Minnesota Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to an $84 million, 3 year, fully guaranteed contract. All I heard from pundits far and wide was how this would limit the organization’s ability to resign their young core of defensive talent and all but sideline them for any big free agent acquisitions. Being the gullible peasant that I am, I believed this completely. Smash cut to the Vikings immediately signing free agent Sheldon Richardson and extending their young stud defensive tackle Danielle Hunter with a 5 year, $72 million deal. Oh yeah, they also gave linebacker Eric Kendricks a 5 year, $50 million extension as well. Sure, fine, you say. They extended a couple of defensive players and signed one high profile free agent. What about the offense?
2018 Offseason: Directors Cut
Stefon Diggs was the biggest name that was next in line to get paid. The star of the Minneapolis Miracle had become one of the best wide receivers in the entire league. All this after unceremoniously being taken in the 5th round of the 2015 draft out of Big 10 powerhouse Maryland. He was all set to test the market in 2019. No way Rick Spielman could find the money he deserved. Until he did. Diggs inked a 5 year $72 million extension that July. Of course, the true believers will say, “yeah but now THIS surely cripples the franchise going forward!” To that, I smugly point you to what they went out and did the following year.
The End Is Nigh: 2019 Offseason
This was to be the year the wheels finally came off this purple and gold Ponzi scheme. The Vikings, however, are no Bernie and had even more work to do. First up on the list was Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr. The former first-round pick was set to test the free agent market, going as far as agreeing in principle to a deal with the New York Jets. After realizing he just agreed to a deal with the New York Jets, Barr promptly rescinded his commitment and resigned with the Vikings for 5 years and $67.5 million.
Rick Stuffs The Haters In A Locker
The unwashed masses are beginning to get nervous. They throw out one last Hail Mary. “Yeah, well, you can only do this because Adam Thielen is on such a team friendly deal! What happens when he demands to be paid what he’s worth!?” O, ye of too much faith. Even with years left on the deal, the Vikings handed Thielen a 4 year, $64 million extension.
Live look at Rick:
Now, with the haters set to fade into Bolivian, it was time to dance on some graves. Just because they said he couldn’t, Spielman also gave tight end Kyle Rudolph a 4 year $36 million extension, simultaneously dunking on the armchair cap-ologists and Oprah.
Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told
The main takeaway from this little experiment is that the cap does not matter. It is a fictional boundary put in place so owners can give a plausible excuse as to why they are not spending more of their money to improve the team you love. We all buy it. Not me. Rise up. Expect more from your franchise. Don’t settle for the same tired talking points. We all deserve better. I am personally thankful to have an owner that does not abide by these arbitrary rules and barriers. It won’t make a difference when the Vikings are clocking in at 9-7 and missing the playoffs once again, but as a fan who has learned to love the offseason, it feels pretty good right now.