The true trick to the NFL trade is to get out of salary cap trouble

The New Minnesota Vikings general manger Kwesi Adofo–Mensah spent eight years working on Wall Street in between his economics degrees at Princeton and Stanford.

The true trick to the NFL trade is to get out of salary cap trouble

He was still looking for a challenge in the controlled-market financial world of building pro football rosters.

It will be a difficult task to get Adofo-Mensah off the field with the Vikings in their first offseason. The team will be facing a $45M salary cap on the last year of quarterback Kirk Cousins’ existing contract. Current commitments are projected to exceed $15M.

"There's some art and science, but there's also a lot of art. Adofo-Mensah stated that puzzles are fun because of this. "Honestly, this is what attracted me to the sport and it's why all of us enjoy competing at the highest levels."

The 2022 salary cap is expected to be $208.2million per team. This is a 25.7 million increase over last year. A $15.7 million drop in revenue due to the pandemic caused by the empty-stadium season 2020 has triggered an unprecedented $15.7million decrease for 2021. Contracts that were negotiated before COVID-19's descent on the league were also calculated keeping the customary increase in mind.

Although the landscape is looking better than it did last year, the spring will be more challenging because of the need to make bold and creative decisions. The new media rights agreements for 2023 will bring about bigger cap increases, but this windfall will not help the Vikings right now.

This is true for the New Orleans Saints (Green Bay Packers), Dallas Cowboys (Dallas Cowboys) and Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams (four other teams whose caps are in the red) with less than two weeks until free agency begins.

Over The Cap, an NFL salary tracker website, has calculated that the Saints were $42 million above the threshold as of Thursday. They are followed by the Cowboys ($22million), Rams ($21million), and Packers ($31million). For compliance, teams must not only get below the cap, but they also need to save space for draft picks and before signing new players.

The five NFC teams combined went 54-31 last year, with the Cowboys, Rams, and Packers accounting for three of the six NFL's best records. Competing comes with a cost. In the case of the Rams it was the price of winning it all. This is in the form cap challenges in subsequent years.

General manager of the Packers Brian Gutekunst stated that "The pandemic certainly threw an wrench into everything as far how the salary cap numbers are concerned and they'd remain so steady for such a long time." "You had that feeling of comfort about where it was going to be. It was a bit more difficult when that changed with the current team. We are optimistic that we will be able to overcome this.

The Packers are still waiting for word on four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. His cap hit of more that $46 million for 2022 is almost certain to be reduced with a contract extension. All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adam can be a free agent. They would have to also fit him in.

This could mean restructuring veteran contracts, as Kenny Clark did with defensive tackle Kenny Clark. Or simply releasing highly-skilled players. Za'Darius, an outside linebacker, could be one of them. If released, he would get a cap relief of over $15 million.

The Cowboys are now dealing with the welcomed-but-daunting ramifications of having a franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott, on his second contract. They could free up $16 million cap space by cutting Amari Cooper, wide receiver, and $8 million by trading DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive end. These are two crucial players.

Stephen Jones, Cowboys executive, stated that "we can have another great roster again, but it's going to need to be massaged and we won't be able to maintain everybody. We're going have to be efficient both in free agency, and in the draft."

Jones spoke to reporters at Indianapolis' combine and succinctly summarized the annual dilemma for almost every team in the league.

He said that while we could do some things to help us keep our guys, if we really wanted to push it out, we'll still have a bigger problem next year and beyond."

The Rams are an excellent example of the benefits of the all in approach, favoring now over later.

This month may see six contract restructures, including those for quarterback Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey. The Rams general manager Les Snead, along with his lieutenants, have successfully navigated these obstacles before. This leaves no doubt that they can do it again and keep the Rams in good shape for another attempt.

Cap trouble is sometimes a result of poor strategy but it rarely proves to be a deal breaker. There are many ways to structure the bonuses and salaries to make sure the top players do not exceed the cap. Fans and media are often the ones sounding alarms.

It's therefore possible for a team such as the Vikings to keep a market-rate quarterback like Cousins at least for another season, and upgrade some positions around him.

"We have our leadership in place so that we can be successful immediately. Mark Wilf, owner and president of the company, said that they are confident in this. We're going with Kirk as our quarterback, and we'll continue to move forward, but 2022 will be a sure thing, we're going super competitive. We have the leadership to sustain our success, and that is what I believe we have.

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