Riley Reiff

Vikings Give Riley Reiff $1MM Bonus

The Vikings renegotiated Riley Reiff’s contract to furnish him with a $1MM signing bonus, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). The left tackle would have reached a $1MM playtime incentive had he played in the final game of the year, but he had to sit out while on the COVID-19 list. 

Reiff didn’t miss a snap up until his absence and would have comfortably reached the required ~94% snap threshold had he played in Week 17. Next, the Vikings will have to make a decision on Reiff’s future in Minnesota. The tackle has a $5MM roster bonus due on March 19th. If they release him previous to that date, they can save a total of $11.75MM between his roster bonus, workout bonus, and $6.55MM base salary. On the books, they’d be left with just $2.2MM in dead money, the sum of his prorated bonus.

Reiff has started in 58 games across four years with the Vikings. The 32-year-old was a rumored cap casualty last year, but they ultimately chose to stick with his veteran experience rather than thrusting second-round pick Ezra Cleveland into the starting lineup.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/30/20

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: K Sam Koch

Cleveland Browns

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: C Ryan Groy; Groy remains on IR

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Trade Rumors: Giants, Ryan, Fuller

After dealing Markus Golden to the Cardinals, it appears the 1-6 Giants have officially declared themselves sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Though GM Dave Gettleman may be reluctant to trade away veteran talent that could theoretically help Big Blue win a few games — and perhaps save Gettleman’s job in the process — players like Evan Engram, Kevin Zeitler, and Golden Tate could be available, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes (though Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says the club is unlikely to deal Engram).

2017 second-round DT Dalvin Tomlinson could also be on the move, per Dunleavy. Tomlinson is playing out the last year of his rookie contract, and while he has expressed interest in staying with the Giants long-term, there has been little progress in contract talks.

As we creep closer to the November 3 deadline, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league:

Vikings, Riley Reiff Agree To New Deal

Riley Reiff is staying put. The Vikings are on the verge of finalizing a restructured contract that will keep the starting left tackle in Minnesota, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets

Earlier this week, we heard that Reiff was expecting to be released by the cap-crunched Vikings. Thanks to the recent addition of Yannick Ngakoue, the Vikes were skittish about paying Reiff his scheduled $10.9MM in base pay and thinking about dropping him for $8.8MM in cap space. Heading into Tuesday morning, the Vikings had just $1.2MM in cap room, the lowest total in the league. The Vikings asked Reiff to decide on whether to take a pay cut or be cut by today, and he’s rendered his verdict.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Reiff has agreed to drop his salary from $10.9MM to $6MM (Twitter link). He can earn $2MM of that back via playing time incentives, with Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network tweeting that Reiff will earn an additional $1MM if he plays in 86% of the team’s snaps in 2020 and another $1MM if he plays in 93.75% of snaps. Reiff was on the field of 85.7% of Minnesota’s offensive snaps in 2019, so the incentives are reachable but will be considered not likely to be earned for cap purposes, meaning that they will not count as a cap charge.

Reiff, 31, signed with the Vikings in 2017. Since then, he’s made 43 regular season starts at left tackle, though the Vikings were once thinking about moving him to the interior. In April, the Vikes tapped versatile lineman Ezra Cleveland in the second round, but they believe that he’s still too green for significant playing time. With quality tackles in short supply, the Vikings are glad to have struck middle ground with Reiff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings’ Riley Reiff Expecting Release?

Riley Reiff‘s Vikings tenure may be capped at three years. The team, which just took on a hefty salary with Yannick Ngakoue‘s reduced franchise tag, is eyeing a pay cut for its veteran left tackle.

Set to make $10.9MM in base salary this season, Reiff does not appear to foresee a solution coming. He has told teammates he expects to be released, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports (on Twitter). Should the Vikings release Reiff, they would gain $8.8MM in cap space. Following their Ngakoue acquisition, the Vikings hold an NFL-low $1.2MM in cap space.

Reiff is not expected to be at practice Monday, according to ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin, who adds that the team has given him a Tuesday deadline to determine if he’ll accept a pay reduction or be cut (Twitter link). The sides failing to compromise would send Reiff back to free agency. He signed with the Vikings in 2017 and has made 43 regular-season starts at left tackle.

Reiff, 31, was a rumored cap casualty earlier this year, but the Vikes kept him around. They then drafted Ezra Cleveland in the second round. Cleveland was seeing time at guard earlier in camp. However, the Boise State product can be viewed as Reiff’s eventual successor. The team, however, does not view Cleveland as ready to play just yet, Florio notes, adding that the more likely post-Reiff O-line configuration would be right tackle Brian O’Neill moving to the left side and Rashod Hill on the right edge.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings To Acquire Yannick Ngakoue From Jaguars

Yannick Ngakoue finally got his wish. As Adam Schefter of ESPN.com was the first to report, the Jaguars have traded their disgruntled defensive end to the Vikings in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick and a conditional 2022 fifth-round selection that could become a fourth- or third-round choice.

Ngakoue has wanted out of Jacksonville for some time. Last July, he became upset when then-executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin abruptly ended extension negotiations with the 2016 third-rounder, and while he did suit up for the club in the 2019 season, he made it clear this offseason that the relationship between him and the team was beyond repair.

The Jaguars put the franchise tag on him, valued at $17.8MM, but he did not sign the tag, and all indications were that, if he wasn’t traded, he was going to stay away from the team until Week 10 of the 2020 season. That would have been the deadline for him to be able to count 2020 as an accredited year towards free agency.

Given his very public unhappiness with Jacksonville, the fact that the deadline for tagged players to sign an extension passed on July 15, and his high franchise tag number, the Jags didn’t have a ton of leverage. But GM Dave Caldwell managed to finagle two draft picks out of the Vikings, and Schefter says the 2022 fifth-rounder will become a fourth-rounder if Ngakoue makes the Pro Bowl in 2020 and will become a third-rounder if he makes the Pro Bowl and the Vikings win the Super Bowl.

From the Vikings’ perspective, that’s a relatively small price to pay for the chance to bookend Ngakoue with another talented young pass rusher, Danielle Hunter. The team lost longtime stalwart Everson Griffen to the Cowboys earlier this month, and as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes, Minnesota began working on an Ngakoue deal as soon as it became clear Griffen wasn’t coming back (Twitter link).

In order to make the trade work, the Vikings did have to create some cap room. Further proving just how desperate he was to get out of Jacksonville, Ngakoue reduced his 2020 pay from $17.8MM to just below $13MM to facilitate the deal (Twitter link via Albert Breer of SI.com). Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com reports that Minnesota could also rework an existing contract and names LT Riley Reiff as a potential restructure candidate. Cronin says the team will not cut a player just for salary cap purposes (Twitter links).

However, Cronin points out that the Ngakoue acquisition could mean that the team is not going to reach an extension with running back Dalvin Cook (Twitter link). The two sides recently agreed to table contract negotiations, and without a major cost-cutting move or two, Cook may be destined for free agency in 2021.

But that’s another story for another day. For now, the Vikings have solidified their status as one of the top teams in the NFC, and the Hunter-Ngakoue combination will be a formidable one for opposing offenses, especially when considering the similar excellence the team enjoys in its LB and DB corps.

Ngakoue is not particularly strong against the run, but he has averaged over nine sacks per season over his first four years in the league, and he has also shown some serious play-making ability. He has forced 14 fumbles to date, and as Schefter writes, the Maryland product is directly responsible for five of the 12 defensive touchdowns the Jaguars have scored since 2016. Cronin observes in a full-length piece that Ngakoue had a pass-rush win rate of 21% as an edge rusher last season, which ranked higher than Griffen (17%) and Hunter (15%).

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes that the Vikings plan to sign Ngakoue to a long-term deal after the 2020 season (video link). While Minnesota will have a number of other contract issues to address, pairing Ngakoue and Hunter together for the foreseeable future will be an indubitably tempting proposition.

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NFC North Rumors: Vikings, Lions, Patterson

Two weeks after reporting to Vikings camp on time, Dalvin Cook reaffirmed his commitment to the team. Going into a contract year, the Pro Bowl running back surfaced in holdout rumors this offseason. Cook, however, said the holdout noise did not come from him.

This is where I want to be at. This is what I love to do,” Cook said of his Vikings status, via ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin. “I was going to be here regardless of whatever the speculations (that) came up or (questions of) if I wasn’t coming. I was going to be here ready to work. … I’m locked up full go, a thousand percent.”

The Vikings and Cook were not the same page financially, and OC Gary Kubiak — save for Terrell Davis and Arian Foster — has used a system that has featured extensive running back turnover during his two-plus decades overseeing NFL offenses. Cook is set to make $1.33MM this season. The Vikings have younger backs Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone in place as backups. While the Vikings would prefer to extend Cook, the $15MM-per-year price point that emerged appears far less palatable now that the cap could plummet by more than $20MM in 2021.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Lions workout in which Trevor Siemian participated also included veteran wideout Chris Hogan, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Now 32, Hogan is coming off an injury-sidetracked season with the Panthers. However, he was with the Patriots during Matt Patricia‘s run there. Hogan led the NFL with 17.9 yards per catch in 2016. While Hogan was not as effective in subsequent Pats years, he served as a key option for Tom Brady for most of his three-year New England stay. The Lions employ several ex-Patriots, having added a few more this offseason. Friday’s workout also included wide receivers Shelton Gibson, Krishawn Hogan and Keon Hatcher.
  • An interesting development from Bears camp: Cordarrelle Patterson is not working with Chicago’s wide receiver group. Instead, the All-Pro kick returner is practicing as a running back, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes. The Bears had hoped to dial up more plays to capitalize on the veteran’s unique skill set last season, and Garafolo adds that should be something to monitor for the upcoming campaign. Patterson never worked out as a true receiver, but the All-Decade return man has enjoyed success as a gadget piece while seeing some running back snaps in New England.
  • The Vikings have previously mentioned the prospect of Riley Reiff shifting to guard, but they shut that down this year. However, the veteran left tackle said he would be ready to move inside if called upon, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Reiff is in Year 4 of a five-year contract. The Vikings drafted tackle Ezra Cleveland in Round 2, but the pandemic will make matters especially difficult on young O-linemen. This would point to Cleveland spending 2020 as a developmental backup. Cleveland, however, is competing for the Vikes’ vacant right guard spot, along with Dakota Dozier and Aviante Collins, Kubiak said.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Rodgers, Vikings

Let’s take a quick spin around the NFC North:

  • Appearing on a recent episode of “10 Questions with Kyle Brandt,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confirmed he was surprised Green Bay didn’t select a wide receiver in the 2020 draft, and also admitted he’s likely to be traded in the future due to the Packers’ addition of first-round signal-caller Jordan Love (Twitter link via Kevin Clark of The Ringer). The entire clip is well-worth a watch, as Rodgers doesn’t indicate any anger at the Love pick — instead, he comes off as pragmatic and realistic regarding his future in Green Bay. The Packers could most likely move on from Rodgers — whether via trade or release — after the 2021 season.
  • Incumbent Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff is likely to stay put on the blindside, so second-round pick Ezra Cleveland has been working at guard, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak told reporters, including Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Cleveland, who played tackle at Boise State, hasn’t seen much action at guard, but it’s possible he could compete with Pat Elflein and Dru Samia for a starting role at either left or right guard. Minnesota ranked in the top-half of the league in Football Outsiders‘ offensive line metrics in 2019.
  • Packers kicker Mason Crosby and tight end Jace Sternberger, as well as Bears defensive tackle John Jenkins, were among the NFL players recently placed on the COVID reserve list, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Latest On Vikings’ Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein

The Vikings are right up against the salary cap at the moment, but there are some moves they could make to open up some much-needed breathing room. For example, Minnesota is likely to release CB Xavier Rhodes, and Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune also names offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Pat Elflein as potential cap casualties.

Reiff remained at left tackle in 2019 despite some chatter that he could be moved inside to left guard. The Vikings instead elected to shift former center Elflein to LG after drafting Garrett Bradbury, and while Elflein did not perform poorly, he was not exactly a standout. But because of the league’s proven performance escalator, Elflein’s 2020 salary will increase from $960K to $2.147MM, so cutting the Ohio State product would save the Vikings about $2MM against the cap. Even if Minnesota hangs on to him, he could be relegated to a reserve role.

As for Reiff, the 31-year-old is due to earn a $10.9MM salary in 2020, but the Vikings would save nearly $9MM against the cap by releasing him, a huge amount for a club with Minnesota’s financial outlook. That would then allow the Vikings to select an offensive tackle in a draft that is deep at the position.

In addition to a potential O-line overhaul, the Vikings will also have a lot of work to do at cornerback. Rhodes will probably be cut and free agents Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander may not be re-signed, and head coach Mike Zimmer conceded that his team would need to address the position in the draft. Luckily for him, this year’s crop of collegiate CBs is also quite strong.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Wilson, Vikings, McLeod, AAF

More details of Russell Wilson‘s landmark extension are emerging. Wilson’s 2020 and ’21 base salaries — $19MM apiece — will become fully guaranteed if he is on the Seahawks roster five days after Super Bowls LIV and LV, respectively. With that a near-certainty, Wilson’s $107MM in total guarantees are practically full guarantees. Wilson will earn a $19MM base salary in 2022 and ’23, according to OverTheCap. This deal leaves Wilson with cap numbers of $26.29MM (2019), $31MM (2020), $32MM (’21), $37MM (’22) and $39MM (’23). The eighth-year quarterback’s base salary was slated to be $17MM this year; the new deal converted much of that money into a signing bonus, with Wilson now attached to a $5MM base in 2019. The new contract raised Wilson’s 2019 cap number by just $1MM. Additionally, the contract includes a $6MM escalator clause — which would bring the total dollar figure up to $146MM — for Wilson’s 2023 salary, per CBS Sports’ Joel Corry (on Twitter). Unspecified performance-based incentives from 2020-22 can bump the Pro Bowler’s $21MM salary in 2023 to $27MM.

Here is the latest from around the American football landscape:

  • The Vikings are considering moving left tackle Riley Reiff to left guard, but it appears that is contingent on how the draft goes. Reiff will likely only move inside if Minnesota selects a first-round tackle, per Dave Campbell of the Associated Press. Reiff has only played tackle in the NFL. The Vikings “wouldn’t hesitate” to move center Pat Elflein to guard, Campbell adds, but that will also be contingent on the draft. Minnesota failing to add a center worth relocating Elflein would presumably nix that move. Either way, the Vikings’ embattled line will likely look a bit different post-draft.
  • Rodney McLeod will not participate in the Eagles‘ offseason program. The veteran safety, who tore his ACL in Week 3 of last season, is aiming for a training camp return, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Les Bowen notes. McLeod took a major pay cut this offseason, slashing his 2019 salary from $7.5MM to $1.5MM. That can become $4MM, should McLeod play in all 16 Eagles games, Bowen adds. He played in 16 games in each season from 2012-16 and had missed just two in his career prior to the 2018 injury. McLeod signed a five-year deal in 2016, but the contract is now a four-year pact. The restructure voided the 2020 season.
  • No last-ditch effort will save the Alliance of American Football. The league filed for bankruptcy this week. “Pursuant to the bankruptcy laws, a trustee will be empowered to resolve all matters related to the AAF’s remaining assets and liabilities, including ongoing matters related to player contracts,” the league said in a statement. The AAF abruptly halted operations earlier this month, leaving a messy trail of financial turmoil after an eight-game season.