MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings made their costliest move yet for salary cap compliance Wednesday by terminating the contract of left tackle Riley Reiff with one year left on it, weakening an offensive line that was already in need of some upgrades.
Though Reiff plays a critical position and 2020 was by most measures the best of his four seasons with the Vikings, cutting him will trim $11.75 million off the team’s cap charges. They’ll carry $3.2 million in dead money.
The decision not only brought the Vikings under the salary cap — set by the NFL at $182.5 million before each team’s prior year carryover adjustments — but gave them the necessary room to add a significant player or two when free agency begins next week. After releasing tight end Kyle Rudolph, kicker Dan Bailey and now Reiff, the Vikings currently have more than $8 million to work with, according to real-time salary data tracked by the Over The Cap website.
Last year, the Vikings persuaded Reiff to take a $5 million pay cut — he wound up earning back $2 million in incentives — so they could afford defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in a trade with Jacksonville. Ngakoue lasted six games and was eventually dealt to Baltimore.
The intensely private Reiff rarely granted interviews with reporters, but the native of South Dakota and 2012 first-round draft pick out of Iowa was comfortable enough in Minnesota to take less money to stay last season. The open market for offensive tackles shrunk when Taylor Moton (Carolina) and Cam Robinson (Jacksonville) received the franchise tag, however, further increasing the 32-year-old Reiff’s value. Reiff played his first five seasons with Detroit before signing with the Vikings in 2017.
His departure will likely trigger a switch for Brian O’Neill, who has manned the right tackle spot for the Vikings since being drafted in the second round in 2018. Garrett Bradbury, the first-round pick in 2019, is set for now at center. Ezra Cleveland, their second-round selection in 2020, is the only other sure-bet starter.
Cleveland was a tackle in college but took over at right guard last year. Dakota Dozier, the left guard last season, is on track to depart as a free agent. If the Vikings decide to move Cleveland to tackle, they’ll have plenty of experienced guards available after a recent rash of cost-cutting moves made at that position around the league.