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Monday Morning Mailbag: Navigating Cap Space, Chances of Keeping Players in Vikings Secondary

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The Vikings have negative cap space … and Xavier Rhodes is owed a lot of money. Trading or cutting Rhodes would free up enough cap space to re-sign Anthony Harris, who simply cannot be allowed to leave. There are plenty of replacements in this year's draft, [Trevon] Diggs being one. … Do you think this is the way to go this offseason? Or is it better to stick with what you have, and just hope everyone plays better next season?

— Alex Richardson in London, England

View the top photos of Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes from the 2019 season.

Hi Alex, thanks for the email, and the questions that are timely to this part of the NFL calendar. All NFL teams have to be under the salary cap by 3 p.m. (CT) on March 18, so the Vikings and everyone will make sure to get there by then.

That means roster moves such as cuts, trades or restructures. We'll see what the Vikings chose to do over the next few weeks.

Either way, there could be some noticeable moves coming soon, as Head Coach Mike Zimmer essentially said as much in his season-ending presser. He said that he wanted to take time and evaluate the roster with a fresh set of eyes and not make any rash or emotional decisions on various players right after the season.

As for Diggs — the Alabama cornerback and brother of Stefon — I'm planning on chatting with him at the Combine this week, so check back with Vikings.com soon.

Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook are similar players, yet Dalvin gained 738 fewer all-purpose yards in 2019. McCaffrey was targeted 116 times and Cook targeted 63 times [in the air], and their rushing totals are similar. I would like to see Dalvin targeted (in the slot, wide-out, whatever), more in 2020. [Alexander] Mattison also [is] a 3-down back. Both could be playing on 3rd down.

And how about getting Brian O'Neill involved in the offense [as a receiving option on a trick play]? He did it in college. Garrett Bradbury is a terrific player but light for center. Why not draft a burly center (burly = 330 lbs) and move Garrett to guard? And please, coaches, draft two players in the first three rounds that will help you score points.

— Joe Warner

Lots to unpack here from Joe. To start, McCaffrey played in all 16 games while Dalvin did not, and Dalvin also had 100 total fewer touches in 2019, which goes a long way in explaining the difference in yards.

Perhaps Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak and the rest of the Vikings offensive staff could find ways to get the ball in Cook's hands more in the passing game, although it's worth noting he was second on the team with 53 catches in 2019.

Now that Mattison will be more comfortable in the NFL in his second season, maybe the staff will also look to include both he and Cook on the field at the same time. That would certainly give opposing defenses something to think about.

As for O'Neill — who was once a tight end in college at Pittsburgh — those gadget plays don't work as well in the NFL. Every once in a while, yes, but O'Neill's best skills are blocking and he's darn good at it. The Vikings also won't likely be drafting a center early after taking Bradbury in the first round in 2019. And remember, Kubiak's scheme relies on smaller and athletic linemen, not road graters along the line.

Pick up [Tom] Brady now … you can win the Super Bowl.

— Bulmaro Contreras

While there are teams that probably would want Tom Brady on their roster, keep in mind that Kirk Cousins is under contract in 2020 on a fully-guaranteed deal.

The Vikings would have to find a way to move on from him, which isn't likely considering they have based their offensive plans to maximize his skill set.

Mel Kiper is projecting that the Vikings will take [Antoine] Winfield, Jr., for their first draft pick. But really, a safety is the last thing the Vikings need; they've got two of the best safeties in the NFL!

— Pete Chapman

Pete refers to the ESPN draft analyst's most-recent mock draft, in which he projected Winfield, Jr., to the Vikings with the 25th overall pick. Vikings.com was on Kiper's pre-combine conference call last week and asked him about his thoughts on the Gophers star and son of former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield.

Yes, the Vikings had arguably the best safety duo in the NFL in 2019, but with Anthony Harris slated to be a free agent, perhaps Kiper was just giving the Vikings an option in case Harris isn't here next year.

Keep in mind that Harris, Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo are all players who have contracts set to expire on March 18. If the scenario comes up where none of them are back in Purple, then the Vikings will have to address the spot next to Harrison Smith in one way or another.

View the top photos of Vikings CB Trae Waynes from the 2019 season.

What are the chances we keep Trae Waynes?

— Warren

Trae is among a handful of players who are scheduled to be free agents on March 18, so we'll have to wait and see how things play out. If the Vikings get the sense that they can't keep other players in the secondary — Mackensie Alexander is also slated to be a free agent — then perhaps they look into putting an emphasis on keeping Trae.

The next month will be interesting to follow, for sure, and it really starts to get going this week in Indianapolis at the Combine.

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