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Monday Morning Mailbag: Salary Cap Cause and Effect of Vikings Moves

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.

You can also send Eric a Mailbag question via Twitter.

What do you make of the recent move the team made with Riley Reiff? Did he need to go?

— Jim Jenkins

Thanks to Jim for starting us off. My first take is that there is likely a direct correlation between the starting left tackle's release and the salary cap dropping by almost $16 million from a season ago.

Reiff was a team captain all four seasons and the Vikings best offensive lineman during that stretch, too. While he wasn't overly vocal — in the locker room or with the media — he led by example and simply put his head down and led his group.

But with the salary cap dropping to $182.5 million and the Vikings needing to clear a sizable chunk of space to get under that figure, releasing Reiff was a way to do so. There is a little bit of risk-reward with that move though.

While there a plan will evolve in the coming weeks, it won't be easy to replace Reiff. Ezra Cleveland could be the top internal candidate to do so, but the former tackle at Boise State worked at guard during his rookie campaign. The Vikings could also look to address this spot in free agency or the draft if they want to keep Cleveland at right guard.

But when Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer describes Reiff as "a big-time battler … really everything you want in an offensive lineman," you know it was a tough decision for the Vikings to make.

Hello Eric, I was sorry to see they terminated the contract of Dan Bailey. I was looking forward to the kicking competition that you wrote about in the last Mailbag. The salary cap is going to cause many a veteran player and agent to rethink their values. The Vikings have already seen this with Bailey and Kyle Rudolph. I don't think it is done yet. I don't think they can afford to sign Anthony Harris and will allow him to go. (Maybe he is re-signed in free agency?) Who do you see as long-time veterans that could be looking for another team?

— Mike Boswell in Goodwin, South Dakota

And much like Reiff, I also think the Vikings mulled over the decision to release Bailey for a while, even if there was a little bit of money saved by letting the kicker go.

He obviously struggled down the stretch and wasn't at his best in 2020, but I thought there was some hope for a turnaround after the worst season of his career, and there still could be.

(And yes, I was wrong on thinking the team would keep him around this offseason for a kicking competition. There will likely still be one, just with Greg Joseph and someone else who is brought in).

You are correct though, Mike, in that the next week or two will be very interesting to monitor around the league. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said it best earlier this month when he noted that big-name free agents ae still likely to be paid big-time money, but that a bunch of players in the next few tiers could have to take less money because of the reduced cap.

I won't speculate on which other players the team could release, but the three players already let go (Reiff, Bailey and Kyle Rudolph) have played a combined 29 seasons in the league. That could be a sign that the Vikings will be quite young in 2021 as they look to get back to the playoffs.

View the best special team photos of the 2020 season from Vikings photographers.

The schedule's 17th game (if and when it is announced) should all take place in Week 1 in international stadiums. That solves the travel and home/away concerns, plus has the added benefit of drawing international fans at the very beginning of the season. The league is likely to hold those fans while gaining more through the season. I can't think of too many serious flaws here. I understand COVID-19 throws a caution into any stadium and travel plans, but wouldn't international markets want an NFL game? Wouldn't the TV money and other revenues make it a financial win? What am I missing?

— Jeff Kilty in Sacramento, California

Let me start by saying that I do like Jeff's proposal of having each team start the season in a unique location, although that would require impressive logistical gymnastics from the league at multiple spots around the globe with timing, security, accommodations, etc.

And yes, the league is always looking for ways to broaden the popularity of NFL football in international markets. From personal experience, the atmosphere at the Vikings 2017 game in London was great, even if the temporary press box was a little chilly.

However, I don't think anything like Jeff's idea that would be feasible for at least five years or so as we try to return to a somewhat normal world due to COVID. Many NFL teams, including the Vikings, didn't even have fans at their own home games this past season, and getting them back is likely the No. 1 priority for those teams.

The news from last week that the State of Minnesota is loosening stadium capacity restrictions is a positive sign that fans will hopefully be at U.S. Bank Stadium in the fall.

Here's part of what the team said in a statement:

The Vikings top priority in 2021 is to safely welcome fans back to U.S. Bank Stadium, and [this] news is a significant step toward our goal of hosting a full stadium this fall. We recognize, however, that in order to return to all the things we enjoy doing, including attending professional sporting events, we must see continued success with vaccinations. We encourage all Minnesotans to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

Let's focus on finding some sense of normalcy around the league, before we start scheming up grand ideas across the globe.