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One man’s opinion on the Vikings’ contract extension priorities

The Vikings have a lot of contracts potentially coming up. Who should they prioritize?

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As we’ve mentioned numerous times over the course of this offseason, the Minnesota Vikings are going to have a lot of guys that are in the final year of their contracts, and their performances have been good enough where they could all be looking at big money contract extensions. I don’t envy the position that salary cap guru/magician Rob Brzezinski finds himself in right now, but if anyone can handle the situation, it’s him.

But, of all of the Vikings’ players that the team could sign to extensions, which ones should they prioritize? Well, this is one man’s opinion on which players the purple should put an emphasis on and why. Your mileage may vary, as always, but at this point we need to have something to discuss, so why not this?

1) Danielle Hunter - Hunter is one of the many members of the Vikings’ 2015 draft class that is going to find themselves on the receiving end of a big paycheck. Hunter was incredibly productive as more of a part-time player in his first couple of seasons in Minnesota, and was still very good after assuming the starting role in 2017. The scary part about Hunter is that, due to his younger age (he will turn 24 during the 2018 season), it’s entirely possible that we haven’t seen anything close to his best football at this point. Honestly, he could get the contract that he has coming this offseason, and then get another huge contract after that since he’ll still be in his athletic prime.

Given what the going rate for young, athletic defensive ends is in the NFL, the Vikings may actually be better off doing something with Hunter that they rarely do, and that’s using the franchise tag. This past season, the franchise tag for defensive ends was just under $14 million. It isn’t hard to see Hunter getting more than that on the open market, and using the tag might buy the Vikings a little bit of time to address some of the other players on this list.

2) Stefon Diggs - He brought us the Minneapolis Miracle back in January, but even absent that, Diggs is an incredibly valuable piece of the Vikings’ offense. Diggs can get open against just about anybody, can make the tough catches (Pro Football Focus had him in the Top 5 in “Contested Catch Rate” this past season), and can do damage after the catch. If he could consistently stay healthy, he’d be mentioned among the best receivers in the National Football League.

It might actually be in the Vikings’ best interest to get Diggs’ deal taken care of sooner rather than later. If he has the kind of season that he’s capable of having with Kirk Cousins pulling the trigger on offense, he’s just going to get more and more expensive. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Diggs be the next one to get a contract done.

3) Anthony Barr - Barr hasn’t put up huge numbers in terms of sacks or anything like that, but he’s a big part of what the Vikings do on defense. He’s a three-down linebacker, and we see him make plays from sideline to sideline. Teams continue to try to run screen passes in Barr’s direction, despite the fact that he constantly blows them up, and he’s gotten better in coverage over the course of his time in Minnesota.

With Barr’s running mate at linebacker, Eric Kendricks, already getting his deal done, it will be interesting to see where Barr’s deal will land. Is he worth more or less than Kendricks for what he does in the Minnesota defense? Is there any chance that he accepts less than what Kendricks got? Frankly, I think the answer to that second question is a solid “no.” Given that Kendricks’ deal averages $10 million/season, it’s going to be interesting to see where Barr’s deal with fit in.

4) Sheldon Richardson - “Oh, yeah, that guy!” Yes, Richardson was one of the Vikings’ two big signings this offseason, but he’s only here on a one-year deal. Such deals are called “prove it” deals for a reason, and if Richardson can “prove” that he can be the sort of disruptor at the 3-technique spot that the Vikings seem to think he can be, he’s going to play his way into a bigger, long-term deal, whether it’s in Minnesota or somewhere else.

The combination of Richardson and Linval Joseph on the inside would certainly be the most disruptive combo the Vikings have had in the middle of the defense since the Williams Wall broke up, with Joseph filling the Pat Williams role and Richardson taking on the role of Kevin Williams. With as much as Mike Zimmer loves his cornerbacks and safeties, he seems to realize that the key to his defense starts on the front line. A long-term defensive line with Joseph and Richardson in the middle and Hunter and Everson Griffen on the outside would cause chaos for years to come.

5) Trae Waynes - I mean, someone has to be at the bottom of the list. That’s just the nature of how lists work. In this case, it’s Waynes, who is on the bottom of the list for one primary reason. That reason, of course, is that he has two years left on his contract, as 2019 will be his fifth-year option season. That means that the Vikings can wait until then to go ahead and handle his contract, as well as watch the development of some of the other cornerbacks on the roster.

It’s tough to ignore the improvement that Waynes has shown over there years. If he wasn’t lined up across from Xavier Rhodes, he’d probably get a lot more credit than he does. But, of all the Vikings that have potential contract extensions coming, they can wait the longest with Waynes.

I’m certain there are other players that the Vikings might be looking at contract extensions for, but I’m relatively sure that anyone I could have missed would be below any of the five players listed above as far as the pecking order for a contract extension.

Who do you think the Vikings should be prioritizing when it comes to their upcoming contract extensions?