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What does the Brandin Cooks contract extension mean for Stefon Diggs?

Before he even takes the field for his new team, Cooks is getting paid.

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Adam Schefter reported that newly-acquired Rams WR Brandin Cooks will sign a 5 year, $80 million extension, which will tie him with Sammy Watkins for the league’s 4th highest paid wideout, according to Over the Cap.

So what does that mean for Vikings WR Stefon Diggs, who’s currently entering the final year of his rookie contract?

There’s no question that Cooks has been more consistently productive than Diggs. The Oregon State product, a first round pick in 2014 by the Saints, has strung together three 1,000 yard seasons in a row. Meanwhile, Diggs has yet to record a single 1,000 yard season and hasn’t yet played a full 16 game campaign.

But those stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story. At just 24 years old, Diggs is a rising star. Also this happened.

If he wasn’t a fan favorite before the Minneapolis Miracle, there’s no question he is now. And given that Case Keenum is already gone, it’d be tough to lose both of the key figures from arguably the greatest moment in Vikings history just over a year after the play.

Diggs, a former 5th round pick, is currently slated to earn a base salary of $1,907,000 in 2018. For reference, that’s more than $1 million less than former Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson will make. So there’s no question that Diggs is currently being underpaid. The question is how much is he worth, and will Rick Spielman be willing to pay him top-tier money when his stats don’t necessarily line up with other top WRs?

In terms of average value, the highest paid WRs in the NFL are Antonio Brown, Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins. I’m also assuming Odell Beckham Jr. will join them once he gets an extension of his own. If that represents the top tier (throwing in Julio Jones, who signed his contract in 2015), I think you can reasonably throw Diggs into that next tier, with guys like Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, A.J. Green and Davante Adams. That could give him an average value of about $15 million. Spotrac tweeted that Diggs’ calculated value jumped to $16.3 million after the Cooks extension. So there could be some wiggle room based on how much the Vikings expect Diggs’ production to improve.

The Vikings currently have about $14 million in cap space (a number that will go down when Mike Hughes signs his rookie deal), which could end up being too little to sign Diggs to a restructured deal. Because he has such a low cap number for 2018, the Vikings don’t necessarily have a super strong incentive to get a deal done, aside from the fact that his value might go up as other receivers ink new contracts.

The opposite is true for Anthony Barr, who’s slated to make $12,306,000 in 2018, good for the Vikings’ third-highest salary (Diggs is 19th). Barr is on his 5th year option, which is why is cap number is so high, and his average salary will probably go down if and when he signs an extension. Both players will be franchise tag options for 2019, although the Vikings have only used the tag twice in the 25 years it’s been available.

It’s also important to remember that Adam Thielen, who finished 5th in the NFL in receiving yards in 2017, signed a 4-year contract that will pay him an average salary of less than $5 million. So if Diggs gets a monster extension, it’d be fair for Thielen to wonder if his deal can be reworked. All this could force the Vikings to make some tough decisions regarding the future of their core.

NOTE: I’m Jonah, one of the new writers at Daily Norseman. I’m a student at Northwestern (owners of the longest current win streak in the Power Five for those wondering), so be nice to Trevor Siemian. Skol!