We are well into the NFL ‘Silly Season’, the last few weeks leading up to training camp where nothing is happening.
I like to call it the ‘after midnight’ part of the off-season, because if a story is going to break about your team, it’s usually bad news. And like my Dad used to tell me, ‘Son, just be out of the bars by midnight. Nothing good happens after midnight.’
And if it’s mundane news, like a contract extension, every story is magnified, overly discussed, and some of the hottest takes you’ll ever read hit the street. One of them concerns Stefon Diggs, He Of The Minneapolis Miracle.
Minneapolis Miracle, you say? WHY YES LET’S WATCH IT AGAIN!
SET TO TITANIC MUSIC!
Miracle aside, pay the man. Just pay him.
Right now, the Vikes have just over $17 million in cap space according to Spotrac, and the last two big names they have to try and sign are Diggs and Anthony Barr...and maybe Sheldon Richardson, but that’s at the end of the season. Barr is playing under his fifth year option, which is netting him a cool $12 million. Depending on where you rank Diggs as a WR, his base salary is going to range anywhere from $11 to $15-ish mil a season.
Combine the two contracts and it seems like a bridge too far right now, but time and time again, Vikings Salary Cap Guru Rob Brzezinski has been able to re-sign core guys to market value contracts that still benefit the team by not putting them in salary cap Hell three or four years down the road. Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Mike Remmers, Riley Reiff, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph...the list goes on and on.
They also managed to score Kirk Cousins and Richardson in free agency, so if you doubt the Dark Money Magic of The Purple Horned Wizard, that’s a ‘you’ problem, not a ‘them’ problem.
I’m not going to sit here and break down what the Diggs contract would or should look like down to the penny—I’m not a cap guy, and in the NFL the big number that really matters is what the guaranteed money is. If we go by that number, looking at some of the top WR contracts in the NFL, Diggs would get around $25-30 million guaranteed give or take.
Jarvis Landry got $34 mil guaranteed, DeAndre Hopkins got $36.5 mil, Julio Jones $35.5 mil, Davante Adams got $24 mil.
Statistically, Adams and Diggs have had similar careers, so if I’m the Vikings, that’s the contract I’m looking at as a baseline: 4 years, $58 million, with $24 million guaranteed. The first three years are very cap friendly for the Packers, so a scenario where you backload a Diggs deal and frontload a Barr deal seems very doable. Give Diggs an extra year and $10 mil over the life of the contract compared to Adams, maybe $26-27 mil guaranteed...we’re onto something here. I think it’s close, anyway.
I don’t see this is an ‘either/or’ scenario between Barr and Diggs for Minnesota, to be honest. But for the folks that are in the ‘let Diggs walk’ camp to extend Barr, there are generally two reasons for letting him go: He’s not worth the money, and the Vikings have Thielen.
Whether you think Diggs is worth $14-16-ish mil/yr is a moot point; someone in the NFL will pay him if the Vikings don’t. The market value for top wide receivers has been set (yes, I think Diggs is a top 15-ish WR talent), and if I’m Diggs, the last thing I think about is a hometown discount. That term is silly to begin with; NFL teams have zero loyalty in paying out player contracts if it doesn’t fit in to their cap plans. As a matter of fact, most of these deals are signed with the team having zero intention of letting the player play out the life of the contract. The only one I can remember in recent history is Jared Allen playing out his full contract before leaving for the Bears via free agency a few years back.
So if a team has little to no loyalty to the player, why should the player accept less money to stay with said team? The NFL has the shortest career life span in major pro sports, and the earning power for a top player is limited. Everyone except Sam Bradford gets one, MAAAAAYBE two shots at a big payday, so taking less money is cheating yourself. So yeah, I fully support any NFL player trying to get the most money they can while they’re earning window is open.
Okay, the next argument is ‘the Vikes already have Adam Thielen, so letting Diggs walk won’t hurt.’
If you’re spending huge money for a QB in Granitejaw McDreamy, it seems colossally dumb to let one of your primary offensive weapons walk. This is taking nothing away from Thielen, who is an incredible talent, but take Diggs out of the offense, and the top WR behind him is now...who? Kendall Wright? Laquon Treadwell? Another free agent in a year or two?
Guess what? If it’s option C, you’ll be paying them as much if not more than you’re going to fork out for Diggs right now. You always overpay in free agency, and if what’s currently on the roster doesn’t pan out, now you’re right back in the same boat you were, contract wise, with Diggs. Only now it will be with a guy that’s not nearly as good as Diggs is. It just seems like a cutting off your nose to spite your face scenario to me.
Diggs and Thielen are the best WR tandem in the NFL, and their dual presence makes it almost impossible for defenses to target both of them all the time. One of the reasons both of them have been successful is that they compliment each other well, and if defenses are targeting one of them, the other will be able to get open and do some damage.
Until either Diggs or Barr walk, I will be of the belief both of them will get contract extensions done, and they will both be in Minnesota for a long time.