One of the things that strikes me after watching some of the interviews of Vikings players after the start of off-season workouts, is the number of guys the Vikings have now that are likely to play all, or mostly all, of their career with the Minnesota Vikings.
In a league where free agency and players moving on and playing for different teams is increasingly the norm, the Vikings have been able to keep a core group of players together for many years now, and for at least a half-dozen or so starters, are likely to spend their entire career with the Vikings.
This off-season added a couple names to the list: Anthony Barr and Adam Thielen.
It seems likely given the contract extensions both players signed recently, that they’ll play their entire career with the Vikings. Barr is signed now until age 32, and Thielen to age 34.
Those two add to the list of other Vikings players that have only worn the purple, and may not put on another jersey before they call it a career:
- Harrison Smith - signed through age 32
- Eric Kendricks - signed to age 32
- Stefon Diggs - signed to age 30
- Danielle Hunter - signed to age 29 (at which he’ll have played 9 years for the Vikings)
- Xavier Rhodes - signed to age 32
Added to the list are long-time veterans Everson Griffen and Kyle Rudolph, who’re entering their 10th and 9th year with the Vikings since being drafted. And while their future status may be a little more uncertain, it’s not out of the question that with good performance and at the right price, they could both be extended another couple years and finish their career as Vikings. As it stands, it seems unlikely they would play very long for another team, and they may make similar decisions as Anthony Barr - taking a hometown discount to stay in Minnesota. Kyle Rudolph already signaled that at his last press conference.
Anthony Harris may add to the list if he is extended in the not too distant future.
That’s a total of ten starters - almost half the starting roster - and more than half of the defensive starters. Even Linval Joseph, who played his first four years with the Giants, will likely finish his career in Minnesota - having been signed to age 34. That would make nine years as a Viking.
And Shamar Stephen, now signed to age 31, will have spent all but one of his eight years in the league as a Viking if he finishes out this latest contract.
Continuity and Team Chemistry - Two Big Intangibles
One of the things that isn’t always apparent in extending players is the continuity it creates and how that effects team chemistry. When a top player changes teams in free agency, that generates a lot more buzz than another top player being extended with the same team.
But having guys playing together on the same team makes it easier for coaches to delve deeper into the intricacies of scheme and in-game changes - having worked together for many years and gained fluency in all the fundamentals of the scheme and their roles in it.
Coach Zimmer talked about Anthony Barr being able to finish his sentence when he relayed how to play against a certain formation. When you’re all on the same page to that extent, making changes on the fly and week-to-week become a lot easier. And with most of the Vikings defense having played together for the past five years, the advantage of continuity is at its greatest.
The other thing that the continuity of having several guys playing together for many years comes both in the locker room and on the field. Team chemistry can often be a difficult thing for a franchise to capture - the deals the Giants are making have as much to do with team chemistry as anything else. But with the Vikings, since Zimmer came to town, team chemistry has never been an issue. I can’t remember the last time there was some locker room incident, or similar thing that called into question team chemistry in any way.
On the other hand, you see Anthony Barr taking less money to stay with the Vikings. And you see Harrison Smith’s reaction to that - above - which says it all.
And with every player that addressed the media today, it seemed a constant theme without having been planned as such - team chemistry is strong in the Vikings locker room. From long-time vets like Everson Griffen and Kyle Rudolph, to Adam Thielen and Anthony Barr, to younger guys like Danielle Hunter and Dalvin Cook, you could see there is a strong team aspect in the organization.
Being able to draft and develop talent in-house goes a long way in establishing that team chemistry - and extending players that perform well with nice contracts is something every player notices. And that helps create a positive culture.
As fans it’s a great thing too when you feel like players are definitely Vikings - and not simply rentals for a season or two.
And while a championship still awaits, this is one of the best situations the Vikings as an organization have been in since the days of Bud Grant, Max Winter and Jim Finks.