As a 14-year-old freshman in high school I once played a football game for a traveling team I was on called the White Bear Saints (Why Saints? I have no clue), where I intercepted a pass and recovered two fumbles. That would have been something to brag about had I not fumbled the ball to the opposition three times myself.
My older brother Kevin decided to make a rare appearance at that game and afterwards he told me, “You’d make a play and I stand up and say, ‘That’s my little brother! Then, you’d give the ball right back and I’d stand up and say, I’ve never seen that bum before in my life!’”
Minnesota Viking fans may have suffered through a similar range of emotions on Monday when the team opened the free-agent signing period by making a series of deals that are sure to test the emotional resolve of even the most ardent Viking fan.
Let’s run down the list of two moves, which I will classify with either a “Thumbs Up” or a “Thumbs Down” depending on how I feel about the transaction. I look forward to hearing your take.
The Vikings are going all-in, again, on quarterback Kirk Cousins, signing the 31-year-old QB to an extension that includes a $30 million signing bonus and will pay him $96 million over three years, with $61 million guaranteed, if Cousins is still a Viking in 2021.
Thumbs Down: More money for a QB who seems to be all about the team but who has also proven that he can’t cover for an inadequate offensive line the way that a Russell Wilson can, and seems to have almost no awareness in the pocket? I think not.
Even before the ink was dry on Cousins’ contract, disgruntled wide receiver Stefon Diggs took to Twitter to post, “It’s time for a new beginning.” Tearing the scab off a self-inflicted wound that Diggs, the player who produced the “Minneapolis Miracle” in a 2018 playoff win over the Saints (different Saints), kept probing last season, even while establishing himself as one of the best deep threats in the game today.
Diggs, and a seventh-round pick in 2021, were dealt to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for the Bills’ first-round pick (#22) this year, along with fifth and sixth-round selections and a fourth-round pick in 2021.
Thumbs… Time will tell: Diggs forced the Vikings to make this move, which actually saves the Vikings almost $5 million in cap space and gives the purple gang 12 picks in this year’s draft, meaning the team now has flexibility to move up and take an impact player at a position of need (offensive/defensive line? Cornerback?) while still getting an impact receiver in a draft class that appears to be loaded with them. An impressive haul, but Diggs was a proven commodity and touted college receivers don’t always pan out. Troy Williamson, anybody?
Thumbs Up: I don’t want to be provincial, but the Vikings made Duluth native C.J. Ham the second highest paid fullback in the league. Ham showed his versatility last season, catching 17 passes while clearing the way for Dalvin Cook and seems to set the stage for Cook to be extended some time in the near future.
Thumbs Up: It’s hard to say “Nay” when the Vikings put the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris. Here’s a guy who went undrafted to leading NFL safeties with seven interceptions last season. The franchise tag means the Vikings will pay Harris no less than the average of the top five salaries at his position or 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever is greater.
Thumbs Up: The Vikings also put a second-round tender on linebacker Eric Wilson, another undrafted player who stepped up to quietly start 12 games last season. A restricted free agent, the Vikings have the right to match any offer Wilson may receive. The second-round tender is expected to be valued at around $3 million.
Thumbs Down: I know you can’t sign everybody, but losing defensive end Stephen Weatherly to the Carolina Panthers still hurts. Just 25 years old, we watched Weatherly go from a special team’s standout to a developing defensive lineman who could play on the edge or inside, pressuring the passer or covering a back on a pass route. My guess is Weatherly’s best days are still ahead.
What do you think? As of this writing the Vikings still have 14 unrestricted free agents, so there will be lots of speculation to fill the days ahead!