EAGAN, Minn. - After placating Mike Zimmer this offseason by locking up middle linebacker Erik Kendricks and defensive end Danielle Hunter, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman shifted his focus back to the offensive side of the ball on Tuesday, July 31, signing wide receiver Stefon Diggs to a five-year, $72 million extension.
Those deals, and the three-year, $84 million contract quarterback Kirk Cousins signed in March, make it clear the Vikings are all-in with the core of a team that begins its season Sept. 9 against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"We want to balance out economics on both sides of the ball," Spielman explained. "Hopefully having some of these offensive guys playing together and locked in for a while, we'll be able to achieve that."
Other offensive players, such as running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen, are under contract until 2021, and tight end Kyle Rudolph is under contract until 2020. That means, in theory, the Vikings have the pieces in place to make a couple of runs at the Super Bowl during the next couple of years without getting too bogged down in contract negotiations, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
"Like I said, we've looked through 2019, we've looked through 2020," said Spielman, who credited salary cap guru Rob Brzezinski with structuring the contracts in a way that allows the Vikings flexibility down the road. "It rewards the player and is also ideal on how we want our contracts."
As far as Spielman is concerned, he wants each contract negotiation to be a win for both sides.
"We go in with an attitude of, 'Listen, your guy deserves the money he's going to get. We also need some things, too, so we need to come to a common ground,'" he said. "We don't want to lose these players. We also have parameters we have work within."
"I love it," Cousins said. "It's not a luxury we have in the NFL these days. There is a lot of change year in and year out. I've come to accept that and understand that we can't use that as an excuse. As the new players come in, including myself, we have to learn quickly and get caught up to speed and go."
"If we can develop continuity, that's just a bonus," the quarterback added. "Now we've got to stay healthy and keep those guys on the field. I think it can really make a difference if we can have it."
On to the next one
The next player in line for an extension appears to be outside linebacker Anthony Barr. When announcing Hunter's extension in June, Spielman said the team had been talking to representatives for Diggs and Barr, on the books to make more than $12 million in the last year of his contract.
"I'll never talk business out in the open or in the public," Spielman said. "I'll just say he fits everything that we want as a Minnesota Viking."
Making a name
After finally embracing his role as the team's nickelback, Mackensie Alexander might be on his way to making an impact in the NFL. He flashed his potential Tuesday afternoon, picking off Cousins during a drill and racing the other way for what would've been a touchdown.
"He's really taken a lot of nice steps," Zimmer said. "He was a little bit of a bite-back early in his career here. He wanted to do things his way. He's lucky he's got a (head) coach even more hard-headed than he is."