The Vikings’ 3 Easy (Easier?) Extension Candidates

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
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The Vikings’ 3 main extension candidates are pretty obvious.

Justin Jefferson is perched above all others. At just 24 and inarguably one of the NFL’s greatest players, Jefferson is the Viking who most clearly deserves a meaty new contract.

Not too far behind #18, though, are #8 and #99. Or, put differently, Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter. The veteran Vikings are both within the back nine of their NFL careers and yet each one is still operating at a high level. Seeing new deals for each won’t be at all surprising.

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18), and wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrate the win against the New England Patriots after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Now, there’s a reason why we’re still waiting on deals for these players. In all three instances, the GM has had to kick the can down the road, settling on partial solutions moving through 2023 while coming back to the negotiation table in early 2024. Clearly, the contract conundrums haven’t been straightforward with these players.

Do the Vikings have extension candidates who aren’t quite as complicated?

To answer that question, let’s move things around to guys who are firmly attached to Minnesota’s roster in 2024. All 3 are moving into the final season of their contracts but each still has a lot of runway left when it comes to playing productive football. And, crucially, a new deal for these plays should be relatively easy when compared to Jefferson, Cousins, and Hunter.

The Vikings’ 3 Easy Extension Candidates

Extension Candidate #1: Byron Murphy, Corner

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver DJ Moore (2) runs after the catch against the Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow only 26, Murphy has a several years of productive football ahead of him.

Brian Flores used the former Cardinal in creative ways last season, shifting Murphy around the defensive backfield. He picked up 596 snaps out wide and 214 in the slot, but then there were the 68 snaps in the box, 19 along the defensive line, and then 9 at free safety. Does Flores have more tricks up his sleeve with Murphy?

As many have pointed out, the Vikings’ late-season spiral into defensive oblivion coincided almost perfectly with Murphy needing to miss time due to injury. Truth be told, pinning all of the late-season foibles on not having Murphy is a massive oversimplification, but not having him didn’t help.

In a perfect world, Murphy sticks around on a new deal that attaches him to Minnesota for at least two or three more years. Even better would be if he could get shifted over into a high-upside CB2 role as the Vikings make their move for a shutdown player to line up along the outside.

He finished the season with 57 tackles to go alongside his 3 interceptions and 13 passes defended. QBs completed 67.3% of passes into his coverage for an average gain of 11.5 yards per catch.

— Potential Cap Savings with an Extension: $6,380,000 —

Extension Candidate #2: Harrison Phillips, Defensive Tackle

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears running back Roschon Johnson (23) runs with the ball against the Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

No one is going to mistake Horrible Harry for Aaron Donald. Neither will he get tossed into conversations alongside Chris Jones, Justin Madubuike, Dexter Lawrence, or Quinnen Williams. But, to be fair, that’s never really been the hope with Mr. Phillips.

Instead, the goal for Phillips is to be a disruptive defender who specializes in making life difficult for running backs. Last season, the 28-year-old put up career highs in both tackles (92) and sacks (3). He did so while operating within a defensive line that was depleted in high-end talent.

Phillips thinks the game at a high level and he’s an excellent teammate. His ability to elevate his play from within the Brian Flores scheme is commendable. In short, he’s well-suited for the rough-and-tumble position — defensive tackle — that’s so often overlooked.

With a cap charge sitting at $8,833,334, Phillips likely needs to move some money around. His strong play and the team’s ultra-thin DT spot suggests an extension makes the most sense.

— Potential Cap Savings with an Extension: $4,300,000 —

Extension Candidate #3: Camryn Bynum, Safety

Oct 23, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) celebrate a fumble recovery against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Not too long ago, Josh Frey took a run at the topic.

“Bynum’s career was completely revived in Brian Flores’ defense this past season,” Frey argues. “The safety had a tremendous 2023 campaign, and he was a huge reason for Minnesota’s defensive success. PFF graded him at 69.7 in coverage, which ranked 21st among 50 safeties with at least 400 coverage snaps.”

At 25, Bynum finds himself at the perfect age for Minnesota’s competitive rebuild. He piled up a whopping 137 tackles to go alongside his 2 interceptions and 9 passes defended. More impressive is that his touchdowns allowed dipped from 8 to 3 and that the average completion yardage into his coverage went from 16.5 to 10.0.

In the current budget, there’s essentially no benefit to a new deal. However, there is great wisdom in doing an extension a year early. Josh Metellus got kept around for a pair of seasons and $8 million in total money because Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did the deal early. Will something similar happen with Bynum?

Keep an eye on the safety and his contract toward the end of training camp/preseason.

— Potential Cap Savings with an Extension: $0 —

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.