Now that the Vikings have locked their best linebacker into a long-term deal in Eric Kendricks, there is some fear out there that they won’t be able to afford other players that need extensions (like Stefon Diggs, Anthony Barr and/or Danielle Hunter) or add additional free agents should a need arise. That fear has been around for awhile and was one of the main lines of reasoning for those that were against the signing of Kirk Cousins, as his historic deal did seem like something that could ham-string a team (just look at the available cap space for teams like Green Bay and/or Detroit, teams that have elite quarterbacks and pay them as such (see below)). The Vikings reportedly gave Kendricks a deal worth $50 million over five years, a deal that puts him near the top of inside linebackers in terms of his per year salary. I know what you’re thinking, how can the Vikings keep giving out these huge deals? What does that mean for other players who need extensions like Stefon Diggs or Anthony Barr? Why am I relying on Joe Johnson for this information?
I can answer at least two of those.
I broke down what the recent mega-deal that wide receiver Jarvis Landry received in Cleveland and what it meant in terms of the upcoming Stefon Diggs extension. As a huge Diggs supporter I was surprised to find that he didn’t stack up as well against the top-five receivers in the league as I thought he would, however, you could make the argument that he should receive top-ten money after comparing his output to those receivers (although I would say that he’s a top 15 guy, again in terms of output). Top ten dollars fall within the $12-$14 million per season range. Like I said above, I broke this all down in that Landry piece, you can read that here or check out the tables here.
Here’s the breakdown of the top paid wide receivers in the league:
|Antonio Brown||Steelers||$68,000,000||$17,000,000||$19,000,000||$4,750,000||27.9%||2022 UFA|
|Mike Evans||Buccaneers||$82,500,000||$16,500,000||$38,258,000||$7,651,600||46.4%||2024 UFA|
|DeAndre Hopkins||Texans||$81,000,000||$16,200,000||$36,500,000||$7,300,000||45.1%||2023 UFA|
|Sammy Watkins||Chiefs||$48,000,000||$16,000,000||$30,000,000||$10,000,000||62.5%||2021 UFA|
|Jarvis Landry||Browns||$15,982,000||$15,982,000||$15,982,000||$15,982,000||100.0%||2019 UFA|
|A.J. Green||Bengals||$60,000,000||$15,000,000||$26,750,000||$6,687,500||44.6%||2020 UFA|
|Davante Adams||Packers||$58,000,000||$14,500,000||$18,000,000||$4,500,000||31.0%||2022 UFA|
|Julio Jones||Falcons||$71,250,000||$14,250,000||$35,500,000||$7,100,000||49.8%||2021 UFA|
|Demaryius Thomas||Broncos||$70,000,000||$14,000,000||$35,000,000||$7,000,000||50.0%||2020 UFA|
|Dez Bryant||Cowboys||$70,000,000||$14,000,000||$32,000,000||$6,400,000||45.7%||2020 UFA|
|Allen Robinson||Bears||$42,000,000||$14,000,000||$18,000,000||$6,000,000||42.9%||2021 UFA|
|TY Hilton||Colts||$65,000,000||$13,000,000||$11,000,000||$2,200,000||16.9%||2021 UFA|
|Alshon Jeffery||Eagles||$52,000,000||$13,000,000||$14,250,000||$3,562,500||27.4%||2022 UFA|
|Doug Baldwin||Seahawks||$46,000,000||$11,500,000||$12,000,000||$3,000,000||26.1%||2021 UFA|
|Keenan Allen||Chargers||$45,000,000||$11,250,000||$20,656,000||$5,164,000||45.9%||2021 UFA|
|DeSean Jackson||Buccaneers||$33,500,000||$11,166,667||$20,000,000||$6,666,667||59.7%||2020 UFA|
|Emmanuel Sanders||Broncos||$33,000,000||$11,000,000||$20,000,000||$6,666,667||60.6%||2020 UFA|
|Larry Fitzgerald||Cardinals||$11,000,000||$11,000,000||$0||$0||0.0%||2019 UFA|
|Randall Cobb||Packers||$40,000,000||$10,000,000||$13,000,000||$3,250,000||32.5%||2019 UFA|
|Donte Moncrief||Jaguars||$9,600,000||$9,600,000||$9,600,000||$9,600,000||100.0%||2019 UFA|
|Pierre Garcon||49ers||$47,500,000||$9,500,000||$17,000,000||$3,400,000||35.8%||2022 UFA|
|Marqise Lee||Jaguars||$34,000,000||$8,500,000||$16,500,000||$4,125,000||48.5%||2022 UFA|
|Kenny Stills||Dolphins||$32,000,000||$8,000,000||$16,950,000||$4,237,500||53.0%||2021 UFA|
|Albert Wilson||Dolphins||$24,000,000||$8,000,000||$14,450,000||$4,816,667||60.2%||2021 UFA|
|Paul Richardson||Redskins||$40,000,000||$8,000,000||$12,500,000||$2,500,000||31.3%||2023 UFA|
|Marvin Jones||Lions||$40,000,000||$8,000,000||$13,000,000||$2,600,000||32.5%||2021 UFA|
|Jordy Nelson||Raiders||$14,200,000||$7,100,000||$0||$0||0.0%||2020 UFA|
|Tavon Austin||Rams||$7,000,000||$7,000,000||$5,000,000||$5,000,000||71.4%||2019 UFA|
|Michael Crabtree||Ravens||$21,000,000||$7,000,000||$8,000,000||$2,666,667||38.1%||2021 UFA|
Now, Let’s look at the last three seasons for these guys to see where Diggs’ output stacks up. Up first? Diggs, of course. Who over the past three seasons has had the following output:
Let’s take a look at where he lands among the next batch of receivers, with AJ Green making $15 million a season and what Dez Bryant would’ve made had the Cowboys not cut him, at $14 million (and the rest being somewhere between those two):
|*Past Two Seasons|
So, long story short, Diggs would probably make top 10 money if he signs right now. If he waits and has a huge year, which is a very strong possibility, he could end up making top five money, but really there’s not a huge difference in terms of what the top five make as compared to the top 10 (although I’m sure there’s a difference in terms of bonuses and guaranteed money). Like I mentioned in the Landry piece, Diggs probably is looking at the decision Adam Thielen made and the low salary he’s receiving (especially as compared to his output) and that could drive him to bet on himself and turn down any extension this off-season. That, then, leaves Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter as two the other two large extensions that need attention. The question becomes, can they afford both? All three?
First off, people also need to realize that the league has been increasing the salary cap by over $10 million dollars per season, each season. That means that the Vikings will have more money to play with when it comes to the cap next season (which means that they can go over the cap right now, or get close to it, for extensions as they only obviously kick in next season). Just check out this table created by /u/JonathantheBrave from Reddit:
This table doesn’t take the Kendricks deal into account but shows that the Vikings are doing better than the Packers and Lions in terms of cap space (especially considering that the Packers’ 2020 numbers don’t take Rodgers’ contract into account, a deal that’ll make Kirk Cousins’ deal look like Thielens). That’s surprising as, granted the Pack/Lions have huge deals at the quarterback position, but the Vikings do as well (with Cousins being the highest paid player in the NFL (ever)) and while the Packers have finally decided to delve into free agency they’ve obviously not really been active in that regard for the past decade. They have a ton of holes on defense especially and while Davante Adams is one of those high paid receivers, you have to wonder where the money is going (Jimmy Graham?). Same goes for the Lions. While the Vikings will end up with the least amount of cap space in 2020, they still obviously have a decent amount of space to play around with this off-season and the next couple, meaning that they’ll be able to resign players like Diggs, Barr and Danielle Hunter if they so please while also being able to be active during free agency. You also have to take any cuts or retirements into account, as well.
There seems to be a weird contingent of people online who would rather have cap space than great players, something that I’ve never understood as the reason you want cap space is to be able to pay great players so why not use it to do just that. Regardless, the question becomes whether the Vikings should extend Diggs now (if he’s open to that) or wait for the upcoming season and pay him afterward. The “risk” that he’ll have a monster year with Kirk Cousins slinging him the ball is high, so the Vikings would be smart to give him a deal now as opposed to waiting until the season is over. Again, that depends on whether or not he’d be open to doing that or if he wants to bet on himself, playing the season without an extension in the hopes that he’ll have a career year that’ll land him a huge contract (either here or elsewhere).
Whether or not that happens remains to be seen but what we know now is that the Vikings have the capability to extend him now or later. So, let’s all calm down a bit and realize that the Vikings are extremely well managed, really in every sense of the word but, in this context I mean in terms of their finances. Sure, it’d be great to have a lot of cap space but the reality is that by extending these players the Vikings are making it so they really don’t need to add any big name free agents because they have amazing players at nearly every position. That means that they really only need to have enough money to sign rookies, something that it appears that they have. In spades.
So, have faith! The real conclusion is that this team has gone all in to attempt to win a championship during this window of opportunity. That’s what looking all-in looks like and while that doesn’t mean that they’re overextended, it does mean that they’re not attempting to save up cap space to make a move in 2019 or 2020 because they already have basically every player they need/believe in. That’s a good thing!