With Vikings showing priorities, Stefon Diggs likely gone in free agency

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have made multiple big investments this offseason, and the departure of Stefon Diggs now seems inevitable.

In March, the Minnesota Vikings went all-in with a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal for quarterback Kirk Cousins. Since then they’ve given contract extensions to linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Danielle Hunter, with linebacker Anthony Barr and wide receiver Stefon Diggs also entering the final year of their contracts.

As theoretically laid out by Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Vikings would have room for Barr and Diggs under new contracts starting in 2019. Under some assumed numbers, including how Hunter’s fresh extension would count against the cap, Barr taking a deal placing him among the four highest-paid 4-3 outside linebackers and Diggs not striving to be one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the league, that is correct. Some other decisions, in particular on tight end Kyle Rudolph and his $7.6 million cap hit for 2019, will impact the finances for the Vikings.

This offseason, Sammy Watkins got a three-year, $48 million deal from the Kansas City Chiefs. In terms of raw annual value, he’s currently the fourth-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL. Diggs could look for a deal somewhere in the $13-$15 million range, which would place him in the top dozen highest-paid at the position.

But the wide receiver market seems set to change again soon. Julio Jones appears to be angling for a new deal by staying away from offseason work, even with three years left on his current deal. Odell Beckham Jr. is also in line for a big new contract, which may make him (at least) one of the highest-paid non-quarterbacks in the league. Diggs is not in that class yet, but advanced data is very kind to him and all he may need is a team where he can be the clear No. 1 wide receiver to unleash an elite production level.

Former NFL agent Joel Corry offered some thoughts on the Vikings keeping Barr and Diggs, conveying the uncertainty of the situation.

The Vikings are starting to walk the fine line between keeping key defensive players for head coach Mike Zimmer and doing what it takes to surround Cousins with talent over the next few years. Even with annual salary cap increases in mind, the Vikings are showing which players are their most urgent priority for contract extensions.

So Diggs, barring a team-friendly, probably below his market value extension before Week 1, is as good as gone next March.

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