While there are no new games on TV to speak of, the NFL offseason has made certain that fans do not have to go without some sports drama in this tough time.
Obviously, the big story has been Tom Brady parting ways with the New England Patriots after 20 years and signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And congratulations are in order for local athlete Joe Haeg, who also signed with the Bucs and now has the duty of keeping perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time on his feet.
That said, the Vikings have been far from quiet this offseason. More will come to light in late April - assuming the NFL Draft isn’t postponed - but I feel like nothing the team has done in terms of acquisitions and departures has made them demonstrably worse.
The marquee offseason event was signing quarterback Kirk Cousins to an extension of two years and $66 million. Just like his initial contract with the team, all of that money is guaranteed.
Now, I know there is a bit of pushback from some Minnesota fans regarding Cousins, especially since he got a contract extension and fairly hefty pay raise while the Vikes have so far lost the following players, either to free agency or in trades: Stefon Diggs, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Linval Joseph, Mackensie Alexander, Everson Griffen and a few others.
But it’s worth noting that signing Cousins to an extension frees up about $10 million in cap space - which the Vikings sorely needed - and allowed them to use the franchise tag on free safety Anthony Harris, who had a breakout year and deserves a raise.
Also, Cousins had his best statistical season as a pro, garnered a small amount of MVP chatter and led the team to a 10-win season that included a postseason victory. Did you expect the Vikings to not give him another offer?
As for the departures I listed, will most of them really be missed that much?
Let’s break this down a little bit.
I hate to say it, but Rhodes and Joseph did not deserve to come back. Joseph has battled injuries, so his decline is a bit understandable, but Rhodes’ productivity has fallen off the very tallest of cliffs over the past two seasons - to the point where his presence on the field was actually a liability. Personally, I’m sad to see both of them go, but it needed to happen.
Waynes and Alexander had solid performances with the Vikings, but both opted to sign with Cincinnati - with Waynes getting up to $14 million per year. With the Vikings so close to the salary cap, it was obvious they wouldn’t offer him anywhere near that much money. Good for him, but it’s obvious it was time to part ways.
And that brings us to Diggs.
Thanks to one play, he is forever cemented as an iconic Viking, and the fan in me is grateful for that moment. He has also been incredibly productive through his entire career in Minnesota - averaging 924 yards and six touchdowns per season.
However, it became clear that he wasn’t crazy about Zimmer’s run-first offensive style or Cousins’ tendency to target Adam Thielen when passing downfield and to the tight ends in the red zone. With that, Diggs flipped a switch into diva mode.
If you remember the “glory days” of Randy Moss airing his dirty laundry while in purple and gold as well as I do, you’ll know that receivers - or any skill-position players, really - acting like divas gets incredibly frustrating and seems to chip away at team chemistry and morale.
Diggs fueled every trade rumor imaginable and frequently posted very cryptic messages on social media, making his exit from Minnesota seem inevitable.
So, oddly enough, I’m not too sad to see him go - especially since the Vikes got a massive haul of draft picks in the trade for him. I almost view it as addition by subtraction.
The departure that hurts the most on a personal level is Griffen. He has been a part of the Vikings for the past 10 years and has been a nigh-unstoppable force on the defensive line at times.
Apart from the five-game stretch in 2018 where he left the team for reasons pertaining to his mental health and well-being, he has been consistent throughout his time, averaging about 7.5 sacks per year.
He opted out of his contract, and it appeared as though he would be looking to re-sign on a restructured deal. However, that ended up not being the case.
If he is mentally healthy, and there is no reason to assume he isn’t, I think he could be a tremendous asset for another team.
So the Vikings will have some fresh faces next season, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I also don’t think they are done making moves. Re-signing fullback C.J. Ham was a smart move in my mind, but I expect to use some of the $14 million in cap space the team now has to sign either a proven cornerback or offensive lineman.
I also expect them to make some moves in the draft, trading some of their many picks (they have two first-rounders now) either for higher picks or some veteran talent.
Things will be different the next time the Vikings take the field, but I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing.