Two years ago today, Danielle Hunter inked a five-year deal worth $72MM. It was a serious pay bump for the former third-round pick, who was still a few months away from his 24th birthday. The add-on gave him ample security – a $15MM signing bonus, $40MM in overall guarantees, and favorable cashflow with $48MM over the first three years. Still, the deal proved to be a win for the Vikings.
The Vikings didn’t want to let Hunter get anywhere near the open market. In his first three pro seasons, Hunter registered 25.5 sacks, more than any other player who entered the league in 2015. He waited a while to hear his name called on draft weekend, but he outperformed Vic Beasley, Leonard Williams, and other notable edge rushers in that class by a longshot. Also, Hunter and teammate Everson Griffen combined for 57 combined sacks from 2015-17, the second most of any duo in the NFL in that span.
In 2017, just prior to the extension, Hunter graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 29 ranked edge defender in the NFL. Last year, Hunter finished seventh in the category, ahead of Cameron Jordan, Myles Garrett, Demarcus Lawrence, and a host of other big names. He’s notched 14.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons, bringing his career tally to 54.5.
Meanwhile, his $14.4MM average annual value ranks 18th among edge rushers, according to Over The Cap. The Vikings have four more years of control over Hunter and, at this time, he stands as one of the league’s best veteran values.
With DalvinCookin the midst of a holdout, the Vikings are especially focused on signing their stud running back to an extension. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that Minny’s front office wants to “continue to work toward signing” the Pro Bowler.
This isn’t a particularly shocking development; the Vikings have continually been interested in re-signing Cook. However, their initial offer wasn’t to the running back’s liking, leading to Cook’s decision to avoid team-related activities until he received a “reasonable” deal. The 24-year-old’s camp is reportedly seeking a deal that would pay him around $15MM annually, which is a bit less than the $16MM they initially pitched to the Vikings.
For what it’s worth, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak doesn’t sound all that concerned about Cook’s holdout.
“That’s part of the business,” Kubiak said (via Dane Mizutani of TwinCities.com). “We all understand that. Those guys will do their job. We have to stay focused on our job as a football team moving forward.”
The coach noted that the running back is plenty familiar with the team’s offense, adding that Cook “could teach [a] class” on the system. That sentiment was certainly confirmed in 2019, as the former second-rounder established career-highs in rushing yards (1,135), receptions (53), receiving yards (519), and touchdowns (13).
Meanwhile, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports recently explored a potential compromise between Cook and the Vikings, writing that a three-year deal may make sense for both sides. Using the running back franchise tag as a basis, La Canfora suggests a deal that would pay Cook a bit less than $40MM between 2020 and 2022.
This year’s wide receiver draft class was widely regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory. It was so deep, in fact, that teams felt they could secure immediate-impact players on Day 2 and even Day 3 of the draft. Still, a few players separated themselves from their peers and became first-round selections, the cream of a bountiful crop.
The consensus top three talents were Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama standouts Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. It would not have been surprising to see any of those three players taken in the top-10, and ultimately Ruggs came off the board first, going to the Raiders with the No. 12 overall selection.
The Broncos were quite content with that, as they snagged Jeudy – whom they considered trading up for – with the No. 15 pick. Then, although the Cowboys perhaps had more pressing needs, they could not turn down Lamb when he surprisingly fell into their laps at No. 17.
TCU’s Jalen Reagor was the next domino to fall, heading to the Eagles with the No. 21 selection. Reagor was something of a late riser in the process, as he had been mocked as a second- to third-round choice but began garnering attention as a potential first-rounder as we got closer to draft day. Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman obviously saw something he liked, and he pounced.
But LSU’s Justin Jefferson, generally considered the fourth-best wideout in the class, didn’t have to wait too much longer to hear his name called. The Vikings took him one pick after Reagor.
All five of those players stand a good chance of becoming difference-makers for their respective clubs, as is the case with any first-round pick. But we would like to know from you which of them you think will have the biggest impact as a rookie.
With Ruggs, the Raiders added a speed merchant whose college production did not match that of Jeudy — his teammate of three years with the Crimson Tide — but who fits the Las Vegas offense nicely. The Raiders added another collegiate wideout, Bryan Edwards, in the third round, and they also took a flier on veteran Nelson Agholor. Still, it appears as if Ruggs has a good chance to start opposite Tyrell Williams, with Hunter Renfrow working the slot. Ruggs is electric with the ball in his hands, and he is not a one-dimensional deep threat; he is a solid route-runner who should only get better with coaching. His recent off-field injury seems to be a non-issue, and he will be a boost to a passing offense that performed better than one might think in 2019.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are building a strong young nucleus of skill position talent, and Jeudy will team with Courtland Sutton to form one of the most promising 1-2 punches in the game. He is a gifted route-runner whose excellent production against SEC defenses jumps off the page — he averaged 72 catches for 1,239 yards and 12 TDs over his final two years in school – and he has the versatility to line up outside or in the slot. Fellow rookie KJ Hamler, whom Denver nabbed in the second round, may get most of the slot reps, but Jeudy will be a threat no matter where he plays.
Though Lamb will have to compete with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for targets, the Cowboys are perfectly capable of moving the ball through the air and will have plenty of opportunities to go around. Lamb should work primarily in the slot, which will mask some of the deficiencies he has as a route-runner and against press coverage. He has terrific hands and tracking ability, and though he may lack top-line speed, he is plenty quick enough to make things happen, and his overall athleticism is off the charts. He is also a strong and willing blocker, which Ezekiel Elliott will surely appreciate.
Due to injuries and under-performance, the Eagles’ WR group provided very little production last year. Veteran DeSean Jackson played just three games in 2019, Alshon Jeffery may start the season on the PUP list, and 2019 second-rounder JJ Arcega-Whiteside failed to live up to expectations. Philadelphia tried to trade up for Lamb but was happy to pick up Reagor, whose blazing speed could pair well with Jackson. Though it took a while for his stock to rise, that may have been because the TCU offense didn’t give him the chance to show off his route-running skills, so the more scouts were able to evaluate his tape, the more impressed they became. He struggled with drops from time to time, but with his abilities as a deep target and a YAC monster, he has the potential to be a dynamic pro. On the other hand, there are rumblings that Reagor will be asked to focus on just one position in 2020 and will be the understudy to D-Jax, so he may not get as much immediate PT as we might have expected.
Like the Eagles, the Vikings sorely needed to upgrade their WR corps, and Jefferson steps into a great situation, as Minnesota traded Stefon Diggs earlier in the offseason and did little to replace him. So Jefferson should start opposite Adam Thielen, whose mounting injury history could open up even more opportunities. Like most of the LSU offense, Jefferson was tremendous in 2019, securing 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. He offers an intriguing blend of size and speed, and though he may struggle to create separation in the pros, he has good hands and runs good routes. The Vikings like to run the ball, but Kirk Cousins is a capable QB and Jefferson should see plenty of passes coming his way.
So let’s hear your thoughts. Tell us which of these five players will have the most impact on his team in 2020, and explain your reasoning in the comments.
Dalvin Cook is staying away from the Vikings until he receives a “reasonable” offer for his next contract. His exact demands are unclear, but sources tell ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin that Cook is seeking something in the range of $15MM per year.
Cook’s representatives opened talks by pitching the Vikings on a ~$16MM/year deal, roughly matching the record-breaking extension signed by Panthers star Christian McCaffrey. Cook’s camp has dialed that number back, but there’s still a significant gap between the two sides.
Cook has indicated that he won’t show up for work unless he gets the multi-year deal he’s seeking, but he can’t play the game of chicken for too long. Per the new collective bargaining agreement, players must report by the start of training camp in order to receive that year of credit towards free agency. Previously, that deadline was set at 30 days before the start of the regular season. Simply put, if Cook doesn’t show up for the start of camp, he won’t be eligible for unrestricted free agency until after the 2021 season.
Last year, Cook ran for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also added another 519 yards through the air, giving him more than 1,600 all-purpose yards on the year. Those totals would have been much higher if not for a late-season chest injury. For now, Cook is set to earn a base salary of $1.33MM in 2020 and he wants to lock down a larger payday – ideally, with the Vikings.
“I definitely love Minnesota,” the 24-year-old (25 in August) said recently. “I love everything the state has to bring. Being a kid, I was drafted (in 2017) from Miami (his hometown), so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I actually am happy where I’m at, and I would like to be in Minnesota long term.”
One of several running backs from the 2017 draft class in talks regarding a new contact, Dalvin Cook made a move Monday to hopefully expedite proceedings.
The Vikings running back will no longer participate in team-related activities until he receives a “reasonable” deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Cook and the Vikes have begun negotiations, and the fourth-year running back has now pledged to sit out training camp if he and the team cannot agree on an extension, Schefter adds.
This is not exactly an unforeseen development. Cook is following Ezekiel Elliott‘s playbook from last year. The Cowboys running back participated in some of his team’s OTAs — when they were not virtual — before reconsidering and pledging to skip training camp. He did, and the tactic led to an extension. Cook has one year remaining on his contract and would normally possess a bit more leverage because he was not a first-round pick. Elliott had two years left on his rookie deal at the time.
Cook, however, is preparing a holdout on a different CBA — one that includes harsher penalties for skipping training camp workouts. Players will lose an accrued season toward free agency by not reporting to camp on time. Elliott bypassed the previous accrued-season deadline last year, however. Additionally, teams can no longer eliminate fines for players who skip camp, and said fines are now heftier. On a second-round contract, Cook has not accumulated what Elliott did through three years and is set to make just $1.3MM in 2020. This would be a bold move from the Vikings back.
The Vikings have not been shy about handing out extensions. In addition to the numerous re-ups they authorized for defenders from 2016-19 — several of which coming in the late summer — the Vikes extended Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in 2018 and ’19, respectively. Kirk Cousins also signed an extension this year.
Minnesota drafted Alexander Mattison in the third round last year; the rookie produced in a limited capacity. Cook earned his first Pro Bowl nod, shattering career-high marks with 1,135 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. But for a third straight year, he experienced injury trouble. That will play into the Vikings’ talks with their standout back.
A number of teams have been burned by giving lucrative contracts to running backs. The Cardinals (David Johnson), Rams (Todd Gurley), and Falcons (Devonta Freeman) are among the clubs that have absorbed significant cap charges for players who did not live up to their big payday. None of those players made it to the end of their second contract before being traded or cut.
In addition, as important as some RBs can be to their team’s offense (see: Christian McCaffrey), the position has generally been devalued in recent years. The prevailing thought is that most running backs are more replaceable than players at other key positions, and that RBs have a shorter shelf-life due to their number of touches and the beatings they take whenever they have the ball in their hands.
The Vikings, therefore, have a major decision to make when it comes to their own RB1, 2017 second-rounder Dalvin Cook. Cook burst onto the scene in his rookie campaign, gaining 122 yards in his regular season debut and averaging nearly five yards per carry in his first four games in the league. Unfortunately, his season was ended by an ACL injury in the fourth game, and in 2018, he was bothered by nagging hamstring issues and played in just 11 games, recording 133 carries.
Despite the hamstring problems and the limited workload in 2018, Cook did manage 4.6 yards per carry that season and also recorded 40 receptions for 305 yards. And though he was limited down the stretch of the 2019 season due to a chest injury, he piled up 250 carries for 1,135 yards (4.5 YPC) and 13 TDs to go along with 53 catches for 519 yards. He ranked as the eighth-best back in the league in terms of defense-adjusted yards above replacement.
So when he’s healthy, he’s pretty darn good, especially for an offense that wants to run the ball a lot. And the silver lining to his injury history is that he should still have a fair amount of tread on his tires, having recorded just 457 carries in his pro career thus far.
On the other hand, the fact that he has missed time with various ailments over his first three seasons in the league is troubling, and for a team that does not have a lot of cap room — particularly if the 2021 cap is reduced due to COVID-19 — ponying up a big-money extension for an injury-risk RB could be problematic. Though Cook will likely not get McCaffrey money, he could easily command $15MM or so on an annual basis, with $30-$40MM in full guarantees.
The Vikings did not select an RB with any of their 15 (!) picks in this year’s draft, but they do return 2019 third-rounder Alexander Mattison, who performed well as Cook’s backup last season. One wonders if Mattison’s presence makes Minnesota less keen to break the bank for Cook.
That said, discussions between Cook and the Vikings have taken place. The soon-to-be 25-year-old said he wants to stay in Minnesota, and he has been participating in the club’s virtual offseason program. We haven’t gotten a status update on the contract talks for a bit — they may be stalled due to COVID-related uncertainty — and it remains to be seen whether a re-up will be hashed out this summer, or if Cook will play out the final year of his rookie deal with an eye towards unrestricted free agency in 2021.
So what do you think? Should Minnesota give Cook top-of-the-market money (or close to it), or should the club pass the torch to Mattison in 2021? Vote in the poll below, and show your work in the comment section.
The Vikings’ starting lineup will look considerably different this season. After the team kept signing its core members to extensions over the past few offseasons, it dismantled some of that nucleus this year. While the exits of Xavier Rhodes, Linval Josephand Trae Waynes were noticeable, none of Minnesota’s moves registered like the Stefon Diggs deal.
Diggs is Buffalo-bound after the Vikings traded him for a package of picks headlined by this year’s No. 22 overall selection, which became LSU wideout Justin Jefferson. Despite entering another offseason near the salary cap, and with Diggs having created some distractions during his Twin Cities stay, Mike Zimmer said the team was not intent on trading its talented wideout.
“Honestly, Diggs did not have to go,” Zimmer said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show (via NFL.com). “We really didn’t have any intention of trading him. Quite honestly, he put out a couple tweets, and there were some things going on there. But Stefon worked extremely hard. He practices like crazy. He wants the ball — like all receivers do.
“Really, what happened was, Buffalo came in and gave us all those picks. And we were up against it in the salary cap. So we just felt like we could save some money, get a bunch of picks, maybe get a young receiver like (Jefferson) that we got. So, I wish him well. He’s a good kid. He worked hard for me.”
The Bills sent the Vikings 2020 first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks and a 2021 fourth-rounder for Diggs, who is signed to a $14.4MM-per-year deal through 2023. This haul ended up being similar to the one the Seahawks sent the Vikings for Percy Harvinseven years ago. Seattle dealt first-, third- and seventh-rounders for Harvin in 2013, and the Vikings used the top pick to draft Rhodes. This time, Minnesota used the top acquired asset to fill the void created by the receiver trade, and Jefferson will be tasked with filling Diggs’ spot alongside Adam Thielen.
Buffalo discussed Diggs with Minnesota before last year’s trade deadline, and the Vikings were believed to have softened their asking price when the teams talked again in March. Diggs missed practices last season and was believed to be dissatisfied with his role, leading to trade rumors. This and Diggs’ pre-trade tweets suggesting he was not long for Minnesota notwithstanding, Zimmer did not characterize the five-year Viking as a major problem.
“Really, if you said somebody was a pain in the butt, you probably wouldn’t say him,” Zimmer said. “I’ve been around way worse guys than him. I hope he has a great career and finishes up strong.”
When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.
A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.
Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:
Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989
Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991
Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000
MickeyLoomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006
Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010
Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011
Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020
Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.
Done deal. On Sunday, Vikings safety Anthony Harris announced that he will sign his franchise tender (Twitter link).
“Although it has been a strange offseason, time spent in isolation with family has been refreshing and energizing. This is just one step in god’s plan for me and my family,” Harris wrote. “I will let my agents and the Vikings work towards long term certainty in Minnesota, but I am excited to be back for the 2020 season.”
Harris, 29 in June, tallied 60 tackles and eleven passes defended in 2019, plus six interceptions (tied for the NFL lead). Beyond that, the advanced metrics have positioned him as one of the league’s best safeties over the last two years. He’s now hoping to parlay that success into a major payday for the remainder of his prime seasons.
The franchise tag for safeties this year pays $11.4MM. That’s not chump change, but there are now five safeties in the league making upwards of $14MM per season. Naturally, that’s what Harris and his reps are eyeing in a new contract.
The Vikings have been keen on keeping their brightest stars. They’ve also overhauled their secondary this offseason, moving on from cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander, plus safeties Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo. Still, the Vikings have rejected trade inquiries on Harris, kept him with the tag, and backed him publicly.
“I know we have some big changes in the secondary,” Spielman said earlier this year. “One of the things — not only is Anthony Harris a great football player for us, and great in the community — but by us being able to franchise Anthony, we do have the safeties pretty well set, knowing that we’re going to have a lot of young corners we’re going to have to line up and play with.”
Per the terms of the franchise tag, the two sides have until the July deadline to hammer out an extension. If no deal is reached by then, they’ll have to wait until after the 2020 season to resume talks.
Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear.
A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.
There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.
Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.
Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:
Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020