INDIANAPOLIS – Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman did his best to quash speculation about Stefon Diggs’ future Tuesday at the NFL combine, saying “there’s no reason to anticipate [Diggs] is not going to be a Minnesota Viking.”
Diggs caused a stir on social media this month when he removed all pictures of himself in a Vikings uniform from his Instagram account, following a season in which he incurred more than $200,000 in fines for skipping two days of meetings and practices after the team’s Week 4 loss to the Chicago Bears. His absence, sources told the Star Tribune at the time, stemmed from frustrations that had been building since the spring over the direction of the offense and his role in it.
Diggs gave an enigmatic news conference after his return, saying “there’s truth to all rumors” when asked about his unhappiness, but finished the year with a career-high 1,130 receiving yards while establishing himself as one of the NFL’s top deep threats in the Vikings’ play action offense. His recent social media actions caused a stir, even for a player given to maintaining a cryptic online presence.
The 26-year-old receiver has four years left on the five-year, $72 million deal he signed in July 2018. His $10.9 million base salary for the 2020 season would become fully guaranteed March 20.
“Stefon, last year, had probably his most productive year, and he’s a young receiver we just extended,” Spielman said in his first public comments since November. “He’s not only a major part of our offense and a major part of our organization winning games, but he also does a lot of things for this organization off the field. There’s no reason — the rumors or whatever you’re talking about — to anticipate that Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking. When you have some of the offensive talent that we have, with him and [Adam] Thielen together, with Rudy [Kyle Rudolph] and Irv Smith, with Dalvin Cook and [Alexander] Mattison, we have a pretty good support cast around our quarterback.”
When asked if Diggs wanted to be in Minnesota, Spielman said he had not spoken with Diggs’ agent since the end of the season. Such a meeting could occur this week at the combine; if it does, Spielman said, he will keep the contents to himself.
Spielman’s comments came just over seven years after the general manager famously said the Vikings “have no intent” to trade Percy Harvin weeks before they dealt him to Seattle for three draft picks. As he did at the 2013 combine when reporters asked him about Harvin, Spielman cast questions about Diggs as speculation.
“No disrespect to your profession, but there are a lot of things that get reported that get sensationalized that maybe shouldn’t be,” he said. “Regardless, we’re going to handle anything we have internally.”
The Vikings have plenty to think about beyond Diggs in the lead-up to the 2020 league year, given their tenuous salary cap situation that could force them to part with a number of veterans.
A new contract for quarterback Kirk Cousins — who is scheduled to make $29.5 million in the final season of his three-year deal — could bring the Vikings some cap relief with a structure that pushes some of Cousins’ earnings into future years. Though Spielman wouldn’t discuss the possibility of an extension for Cousins, he praised the 31-year-old quarterback and struck a hopeful tone about how a second year in offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system could help Cousins improve.
He also listed Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, who is entering the final year of his deal, as part of “those core group of players that we definitely want to try and keep.” An extension for a player headed into the final year of his contract, Spielman said, typically would not happen until shortly before training camp. His approach, however, seemed to signal an interest in a new deal for Cook at a time when few running backs are earning lucrative contracts after their rookie deals.
When talking to reporters at the 2019 combine, Spielman announced the Vikings had picked up an option in coach Mike Zimmer’s contract for the 2020 season. Both Zimmer and Spielman are headed into the final years of their current deals; on Tuesday, Spielman declined to discuss the status of either contract.