Safety Anthony Harris will be well compensated under the $11.4 million franchise tag this season, but he will have to wait for an even bigger payday on a long-term contract that Harris and the Vikings were unable to negotiate before the July 15 deadline.
Playing on the franchise tag isn’t ideal, Harris said Wednesday, but last year’s NFL interceptions leader added his focus is elsewhere.
“In a dream world, you want things to go completely your way,” Harris said during a videoconference. “No hiccups or anything like that. But honestly, I wasn’t really worrying about it. I’ve always just been saying my destiny, it’ll come to me, and not really trying to worry about anything else. Really just putting all my focus with enjoying the extra time that I had with my family, which was very valuable.”
In March, General Manager Rick Spielman decided to tag Harris, who had seven picks last season, including the playoffs. Trade talks with the Browns furthered uncertainty about Harris’ future, which remains undecided beyond this season. By NFL rule, the Vikings can’t resume contract talks with his agent until after the season.
So Harris will try to keep his value high with another strong year, but not everything will be the same next to All-Pro safety Harrison Smith. Of the Vikings’ 26 rookies, seven are defensive backs.
“Harrison’s obviously a great talent, so that’s exciting to be able to play beside him for another year,” Harris said. “Working with the young guys, getting to check off some of their ability, pick their brains a little bit, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Griffen to Dallas
The Vikings’ effort to bring Everson Griffen back for the 2020 season ended Wednesday night, when the defensive end agreed to a one-year deal with the Cowboys.
Griffen opted out of his contract in February after 10 years with the team, though Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said throughout the offseason he wanted the 32-year-old to return to Minnesota. Zimmer, sources said, was pitching Griffen on coming back, and a source added the Vikings made a “very strong offer” to Griffen, whose contract with the Cowboys could be worth up to $6 million this season.
In the end, Griffen picked a fresh start in Dallas over the chance to stay in the Twin Cities (where he still lives with his family in the offseason). He will be reunited in Dallas with former Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards, who’s now a senior defensive assistant with the team.
In recent summers, Zimmer has openly mulled whether to offload defensive play-calling duties to an assistant. This year is no different, according to Adam Zimmer, Mike’s son and co-defensive coordinator, who said Wednesday this year’s defensive play caller has not yet been designated.
Mike Zimmer, who has wondered if his attention is needed elsewhere on game days, has been one of the only NFL head coaches who calls defensive plays throughout his six seasons with the Vikings.
“We can try different things in [practice] situations where we’re actually calling it like a game,” Adam Zimmer said in a videoconference, “and I think we can go from there.”
Stephen shifting to nose?
Shamar Stephen was re-signed in 2019 to fill one defensive tackle role, but Adam Zimmer said Stephen can step into a different role at nose tackle, after free-agent addition Michael Pierce opted out last month. Other options include Armon Watts and Jaleel Johnson, but Stephen sounds like a leading candidate.
“He’s as good a nose as there is,” Zimmer said. “He’s really good in the run game. He’s an extremely smart player. I know the linebackers have a lot of respect for him, because he lets them flow and make plays. He’ll have the ability to fill that role.”
Staff writer Ben Goessling contributed to this report.