EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have secured yet another core player with a long-term contract, signing wide receiver Stefon Diggs to a five-year extension and moving the star of the “Minneapolis Miracle” pass into the NFL’s top 10 highest-paid players at his position.
Diggs has yet to post a 1,000-yard or 100-catch season, but his ability was on full display when he turned a sideline catch into a 61-yard touchdown as time ran out to lift the Vikings to victory over New Orleans in last season’s playoffs. He formed a prolific tandem with Adam Thielen last year, helping Case Keenum stabilize the passing game after Sam Bradford was injured, and over his first three seasons has been one of the biggest steals of the 2015 draft.
“I love it here. I truly do, and I’m just happy I’ll be here for a while now,” Diggs said after practice Tuesday. “That’s why I want to play for them for selecting me in the fifth round. It was a bumpy road that day, and I just remember getting a call, and they gave me a chance. They believed in me, and they won, and going forward they pushed me to be where I am now.”
Now the Vikings have a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins, who was elated by the news that Diggs is under contract through 2023.
“What I most like is he loves football and loves to come and work, because as a quarterback it can be miserable if you’re out here with someone who is here to just get a paycheck and leave,” Cousins said. “He wants to work.”
The Vikings offense was at the new practice facility on Monday night past 9 p.m. working on playbook installation.
“I’ve been a part of some locker rooms where by 9 o’clock, some of your guys are sleeping in the back row, not taking notes, not paying attention. They’re basically checked out, texting or whatever,” Cousins said. “That’s not him. That’s not these guys.”
The new deal is valued at $72 million plus an additional $9 million in possible incentives, according to a person with knowledge of the contract who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the details. Diggs, who will play the final season of his rookie deal for the original base salary of slightly more than $1.9 million, received a $15 million signing bonus.
“He’s been a good person off the field. He’s been a good person on the field as far as that,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “When he messes up, he knows. One time I had him in my office, and I asked him … a question, and he said, ‘Now, coach, you know you knew the answer when you asked the question.’ He’s a smart guy.”
Since Cousins signed his fully guaranteed $84 million contract in March, the Vikings have signed linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive end Danielle Hunter and now Diggs to multi-year deals. The Vikings now have Cousins, Diggs, Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook, left tackle Riley Reiff, right guard Mike Remmers and center Pat Elflein all under team control through at least the 2020 season. On defense, the same goes for Hunter, Kendricks, defensive end Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith. That’s a lot of star power to squeeze under the salary cap, with linebacker Anthony Barr the only prominent player with an expiring contract this year.
“Continuity, to me, is very important, and it’s not a luxury we have in the NFL these days,” Cousins said. “There is a lot of change year in and year out, so I’ve come to expect that and understand you can’t use that as an excuse.”
Diggs has come a long way since his father, Aron Diggs, died of heart failure in 2008. He told his son in his final months to make sure to look after his mother and two brothers, and for Diggs this new deal was the consummation of that directive.
“I’m happy that I can look at my mom and smile and tell her that everything is going to be OK,” Diggs said. “I’m just very thankful for everybody involved.”
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