The Vikings have a pair of receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs who arguably form the best duo in the NFL. Thielen is signed through 2020 on a very team-friendly deal. Diggs is in line for a massive extension that would dwarf what Thielen makes.
With training camp starting this week, the question is this: Is having two elite receivers a necessity or an expensive luxury — and how should that answer inform the Vikings’ approach to a tricky contract situation with Diggs?
First take: Michael Rand
I’m torn on this one because Diggs is going to be very expensive. The Rams’ Brandin Cooks, a similar player with better numbers (three consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons while Diggs has none) just signed a five-year, $80 million extension.
If the Vikings give Diggs a deal approaching those terms, while Thielen — a 2017 All-Pro — is making far less than half of that, Thielen might want to renegotiate. The cap-strapped Vikings might be in a bind.
But from a football standpoint, the two receivers seem to work perfectly together and have a sort of symbiotic relationship on the field (and off it, too, where their Twitter exchanges are priceless). I’m not sure one could carry an offense by himself. But as a duo, a pair of 1A receivers, they are great.
Chris Hine: They are great, there’s no denying, but what do you prioritize if you’re the Vikings? Is there enough space to sign Diggs and linebacker Anthony Barr? So long as defensive guru Mike Zimmer is the coach, I tend to think the Vikings would rather pay Barr than Diggs, especially after signing quarterback Kirk Cousins to the $84 million (fully guaranteed) deal he signed.
If you pay a quarterback that much money, you might expect him to make it work with any receivers you give him, and you’ll still have weapons in Thielen, tight end Kyle Rudolph and running back Dalvin Cook. I’m not saying this is the route I would take — receivers who can command that kind of money Diggs will don’t come along all the time — but from an organizational standpoint if it comes down to Barr or Diggs, I bet the Vikings choose Barr.
Rand: But it’s pretty rare that a team with a great defense and a merely functional offense wins the Super Bowl. Diggs (No. 1) and Thielen (No. 6) were excellent in Pro Football Focus’ contested catch rate stats in 2017. If you want to win big and keep Cousins happy, you might need both guys.
Hine: Diggs was also a good red-zone target as well, finishing tied for fourth in receiving yards in that area last season, according to Sportradar.
This is why I’m bad at hot takes. I see the pros and cons of each side and I’m not going to get up on my pulpit and tell you why one side is demonstrably better than the other. While Zimmer is the coach, he’s going to push to keep this defense intact, even if it has harder to win a Super Bowl that way. If the Vikings are looking for an excuse not to pay Diggs, perhaps his health could be their out.
Rand: Pay everyone all the money is what I’m saying. As long as the end result is a Super Bowl.
Last word: Chris Hine
Then it’s settled. Diggs’ extension will come out of your paycheck.
More Rand: startribune.com/RandBall
More Hine: startribune.com/NorthScore