The NFL’s mad rush into free agency is like a hockey mullet.
It’s ugly but appreciated.
Sports news is a welcome distraction from the all-too-real world, and the Vikings and the rest of the NFL did a lot of distracting to start off Quarantine Week.
The NFL probably shouldn’t be throwing around hundreds of millions of dollars when the country is reeling. The league should at least think of a philanthropic mechanism, as have the other major sports.
If the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns can send $100,000 to the Mayo Clinic, the NFL can afford to donate a small portion of its profits to our health care system, or people in need.
But I admit to being a hypocrite: I’m glad the NFL is making news, even if the league continues to be as bad at optics as The Joker’s makeup artist.
While Tom Brady has made himself the biggest story in sports by announcing his departure from the New England Patriots, let’s not underplay what might be the best trade made during this wild week.
The Vikings made it.
Rick Spielman had a disgruntled receiver who, as good as he is, is hardly a superstar, and he traded Stefon Diggs for more than other teams got for trading DeAndre Hopkins, Amari Cooper or Antonio Brown.
Diggs is good enough to make Buffalo better. With Brady out of the way, Diggs could help the Bills win a previously unwinnable division and make a playoff run.
No matter how well he or his new team perform, Spielman did good work here. Now he has two first-round draft picks to fill holes with relatively inexpensive players, a necessity given the Vikings’ salary-cap issues.
Spielman selected Diggs in the fifth round, got three good and two excellent seasons out of him, and traded him for a first-round and two mid-round picks, with the Bills and Vikings exchanging low-round picks.
That’s the kind of value proposition that usually winds up looking good down the road.
Spielman also extended the contract of quarterback Kirk Cousins. This is a move that was all but guaranteed when he signed his first deal.
His salary cap hit was always going to be a problem in the third year of his three-year deal, and he’s too productive to have failed so completely that the Vikings would want to move on from him.
Also, Cousins’ presence ensured that the Vikings weren’t going to invest in his successor, so the Vikings are, depending on your view, blessed or stuck with him for at least two and probably three more years.
It’s not an exciting move, but it’s safe and necessary under the Vikings’ current circumstances. They’re better off hoping to build a complementary team around Cousins than starting over with an expensive free agent or a rookie.
In a kinder world, Teddy Bridgewater would have remained healthy and become the Vikings’ long-term franchise quarterback. Instead, Bridgewater signed with the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday, succeeding Cam Newton as their starter.
When Bridgewater suffered his catastrophic knee injury in 2016, who could have foreseen Bridgewater and Brady becoming the top free-agent quarterbacks in the spring of 2020? Or that they could be dueling in the same division?
If Brady signs with Tampa Bay, the NFC South starting quarterbacks will be Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Brady and Bridgewater, and the Vikings are scheduled to face all of them.
The Vikings might even employ a cornerback or two by then. Trae Waynes signed with Cincinnati a handful of days after the Vikings cut fellow starter Xavier Rhodes.
Those moves highlight the Vikings’ predicament.
They had to sign Cousins. They did well in dealing Diggs. They were justified in moving on from Rhodes and Waynes, and in signing C.J. Ham and Eric Wilson to extensions.
But making a series of smart moves doesn’t mean the Vikings are going to be a better team in 2020. They have one starting-caliber receiver, a shaky offensive line and no proven starting cornerbacks.
Spielman had better make this a draft for the ages.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org