Christian Darrisaw

Vikings Extend QB Kirk Cousins Through 2023

New Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell wanted a chance to build an offense around quarterback Kirk Cousins. Well, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, he will get his chance as the Vikings will sign Cousins to a one-year, $35MM extension that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2023 NFL season. 

The Vikings reportedly had been receiving calls on Cousins, but the new coaching staff and general manager are declaring their commitment to the veteran quarterback and gaining some much needed cap space in the process.

Cousins’ scheduled cap hit for 2022 was set to be the largest in NFL history at $45MM. The extension reduces his 2022 cap number to $31.42MM, granting Minnesota a little over $13.5MM in cap space. In addition, Cousins will see a raise, making $40MM this season and $30MM in 2023. The deal includes phantom, voidable years in 2024 & 2025 that allow them to reduce the cap hits in ’22 and ’23.

Say what you will about Cousins pay and performance, but after receiving two consecutive franchise tags in Washington, a three-year fully-guaranteed contract to join the Vikings, and two fully-guaranteed extensions to stay in Minnesota, Cousins has secured eight-straight seasons of guaranteed contracts.

There are expectations for Cousins to thrive under O’Connell. With offensive weapons like running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, wide receivers Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn, and tight end Irv Smith Jr. all returning, the familiarity of personnel should make up for the new playbook. The bookends of the offensive line seem set with Christian Darrisaw showing promise after a delayed debut and Brian O’Neill making the Pro Bowl last year. There are some questions to be answered on the interior of the line, but the pieces, for the most part, are there.

The onus will now be on the coaching staff and front office to make offseason improvements to a defense that struggled mightily last year. The Vikings defense allowed the third-most yards in the league and the ninth-most points. If the new leaders in Minnesota can turn around that unit, look for Minnesota to make a play for a playoff spot and potentially even challenge the perennial NFC North power from Green Bay for the division.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/8/22

Today’s updates for the reserve/COVID-19 and practice squad/COVID-19 lists:

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/3/22

Here are Monday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: OT Mike Remmers (remains on IR)

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: RB Raymond Calais (remains on IR)

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

North Notes: Darrisaw, Carpenter, McFarland

Let’s round up a few items from the league’s North divisions:

  • Vikings LT Christian Darrisaw, the No. 23 overall pick of this year’s draft, has undergone two procedures for a groin injury in 2021, which delayed the start to his pro career. But he saw his first snaps at the left tackle position in last week’s win over the Lions, and he will get the start there against the Panthers today, as Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. Rashod Hill had been trying to hold down the fort in Darrisaw’s absence, but he struggled, and today marks the true beginning of the Darrisaw era on the blindside.
  • The Ravens worked out free agent guard James Carpenter on Friday, as Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus tweets. Baltimore is on the lookout for OL depth after placing rookie guard Ben Cleveland on IR earlier this week. This marks the first reported interest in Carpenter since he was released by the Falcons in March.
  • Even though the Steelers drafted RB Najee Harris in the first round of this year’s draft, 2020 draftee Anthony McFarland hoped to have a meaningful role on offense. But as Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review details, McFarland sustained a torn MCL during the preseason and has been on IR ever since. He was designated for return last week, and Rutter says the Maryland product will most likely be back on the field after the Steelers’ Week 7 bye.

Vikings’ Everson Griffen Suffers Concussion In Car Accident, Out For Week 2

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen sustained a concussion in a car accident this week and will not play in the team’s Week 2 game. The Vikings ruled out Griffen and linebacker Anthony Barr for Sunday’s Cardinals matchup.

Griffen’s accident occurred when he swerved to avoid a deer and crashed into a tree, according to the Minnetrista (Minn.) Public Safety Department (via KSTP). Griffen was on his way to the team’s facility. He is now in the Vikings’ concussion protocol. The recently re-signed pass rusher missed Minnesota’s past two practices.

The Vikings re-signed Griffen this summer, doing so after he spent the 2020 season with the Cowboys and Lions. Griffen, 33, played 41% of Minnesota’s defensive snaps in Week 1. Second-year D-end D.J. Wonnum started opposite Danielle Hunter in Cincinnati. Wonnum, Stephen Weatherly and rookie third-rounder Patrick Jones reside as the non-Hunter contingent of the Vikings’ defensive end corps.

Barr did not practice this week due to a knee injury that will keep him out for a second straight game. The eighth-year outside linebacker missed 14 games last season due to a pectoral muscle tear, and he has not played thus far this season. Barr, 29, agreed to a pay cut this offseason. He is now due for free agency in 2022.

The Vikings also ruled out first-round pick Christian Darrisaw for the second straight week. Although the rookie got in three limited practices, the Vikes are exercising caution here. The team’s would-be left tackle is working his way back from core-muscle surgery, his second of the year. Rashod Hill will continue to start at left tackle for the Vikings.

NFC North Notes: Rodgers, Darrisaw, Lions

Aaron Rodgers surfaced in an NFL news cycle or two this offseason, but the reigning MVP reported to Packers training camp on time. The 37-year-old quarterback did air some grievances about his situation, and he shed more light on his complicated offseason recently. As late as the weekend before camp, Rodgers evidently was quite close to retiring. A report early during his offseason quest to leave Green Bay indicated retirement was on the table. The 17th-year veteran confirmed as such.

I mean, I felt going into the weekend before camp that I was 50/50,” Rodgers said on retirement during an appearance on the Dan LeBatard and Friends podcast (via CBS Sports). “I don’t care if people don’t believe that. That’s true. There were some things that got me to 50/50 for sure, and you know I spent a couple of days in silence and meditation and contemplation and really felt like that I should come back. There’s a lot of opportunities for growth and exciting things in Green Bay and that felt like the right thing to do.”

While Rodgers and Packers management are still not on great terms, with the sides set to huddle up after the season to determine the QB’s future, he will play a 14th season as the team’s starting QB. Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Vikings continue to wait on first-round pick Christian Darrisaw. The rookie left tackle is on the mend from his second core muscle surgery this year, and Mike Zimmer indicated the team was surprised this operation became necessary. “They tell me one thing and it ends up being something else,” Zimmer said, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson (on Twitter). “It was taken care of in January. We didn’t expect this.” The eighth-year Minnesota HC did say he expected Darrisaw to be ready by Week 1, but the Virginia Tech product has not practiced fully during camp and may take time to move into the starting lineup. Veteran backup/spot starter Rashod Hill has worked as the Vikings’ top left tackle in Darrisaw’s absence.
  • A car accident changed the Lions‘ depth chart recently. Last week, Detroit waived cornerback Alex Brown. More details emerged on why soon after. Brown was hit with four charges for his role in the accident, according to the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers, who tweets the 24-year-old defender was allegedly intoxicated while driving on the wrong side of a highway around 2am Aug. 15. This crash left two injured, including Lions teammate Charlie Taumoepeau, per Rogers (via Twitter). A 23-year-old tight end, Taumoepeau suffered a neck injury that required hospitalization. The Lions cut Brown immediately; Taumoepeau reverted to Detroit’s injured reserve after being waived with an injury designation.
  • Third-year player Kabion Ento has completed a successful conversion from wide receiver to cornerback with the Packers, per Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Although the 6-foot-1, 187-pound defender has yet to play in a regular-season game, the Packers have been patient with the ex-Colorado wideout. They stashed Ento on their practice squad in 2019, kept him on IR in 2020 — after a foot fracture sidelined him — and retained him via reserve/futures deal. Ento only caught 20 career passes with the Buffaloes and is now vying to land one of the Packers’ backup cornerback jobs.

Christian Darrisaw Undergoes Core Surgery

The Vikings continue to be without their first-round pick and hopeful left tackle starter, and the wait will continue. Christian Darrisaw underwent his second core muscle surgery of the year Wednesday.

Darrisaw met with the same specialist who performed his initial 2021 surgery, per KSTP’s Darren Wolfson (on Twitter), and had what’s Tom Pelissero classifies as a minor procedure. The Vikings remain hopeful Darrisaw will be ready for Week 1 (Twitter link).

Those hopes may be a bit optimistic, with Darrisaw having yet to practice fully with the Vikings since being taken 23rd overall in April. The Virginia Tech product attempted to address this issue ahead of the draft, with a January surgery, but the problem has persisted. Although Darrisaw has participated somewhat in Minnesota’s training camp, Courtney Cronin of notes those reps have only come in walkthroughs with the second-team offense. While Darrisaw may well make it back early in the season, this nagging injury has deprived him of critical work ahead of his rookie year.

Minnesota has used veteran Rashod Hill as its first-string left tackle instead, with 2020 second-round pick Ezra Cleveland — a left tackle at Boise State — still at guard. Hill has been with the Vikings for five seasons, working as a spot starter. He has started just two games over the past two seasons. Hill re-signed with the Vikings this offseason.

Vikings Sign First-Round Pick Christian Darrisaw

The Vikings have their first-round pick under contract. According to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk, Minnesota has signed No. 23 overall selection Christian Darrisaw.

Darrisaw, a Virginia Tech product, is likely to become the Vikes’ starting left tackle right away. The team had a major need there after parting ways with Riley Reiff this offseason, and Darrisaw has a high floor thanks to his natural athleticism and the proficiency he has already displayed as both a pass-blocker and run-blocker. Some scouting reports suggest he will need to do a better job of finishing his blocks at the professional level, but there is no reason to believe he won’t develop that ability with time.

The Vikings originally held the No. 14 overall pick, and they discussed trading up from that spot in an effort to land quarterback Justin Fields. Ultimately, the Bears beat them to the punch by jumping up from the No. 20 selection to No. 11 — a move that required the forfeiture of a 2022 first-rounder — and with Fields and Northwestern LT Rashawn Slater off the board, Minnesota GM Rick Spielman dropped from No. 14 to No. 23.

However, as we later learned, Spielman was prepared to trade back up from No. 23 to make sure he landed Darrisaw (as Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes, Minnesota may have made an offer to the Raiders, who were holding the No. 17 pick). Ultimately, Spielman was able to keep the draft capital he acquired as part of his trade down while still getting the former Hokie to protect Kirk Cousins‘ blind side.

In addition to Darrisaw, the Vikings have signed fourth-round selection Camryn Bynum. Bynum, a cornerback out of California-Berkeley, was one of three fourth-rounders for the Vikings this year. Minnesota just traded fellow corner Mike Hughes to the Chiefs, thereby giving Bynum a bit of a better shot at immediate playing time. Over 42 collegiate games, he tallied 184 total tackles (eight TFL) and six interceptions.

Vikings Tried To Trade Up Twice In First Round

Vikings GM Rick Spielman went into the first round of last night’s draft ready to wheel and deal. As Dan Duggan of The Athletic reports, the Vikings, who originally held the No. 14 overall pick, called the Giants about moving up to No. 11 (Twitter link). But the QB-needy Bears were willing to give New York a massive haul to trade up from No. 20 to No. 11, a swap that included a 2022 first-rounder.

Obviously, Spielman wasn’t about to part with that kind of capital to move up three spots. While we don’t know exactly who he wanted to move up for, it seems likely that the target was Northwestern LT Rashawn Slater, who went to the Chargers at No. 13, one pick before Minnesota. With Slater gone, the Vikes then engineered a trade down, acquiring the No. 23 pick and two third-round choices from the Jets to allow Gang Green to move up to No. 14 (the Vikings also sent a fourth-round selection to the Jets).

With that No. 23 pick, Spielman got a big-time LT prospect in Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, but he had to sweat it out. He worried that Darrisaw, like Slater, would be snapped up before the Vikings were back on the clock, so he thought about trading back up.

“Once we got down to about four or five picks, when we went down to 23, we did try to go back up because we wanted to try to make sure that we got Christian,” Spielman said (via Craig Peters of the team’s official website). “We were unable to [move up]. Fortunately, we did not have to. We were able to keep our extra picks that we gained and still got the player that we coveted. So, it worked out very well for us.”

Darrisaw, whose natural athleticism and talent give him a high floor, is effective both in pass- and run-blocking. Scouting reports suggest that he will have to work on finishing his blocks, but the ability and the technique is already professional-grade. He should be an immediate starter at left tackle, a job that belonged to Riley Reiff for the past four seasons.

Spielman said this morning that the “sweet spot” of this year’s draft is in the third and fourth rounds (Twitter link via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). That’s good news for him, as the Vikings now have four third-rounders and three fourth-rounders to work with. That will give them some ammunition to continue moving around the board, and Spielman also suggested that he could even look to pick up more picks in the 2022 draft (Twitter link via Tomasson). Minnesota is already scheduled to have 11 selections next year.