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.
Kyle Rudolph is expected to undergo foot surgery soon, and he may be in for extensive rehab. The new Giants tight end is believed to be dealing with a Lisfranc injury, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets. The troublesome foot malady can be difficult to shake, but Rudolph expects to be ready for Week 1. This injury is similar to what Evan Engram dealt with in 2019. Engram underwent surgery to address his Lisfranc issue in December 2019 and was ready for training camp last year. Rudolph’s timetable is considerably more condensed, which likely led to the delay in the veteran tight end signing his Giants contract. Engram and Rudolph would give the Giants one of the NFL’s top tight end tandems, but the former’s injury history and the latter’s current issue cloud that situation to some degree.
Here is more from the NFC East:
GM Howie Roseman and Eagles scouts had differing opinions on which players to select with the team’s top two draft choices last year. The veteran GM and Eagles coaches’ preference for Jalen Reagor won out over the consensus scouts’ preference: Justin Jefferson. Roseman also veered from his scouts’ recommendation in Round 2, tabbing Jalen Hurts over safety Jeremy Chinn, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. The Eagles will bank on the latter move this season, having since traded Carson Wentz and seemingly signed Joe Flacco to back up Hurts. Chinn went to the Panthers at No. 64 — 11 picks after Hurts — and finished second in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Going to the Vikings one pick after Reagor, Jefferson finished second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.
Frank Reich‘s future took a major turn in 2018, when Josh McDaniels‘ backtracking on his Colts commitment ended up re-routing the Eagles OC to Indianapolis. This came shortly after Reich played a key role in the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship. Reich nearly saw his status change in 2017, however. A front office push for Reich’s firing existed, according to McLane, who adds Doug Pederson managed to save Reich’s job. In Wentz’s first season — a 7-9 Eagles campaign, which was also Reich’s first as Eagles OC — the team ranked 22nd in total offense. They rose to seventh in 2017, with Wentz finishing first in QBR. The Eagles, who promoted Mike Groh to replace Reich and then fired Groh after the 2019 season, have since hired Reich’s top Colts protégé (Nick Sirianni) as head coach.
Brandon Graham agreed to restructure his deal to provide the Eagles with additional cap space last month. Graham’s adjusted contract can be classified as a one-year extension, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweeting the new deal is worth nearly $20MM over two years. The Eagles converted Graham’s salaries into prorated bonuses, with the 11-year veteran set to earn barely $1MM in base salary in each of the next three seasons. The team tacked on three void years to the contract, per OverTheCap, which indicates each of Graham’s cap numbers over the life of this through-2023 contract are south of $10MM.
After hiring Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator, the Cowboys brought both Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee over from Atlanta. The latter’s deal will be worth the veteran minimum, according to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer (on Twitter). Kazee will count just $988K against the Cowboys’ cap. Attempting to return from an Achilles tear, Kazee will collect $250K guaranteed.
Minnesota’s rookie contingent reported to camp recently. Players must test negative for the coronavirus three times before entering teams’ facilities. During an offseason that has already featured major developmental hurdles placed in rookies’ paths, Jefferson and Co. will now see their timetables pushed back.
The reserve/COVID-19 designation is for players who have tested positive for the coronavirus or are in quarantine for potential exposure. In turn, these players are removed from the roster and allowed to return after three weeks.
It is not certain if Jefferson and the three other rookies have contracted the virus. Players must be placed on the COVID-19/reserve list if they test positive or have come in contact with an infected person. The Vikings announced earlier Monday their infection control officer, Eric Sugarman, tested positive for the coronavirus. Members of Sugarman’s family did as well.
The Vikings used one of their two first-round picks on Jefferson, who will be expected to fill the role Stefon Diggs occupied for years opposite Adam Thielen. Jefferson is coming off a dominant senior season at LSU, when he caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. Minnesota used a sixth-round pick on Brandel, a tackle out of Oregon State, and a seventh-round choice on Cole — a safety out of Mississippi State. Higby, a guard from Michigan State, arrived as part of the Vikes’ most recent UDFA class.
The Vikings have agreed to terms with first-round pick Justin Jefferson, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. His four-year deal is worth $12.122MM in total, including a $7.1MM signing bonus. Beyond that, the Vikings will hold a fifth-year option on the wide receiver.
The Vikings selected the LSU standout with the No. 22 overall pick – the choice they received in the Stefon Diggs trade with the Bills. Jefferson might not be ready to produce like Diggs right off the bat, but he could develop into a top-end receiver before long.
Heading into the draft, most had Jefferson ranked as the fourth-best wide receiver in this year’s class, behind Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama standouts Henry Ruggsand Jerry Jeudy.When the Eagles went for TCU’s Jalen Reagorat No. 21 overall, the Vikings pounced on the chance to nab Jefferson.
Last year, Jefferson led the nation with 111 catches and registered 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. With size, speed, good hands, and solid route-running ability, scouts say the sky is the limit.
Even with Jefferson signed, the Vikings still have some more paperwork to get through before they wrap their entire 15-man draft class.
This year’s wide receiver draft class was widely regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory. It was so deep, in fact, that teams felt they could secure immediate-impact players on Day 2 and even Day 3 of the draft. Still, a few players separated themselves from their peers and became first-round selections, the cream of a bountiful crop.
The consensus top three talents were Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama standouts Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. It would not have been surprising to see any of those three players taken in the top-10, and ultimately Ruggs came off the board first, going to the Raiders with the No. 12 overall selection.
The Broncos were quite content with that, as they snagged Jeudy – whom they considered trading up for – with the No. 15 pick. Then, although the Cowboys perhaps had more pressing needs, they could not turn down Lamb when he surprisingly fell into their laps at No. 17.
TCU’s Jalen Reagor was the next domino to fall, heading to the Eagles with the No. 21 selection. Reagor was something of a late riser in the process, as he had been mocked as a second- to third-round choice but began garnering attention as a potential first-rounder as we got closer to draft day. Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman obviously saw something he liked, and he pounced.
But LSU’s Justin Jefferson, generally considered the fourth-best wideout in the class, didn’t have to wait too much longer to hear his name called. The Vikings took him one pick after Reagor.
All five of those players stand a good chance of becoming difference-makers for their respective clubs, as is the case with any first-round pick. But we would like to know from you which of them you think will have the biggest impact as a rookie.
With Ruggs, the Raiders added a speed merchant whose college production did not match that of Jeudy — his teammate of three years with the Crimson Tide — but who fits the Las Vegas offense nicely. The Raiders added another collegiate wideout, Bryan Edwards, in the third round, and they also took a flier on veteran Nelson Agholor. Still, it appears as if Ruggs has a good chance to start opposite Tyrell Williams, with Hunter Renfrow working the slot. Ruggs is electric with the ball in his hands, and he is not a one-dimensional deep threat; he is a solid route-runner who should only get better with coaching. His recent off-field injury seems to be a non-issue, and he will be a boost to a passing offense that performed better than one might think in 2019.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are building a strong young nucleus of skill position talent, and Jeudy will team with Courtland Sutton to form one of the most promising 1-2 punches in the game. He is a gifted route-runner whose excellent production against SEC defenses jumps off the page — he averaged 72 catches for 1,239 yards and 12 TDs over his final two years in school – and he has the versatility to line up outside or in the slot. Fellow rookie KJ Hamler, whom Denver nabbed in the second round, may get most of the slot reps, but Jeudy will be a threat no matter where he plays.
Though Lamb will have to compete with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for targets, the Cowboys are perfectly capable of moving the ball through the air and will have plenty of opportunities to go around. Lamb should work primarily in the slot, which will mask some of the deficiencies he has as a route-runner and against press coverage. He has terrific hands and tracking ability, and though he may lack top-line speed, he is plenty quick enough to make things happen, and his overall athleticism is off the charts. He is also a strong and willing blocker, which Ezekiel Elliott will surely appreciate.
Due to injuries and under-performance, the Eagles’ WR group provided very little production last year. Veteran DeSean Jackson played just three games in 2019, Alshon Jeffery may start the season on the PUP list, and 2019 second-rounder JJ Arcega-Whiteside failed to live up to expectations. Philadelphia tried to trade up for Lamb but was happy to pick up Reagor, whose blazing speed could pair well with Jackson. Though it took a while for his stock to rise, that may have been because the TCU offense didn’t give him the chance to show off his route-running skills, so the more scouts were able to evaluate his tape, the more impressed they became. He struggled with drops from time to time, but with his abilities as a deep target and a YAC monster, he has the potential to be a dynamic pro. On the other hand, there are rumblings that Reagor will be asked to focus on just one position in 2020 and will be the understudy to D-Jax, so he may not get as much immediate PT as we might have expected.
Like the Eagles, the Vikings sorely needed to upgrade their WR corps, and Jefferson steps into a great situation, as Minnesota traded Stefon Diggs earlier in the offseason and did little to replace him. So Jefferson should start opposite Adam Thielen, whose mounting injury history could open up even more opportunities. Like most of the LSU offense, Jefferson was tremendous in 2019, securing 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. He offers an intriguing blend of size and speed, and though he may struggle to create separation in the pros, he has good hands and runs good routes. The Vikings like to run the ball, but Kirk Cousins is a capable QB and Jefferson should see plenty of passes coming his way.
So let’s hear your thoughts. Tell us which of these five players will have the most impact on his team in 2020, and explain your reasoning in the comments.
The person most familiar with the situation in which Aaron Rodgers now finds himself, Brett Favre said his former successor was surprised the Packers traded up for Jordan Love in Round 1. Favre also expects Rodgers to finish his career with another team.
Rodgers has four years remaining on his Packers contract, one agreed to in 2018, and has said on multiple occasions he would like to play into his 40s. The two-time MVP will turn 37 in December.
“I’m not going to talk about all that we talked about, but he was … let’s just say surprised that they went in that direction,” Favre said during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Podcast (via ESPN.com). “… I think he’ll play somewhere else.
“My gut tells me no,” Favre said of Rodgers finishing his career in Green Bay. “I don’t know this for certain, but I guarantee you, it’s got the wheels turning in Aaron’s mind. If that’s the case, then that means there’s a chip on his shoulder toward the organization that otherwise was not there. All he needs is a reason other than this reason to expedite that.”
GM Brian Gutekunst, who was with the Packers as a scout when predecessor Ted Thompson drafted a falling Rodgers at No. 24 overall in 2005, determined Love’s long-term potential was more valuable than picking a player who could help the 2020 Packers, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes.
Gutekunst did not expect Love to fall into the mid-20s and told NBC Sports’ Peter King the Packers had him rated too highly on their board to pass. The Packers had “significant intel” a team with an early-second-round pick was targeting Love, per King. While that may have been the case, no team appeared interested in taking Love late in Round 1.
As a result of this and some surprising choices as the draft progressed, the Packers have the same wide receiver depth chart — excluding UDFAs — they did coming into the virtual event. Rodgers and some other members of the Packers organization were “enamored” with LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, per Demovsky. Jefferson ended up going to the Vikings at No. 22. And the Packers stunned most by exiting a stacked receiver draft without selecting one.
The Packers received historically poor production from their pass-catcher group last season. For the first time since 1977, Green Bay had just one player (Davante Adams) record more than 500 receiving yards (excluding the 1982 strike-shortened season).
“They don’t draft any weapons — not just in the first round but any weapons that can help immediately, to my knowledge. And that just sends a disrespectful message to Aaron Rodgers,” Favre said. “He has every right to be disappointed if he is.”
It’s no secret that the Eagles could use some help at wide receiver. But, with expensive WRs already under contract, they had to stay out of the fray in free agency. Now that the draft is less than a week away, they’re expected to make at least one significant investment at the position.
Philly has also done “a lot of work” on TCU’s Jalen Reagor, Caplan adds. Despite recently posting multiple sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash clockings, Reagor figures to be available by the time the Eagles’ No. 21 pick arrives. Jefferson, however, may not be.
Scouts Inc. rates Aiyuk 20th and Reagor 45th overall. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Aiyuk going off the board 20th and Reagor 55th. Following their 21st overall pick, the Eagles’ next draft window opens at No. 55. They used the No. 57 overall pick last year on JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who underwhelmed as a rookie. Though unlikely, the Eagles going wideout in both the first and second rounds should not be dismissed, Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
If the Eagles want to aim for Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb, they would almost certainly have to trade up. That would probably need to happen to acquire Alabama speedster Henry Ruggs as well.
The Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson under contract beyond 2021, but each 30-something’s salary becomes much easier to shed next year. Whoever the Eagles draft next week figures to be a key component in their post-Jeffery/Jackson future.
The Cardinals have themselves a star wide receiver after trading for DeAndre Hopkins, but this year’s WR class is talented enough to tempt every team. Even though the Cardinals may like Kyler Murray‘s one-time teammate CeeDee Lamb and other WR talents, they’re not expected to use their No. 8 pick on a receiver, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears.
With Hopkins installed as the Cardinals’ new WR1, Arizona will likely address larger needs with that pick – perhaps a stud defensive player or an offensive lineman. Then, somewhere around Nos. 11 or 12, where the Jets and Raiders pick, Rapoport expects the WR run to take flight. In that scenario, CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy stand out as likely candidates – they’re the consensus top receivers in this wildly talented crop, Rapoport hears.
Further down the board, the Eagles have been heavily connected to LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson. But, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter) cautions that several teams could jump ahead of the Birds at No. 21 to land him. The Vikings (Nos. 22 and 25), Patriots (No. 23), and the Saints (No. 24) are all lurking, and they could make a play for a big-time WR like Jefferson.
“We just had a perfect year,” Jefferson said. “We won the national championship and set records. We had a lot of awards and did it with our team. I feel like it was the best way to go.”
Jefferson, who stands 6’3″ and 192 pounds, posting an outstanding campaign during his final year at LSU, catching 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns while hauling in passes from Heisman winner Joe Burrow. In the National Championship Game, Jefferson posted nine receptions for 106 yards.
In an exceptionally deep wide receiver class, Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network ranks Jefferson as the draft’s seventh-best wideout and the 36th overall player, meaning he could potentially come off the board at the end of the first round or the beginning of Day 2.