‘Miracle’ TD gives Diggs ‘old smile’ as contract year begins
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — More than four months have passed for Stefon Diggs since his yes-that-really-happened touchdown reception for Minnesota on the desperate last play from scrimmage gave the Vikings a postseason victory for the ages over New Orleans.
He still hears about the play a couple of times per week.
As nice as the accolades can be, they won’t win the Vikings any games this year.
“I’m kind of over it at this point. It’s definitely a blessing, but we’ve got a brand new season to worry about, a lot of exciting things taking place right now, so I’m going to focus on that,” Diggs said. “It’s definitely an old smile right now.”
After a career-high eight touchdowns in 2017 while forming one of the NFL’s best wide receiver duos with Adam Thielen, Diggs has entered the final year of his rookie contract, bound for a big raise.
With Kirk Cousins now in place, he’s working with his fourth primary starting quarterback in as many seasons in the league. John DeFilippo also represents his third offensive coordinator.
Diggs is not one to be ruffled, though, not with the hurdles he has cleared over his career and the setbacks he’s faced in life since his dad died 10 years ago.
“For me, it’s just the same old building process, getting back going, getting the trust of your quarterback. That excites me, having a new challenge,” said Diggs, who went to the Atlanta area with Thielen earlier this spring to hang out with and catch passes from Cousins.
Those receiver-quarterback relationships are as important as any on the roster.
“As far as being our general and the guy that’s going to lead us, I put 100 percent faith in him,” Diggs said.
Diggs is not the only integral Vikings player with an expiring deal, joining linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Danielle Hunter in the about-to-get-paid-a-lot club with no guarantee all three of them will fit under the salary cap.
The price for Diggs has markedly increased since the “Minneapolis Miracle “ game not only because of the clutch catch.
Mike Evans (Tampa Bay), Sammy Watkins (Kansas City) and Jarvis Landry (Cleveland) have all signed new contracts since March with annual average values of more than $15 million. Diggs has been watching, naturally, with several public praises of his peers . Reading between the tweets? Diggs is clearly confident he’ll be in their situation soon.
“I like to congratulate guys every chance I get,” Diggs said. “So for my particular situation, I let my resume speak for itself. It’ll figure itself out.”
If an extension doesn’t get done in 2018 and he becomes a free agent, he could still sign with the Vikings, of course. Exploring the market doesn’t sound like a goal of his, however.
“I love playing for the Vikings. I started here. I’ve had all my time here. I love my teammates. I love my staff. There’s no place I’d rather be,” he said.
Barr was the only notable player missing on Wednesday from practice. Coach Mike Zimmer said Barr told him he wouldn’t attend, but Zimmer didn’t divulge a reason. Barr’s absence could be driven by a form of soft protest about the lack of a new deal or self-preservation from injury. These organized team activities in late May and early June are not required. Only the minicamp in mid-June is contractually mandatory.
One player whose presence was more pertinent than anyone’s absence was kicker Kai Forbath, who was startled last month when the Vikings drafted Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson in the fifth round. Such moves rarely end well for the incumbent.
“I fortunately have never lost a competition, and I’m not shying away from this one just because they drafted him,” Forbath said. “As long as I make my kicks, everything should take care of itself.”