Vikings’ Harris signs franchise tag

Minnesota Vikings S Anthony Harris signed the franchise tender, the team announced today.

The 28-year-old Harris will make a guaranteed $11.4  million in 2020.

Harris, who started a career-high 14 games for the Vikings last season, led all safeties in interceptions with a career-best six in 2019. The former Virginia Cavalier originally signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and has appeared in 65 games with 31 starts, totaling nine interceptions, 21 passes defensed, one forced fumble and four fumble recoveries in his career.

The six-year veteran earned his lone career NFC Defensive Player of the Week award in Week 1 of the 2019 season when securing five tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery against the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 8, 2019.

Minnesota and Harris have until July 15 to come together on a long-term deal.

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Bills’ GM on Diggs: ‘It’s my job, and my personnel staff’s job to add weapons’

Last season, the Buffalo Bills did what many thought they could do, and that is make it to the postseason. Buffalo finished 10-6 and made the playoffs in 2019. Unfortunately, the Bills would fall to the Texans 22-19 in OT in the wild-card round of the playoffs. 

In 2019, the Bills had a very good defense, which finished third in total defense and second in points allowed. However, at times on offense, it was a struggle for Buffalo. The Bills finished 24th in total offense and were 23rd in points scored, so with those numbers; Buffalo needed help on offense, which they may have found in WR Stefon Diggs.

Buffalo sent a first-round pick, fifth-round pick, and sixth-round pick in the 2020 draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft for Diggs and a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft.

Diggs, 26, had 63 catches for 1130 yards and six touchdowns last season in Minnesota.

Today, Bills GM Brandon Beane, via a conference call, discussed the acquisition of Diggs. 

Q: I know there’s been some reporting and sourcing on how exactly the Stefon Diggs trade came about. Can you just kind of give us in your own way a timeline of how things unfolded for you?

Beane: “Yeah, so it was that Monday, the negotiating period started around noon, so you know late afternoon, I don’t know exactly the time. Four or 4:30, somewhere in there. We reached out and just kind of, as we do, you know all the time we hear rumors on, some of the same rumors we heard at the trade deadline last season on guys. I think it was pretty open that we were, we were snooping around midseason to make a trade for another receiver, and we just couldn’t find a deal that worked for us. And you know, Stefon was one that we had looked into at that point, along with some other guys. And, you know, Minnesota was not willing to part with him at that point, but we checked back in, and it didn’t seem like a definitive 100% no. They just said, ‘Listen we’re not shopping him. We just agreed to a contract a little over a year ago.’ So talked to them, and they just said, ‘Listen, we’ll listen, but it’s got to be something, because you know we got to replace this guy, and he’s our number one receiver.’ And so did that. Then you know we were talking to other receivers agents, working through seeing what was available, what our options were. And then at the end of the night, I told Minnesota, ‘Hey, we’ll circle back.’ And they, they were starting to get a little antsy because they were getting pressure, you know, there were some other teams involved. And so, we worked on it probably around 9:45 or so, and I think 20 to 30 minutes later, we got it knocked out.”

Q: Why was this a move that you felt like your team needed to make at this particular time.

Beane: “Yeah, I mean, I said it at the end of season press conference. I blamed myself as much as anybody. It’s my job and my personnel staff’s job to add weapons to help run Brian Daboll and his staff, help our quarterback, help Sean. And so one of the things that I thought we still needed, hence I was referring to us snooping around at the trade deadline was finding somebody opposite John Brown to pair with Cole Beasley. And, again, the draft was is stacked with receivers as well. We’ve talked about that before. But I think it became ever-present with what’s going on around us, that we don’t know what kind of offseason we’ll have. And I just felt like it was going to be really hard, unless I trade it up really high to find a guy that I know could walk in, day one. Let’s just say it’s August before we get back to things. You know, I just felt a proven commodity was worth this. The trade value of this move probably moved us up three to four slots from 22, might of got us to 18 or 19, not as high as I thought we had to get to get one of those premier guys that I knew would walk in the door, even August 1, and be ready to roll.”

Q: Do you consider Stefon Diggs almost like your first-round draft pick? And how are you guys doing the draft preparation given everything going on in the world?

Beane: “It is one of those things where I view it that’s our first-round pick. The way I’m viewing it with the draft capital that we moved to acquire him is we moved up, let’s just say four spots. We traded up there, and we got him. And we know the player. It’s just a more proven thing right now. And again, what we’re dealing with. What did weigh into it is, I know this guy knows ball and we’ll be able to understand the verbiage of our system quicker than, a lot of this stuff in college is all signaled in. A lot of these guys aren’t in huddles, so the biggest transition for these receivers beyond the routes and the physical stuff is just hearing these long play calls in the huddle and processing in their head from as little as ‘Do I go left? Do I go right? Am I on the ball? Am I off the ball?’ Now I got to start reading what coverage they’re in to know what route they are in. You know all those things, the mental part is so hard, and that’s why I think so many receivers, we talk about all the time probably one of the higher bust rates across the league. I think it’s more mental than physical.”

Vikings re-sign OG Dakota Dozier

The Minnesota Vikings re-sign OG Dakota Dozier, the team announced today.

According to the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling, it’s a one-year deal worth roughly $1 million.

The seven-year veteran joined Minnesota as a free agent last season. The West Columbia, South Carolina, native was selected by the New York Jets in the fourth round (137th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft and has appeared in 54 career games with 11 starts.

Dozier, 28, most recently set a career-high with four starts in 2019, three at right guard and one at left guard, while also seeing time at center and appearing in all 16 games for the first time in his career. 

As a collegian, Dozier made 44 career starts for Furman, and was a First Team All-SoCon selection following both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Dozier was also named a unanimous First Team FCS All-American following the 2013 season, only the seventh unanimous All-American in program history.

Vikings’ GM: ‘Kirk(Cousins) has proven he’s one of the top quarterbacks in this league’

The Minnesota Vikings announce the team has agreed in principle to a contract extension with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The 31-year-old Cousins had one year left on his current deal, which was the three-year, $84 million contract that he signed in 2018. According to ESPN, Cousins was due a $29.5 million base salary for 2020, which becomes $10 million on his new deal. His new deal is worth $66 million over two years, including $61 million guaranteed at signing.

“We are very excited to keep Kirk and his family in Minnesota for the future,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. “Kirk has proven he’s one of the top quarterbacks in this league and has continued to improve and progress each day since he arrived here. It means a lot to have such upstanding individuals like Kirk and Julie committed to not only our team success but also to our community with all the exemplary work they’ve done in that arena. Our collective goal is to bring a championship to Minnesota, and we will do whatever it takes.”

Cousins, who will enter his ninth NFL season in 2020, was named to his second-career Pro Bowl after setting several personal, franchise, and league-best marks during the 2019 campaign.  He became the first player in NFL history to post three consecutive games (Weeks 5-7) with at least 300 passing yards and a 130.0 passer rating and set an NFL single-season record by finishing five games with a completion rate of 80.0 or higher. Cousins ranked fourth in the NFL with a career-best 107.4 passer rating while recording nine games with a passer rating of at least 100.0, tied for the most in the NFL in 2019. The Michigan State product also earned NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors in October, thanks in part to a 137.1 passer rating that stands as the second-highest single-month passer rating in NFL history (Peyton Manning, 138.0, September 2013).

“Julie and I are thrilled to be staying in Minnesota for the next several years,” Cousis said. “People have embraced us and treated our family incredibly well. We also believe we are building something special at the Vikings. We know how much this team means to the fans and the state, and we want to do everything we can to help this team bring a championship home.”

Cousins notched the first postseason victory of his NFL career at New Orleans in the Wild Card round last season, and has proven to be an outstanding quarterback, but the questions remain on whether he is a championship-caliber quarterback. For Vikings fans, time will be the judge of that.

Vikings add Dom Capers to staff

The Minnesota Vikings have added Dom Capers to the coaching staff as
senior defensive assistant, the team announced today.

Capers enters his 33rd season as an NFL coach and his first season with the Vikings as Minnesota’s senior defensive assistant in 2020. He most recently served as the Jacksonville Jaguars senior defensive assistant during the 2019 season.

In 2019, Capers assisted a Jacksonville defense that ranked fourth overall in sacks per pass play (8.3%) and tied for 13th in the NFL in defensive fourth down efficiency (45.5%). Under Capers’ tutelage, Jaguars defensive ends Calais Campbell, Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue emerged as one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing trios. Campbell was selected to the Pro Bowl for a third time in as many seasons and was recognized with the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his off-the-field efforts. As a rookie, Allen led the team with 10.5 sacks, the most among all NFL rookies in 2019.

Capers’ 32-year NFL coaching career includes 25 seasons as a defensive coordinator or head coach. He spent four seasons as head coach of the Carolina Panthers (1995-98) and five years as head coach of the Houston Texans (2001-05), both NFL expansion teams. He has also held defensive coordinator duties for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1992-94), Jacksonville Jaguars (1999-2000), Miami Dolphins (2006-07) and Green Bay Packers (2009-
17).

Current Vikings Coaching Staff:

Mike Zimmer……………………Head Coach
Gary Kubiak …………………….Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach
Marwan Maalouf ………………Special Teams Coordinator
Andre Patterson……………….Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line
Adam Zimmer ………………….Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
Dom Capers…………………….Senior Defensive Assistant
Rick Dennison………………….Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator
Ryan Ficken…………………….Assistant Special Teams
Andrew Janocko ………………Wide Receivers
Christian Jones ………………..Offensive Quality Control
Daronte Jones …………………Defensive Backs
Derik Keyes …………………….Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Klint Kubiak……………………..Quarterbacks
Chaz Mahle……………………..Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Brian Pariani ……………………Tight Ends
AC Patterson …………………..Offensive Quality Control
Kennedy Polamalu……………Running Backs
Nick Rallis ……………………….Defensive Quality Control
Phil Rauscher ………………….Assistant Offensive Line
Mark Uyeyama…………………Director of Competition Development

Kubiak named Vikings’ offensive coordinator

In a move that has been speculated for weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have hired Gary Kubiak to be their offensive coordinator. In 2019, Kubiak was the Assistant Head Coach/ Offensive Coordinator with the team. 

Kubiak will replace departed offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who was recently hired as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

The 58-year-old Kubiak will enter his 25th season as an NFL coach holding the title as the Vikings offensive coordinator/assistant head coach in 2020. As a team, the Vikings climbed from 30th in the NFL in rushing offense in 2018 to sixth in 2019. The Vikings posted a 3,000-yard passer (3,602 by Kirk Cousins), a 1,000-yard rusher (1,135 by Dalvin Cook), and a 1,000-yard receiver (1,130 by Stefon Diggs) while sending Cousins, Cook, and fullback C.J. Ham to the Pro Bowl. The Vikings offense recorded 45 touchdowns, the highest total since 2009. Kubiak helped Cousins to the best season of his career with a 107.4 passer rating and a 26-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Also, the Vikings made the following coaching moves:

Andre Patterson Adam Zimmer – Co-Defensive Coordinators

Andrew Janocko  Wide Receivers

Daronte Jones – Defensive Backs

Phil Rauscher – Assistant Offensive Line

Zimmer on Cousins: ‘I think this may have been his best year that he’s played in the NFL’

The season is over for the Minnesota Vikings after they lost to the 49ers 27-10 on Saturday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

On Monday, it was time for the players to clean up and head home, and it was time for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to reflect on the season that was, which meant talking about his quarterback Kirk Cousins.

In 2019, Cousins played very well for the Vikings. After a slow start, Cousins threw for 3603 yards with 26 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. The interception total was a career-low for Cousins as a starter. After missing the playoffs in 2018, Cousins was able to guide his team to the playoffs, including going into New Orleans to defeat the Saints in the Wild-Card game. 

According to Zimmer, Cousins played the best football of his career in 2019.

“I think Kirk (Cousins) played a lot better this year than he did the year before,’ Zimmer said. “I think obviously the scheme helped him quite a bit, and so I think yeah, I think this may have been his best year that he’s played in the NFL.”

When asked if the Vikings should lock up Cousins long-term, Zimmer had this to say.

“To answer the question, the best way to answer it is part of the reason why I didn’t want to do player evaluations today or this week was because I want to get away from everything for a little bit of time, evaluate the players,” Zimmer said. “You know, if you win, everything is great, if you lose, everything is the worst in the world, so I think it’s important that we take our time, get away from it for a few days, then we evaluate, and we’ll go from there. Not just on Kirk, on everybody.”

The 31-year-old Cousins will be entering the final year of his three-year, $84 million contract in 2020, so the Vikings will have a decision to make. The question for the Vikings is, can they win a Super Bowl with Cousins as their quarterback, and as Zimmer evaluates Cousins, I think he will probably have more questions than answers.

Cousins was not very good against the 49ers, and while he completed 21 of his 29 passes, he only threw for 172 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Vikings have so many weapons on offense, including Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen. Therefore, he really does not have any excuses.

In the end, when you guarantee a player $84 million, you expect results, and those results need to be a Super Bowl victory.

Vikes’ Stefanski on GW drive: ‘That drive was indicative of our players making a ton of plays in a big moment’

When the Minnesota Vikings received the ball first against the New Orleans Saints in overtime on Sunday, the goal was to do everything in their power to not give the ball back to the Saints, so for that to happen, they needed to score a touchdown, and they did.

On that drive, RB Dalvin Cook contributed as he rushed for a first down. WR Stefon Diggs caught a pass for a first down; Adam Thielen caught a 43-yard pass to set up Kyle Rudolph’s game-winning four-yard touchdown catch, and of course, QB Kirk Cousins made all throws.

The nine-play, 75-yard drive was orchestrated by Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who discussed the drive on Wednesday,

 “I think consciously we’re trying to score every time we touch it,” Stefanski said. “I think that drive, just credit to the players, Diggsy (Stefon Diggs) makes a big play on third down. Adam (Thielen) and Kirk (Cousins) make a great play, and then Kyle (Rudolph) makes a great play. Dalvin (Cook) had a good run in there to get us a first down. So I think that drive was indicative of our players making a ton of plays in a big moment.”

Of course, the Vikings are better when Thielen and Cook are in the lineup. Against the Saints, Thielen caught seven passes for 129 yards, while Cook ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns. 

According to Stefanski, having a healthy Thielen and Cook makes the Vikings’ offense more dynamic.

“I think we’re fortunate in that we have guys at every position that we feel confident can make a play,” Stefanski said. “When you have a player of Adam’s caliber that you know can make a play in the pass game, coupled with Stefon (Diggs) and the running backs and the tight end that we have, I just think it gives you another element to what we’re trying to do.”

Stefanski added about Cook: “Dalvin is a special player. When he touches the ball, good things happen. Does it open up other elements of our game? Certainly, it does, and we’re never going to shy away from saying that we’re going to be multi-faceted in how we attack a defense, so having number 33 is certainly a nice bonus for us.”

Minnesota has the weapons, and if Cousins is right, they can put up points against anybody, which they will need on Saturday against the 49ers. 

Zimmer on giving Cousins game ball: ‘I just felt like it was time to tell a lot of people that he’s our guy’

“You Like That!”

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins shut a lot of people up on Sunday. Cousins and the Vikings(11-6) went into New Orleans(13-4) and were able to beat the Saints 26-20 in overtime, and one of the main reasons they won, is because of Cousins.

The eight-year veteran did something that many thought he could not do, and that is win not only a playoff game but do it in such a harsh environment. The Vikings don’t defeat the Saints without Cousins, who threw a beautiful 43-yard strike to Adam Thielen, which set up the game-winning touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph.

Cousins completed 19 of 31 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown, and after the game, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer presented him with the game ball.

On Monday, Zimmer discussed how it felt to give Cousins the game ball. 

“It was just about him solidifying himself with all of the bad rhetoric that he gets all the time about this or that,” Zimmer about Cousins. “I just felt like it was time to tell a lot of people that he’s our guy, and he did it.”

The Vikings have to travel to San Francisco to play another 13-win team in the 49ers in the Divisional Round on Saturday, and the same recipe they used against the Saints, Dalvin Cook and the run game, tough defense, and Cousins, is what they will need to move on.

Many have criticized Cousins, who signed a three-year, $84 million guaranteed contract with Minnesota in 2018, especially after he failed to lead the Vikings to the playoffs last season, but if he can keep winning in this year’s playoffs, Minnesota will definitely like that!

Zimmer on Kendricks: ‘He’s a good kid, works real hard, has gotten better each and every year’

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was named First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press. 

The 27-year old Kendricks earns his first career All-Pro selection after recording 12 passes defensed on the season, tied for the top mark among NFL linebackers. Kendricks has led the team in tackles for five consecutive seasons, tallying 110 total tackles (70 solo) in 2019. The UCLA grad also posted two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four tackles for loss, while starting 15 games for the Vikings.

“Eric’s (Kendricks) had a good year,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said on Friday. “He’s a good kid, works real hard, has gotten better each and every year. We’re happy for him.”

The Fresno, California, native helped the Vikings defense rank at the top of the league in several categories since being drafted in 2015. In five seasons, the defensive unit ranks in the top two of the league in opponent yards per game (317.3), red zone scoring (45.5 TD percentage), third-down conversions (33.7%), and opponent offensive points per game (18.0). Kendricks is the first Vikings linebacker to be named All-Pro since Chad Greenway (second team) in 2012.

The Vikings are hoping to have Kendricks in the lineup on Sunday when they travel to New Orleans to face the Saints in the NFC Wild Card game. Kendricks, who is dealing with a quadriceps injury, was a full participant at practice on Friday, which is good news for Minnesota.