The Minnesota Vikings and wide receiver Stefon Diggs agreed on a five-year deal worth $72 million, $40 million in guarantees. The 24-year-old wideout earned the long-term commitment after catching 64 passes for 849 yards and eight touchdowns, ranking first among wideouts in 2017 in NextGen Stats’ tight-window rating in addition to receiving the top rating for contested-catch efficiency by the game charters at Pro Football Focus.
The move also continue’s Minnesota’s trend of locking up good, young players, giving them one of the most talented rosters both in 2018 and five years from now, insuring they will be a Super Bowl contender for years to come.
For example, using approximate value — Doug Drinen’s method of putting a single numerical value on any player’s season, at any position, from any year, with 10 or more AV signifying a truly outstanding performance — the Vikings have seven players who topped the 10 threshold under contract for at least the next four years. The outlier, new quarterback Kirk Cousins, is on a three-year deal.
|Minnesota Vikings||Position||Age||Years under contract||AV in 2017|
Three key members of the defensive line, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter, are signed through 2022, costing the franchise $24.7 million in 2018 and $43 million four years from now. But those three combined for 23.5 sacks, 95 hurries and 27 knockdowns in 2017 per Sports Info Solutions, giving the Vikings top-notch pass rush stability. If you believe defense wins championships, you’ve got to like what Minnesota is doing with its roster.
Another team stockpiling talent — also on the defensive side of the ball — is the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags, like the Vikings, have eight players under contract that produced an approximate value of 10 or more in 2017, six on defense and two on offense, with all but one of them, quarterback Blake Bortles, under contract for at least the next four years.
|Carolina Panthers||Position||Age||Years under contract||AV in 2017|
Campbell was rated as the league’s third-best edge rusher in 2017 by the game charters at Pro Football Focus and Smith was ranked as the fourth-best linebacker. Ramsey and Bouye allowed the 9th and 16th fewest yards per cover snap last season, respectively, per data from Sports Info Solutions. Bouye allowed a mere 32.2 passer rating against in coverage, which is lower than the rating a quarterback gets for an incomplete pass (39.6).
|2017||Yards allowed per cover snap||Passer rating against|
With so many high-caliber players on the roster, it’s no wonder Minnesota and Jacksonville have such a rosy outlook. The latest odds from the Westgate SuperBook reflect that: the Vikings carry 10-to-1 odds (tied with four other teams as the second choice) to win the next Super Bowl while the Jaguars’ odds are 16-to-1 (fourth-lowest). When we look at how much current approximate value will be available in the year 2020 and beyond, it certainly appears one or both could win a Super Bowl in that time frame.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots.
Seattle has just 10 players signed beyond the year 2021 and the list doesn’t include four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson nor any offensive lineman besides rookie Jamarco Jones. Nor are there any defensive players of note destined to be in a Seahawks uniform at that time, leaving the franchise a narrow window to remain competitive for a title.
The Chargers have $20.9 million committed to nine players by the year 2021, with more than half of that ($14.7 million) earmarked by two players, cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Derwin James. Quarterback Phillip Rivers and star wideout Keenan Allen will be free agents in 2020 and 2021, respectively, making it imperative the teams finds their replacements sooner rather than later. Same for running back Melvin Gordon, who hits the market in 2020 at 27 years old. A contract extension at that time will be paying for years normally past a rusher’s prime.
At some point the Patriots will have to navigate life without Tom Brady, arguably the best quarterback in the history of the game. And when that happens — perhaps as early as 2019 when his current contract expires — the team’s fortunes should turn for the worse. According to ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, a team with Brady’s level of production would be expected to win 67 percent of their games, equivalent to go a 11-5 regular-season record, three wins more than a quarterback with an average QBR rating, such as Kirk Cousins (52.3 QBR in 2017) or Josh McCown (51.9 QBR). Brady’s current contract also expires the same year as four-time all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and two-time Pro Bowl safety Devin McCourty, perhaps forecasting an end to the Patriots’ vise grip on the AFC East. But, assuming he’s still around too, who wants to bet against Bill Belichick?
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