At first glance, Stefon Diggs—who in 2018 was set to play the last year of his rookie contract—didn’t seem like a receiver who would be up for a massive extension this offseason. He didn’t lead the league in receptions last year, like Jarvis Landry (who in April got five years and $47 million guaranteed) and he isn’t coming off back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons like Brandin Cooks (who got five years and $49 million guaranteed earlier this month). In fact, Diggs has never had 1,000 yards or 100 catches in a season. But Tuesday, the Vikings gave him a five-year, $81 million contract with more than $40 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal will keep Diggs in Minnesota through 2023.
While Diggs’s counting stats haven’t jumped off the page in any of his three NFL seasons, advanced metrics paint him as one of the best wideouts in the league—and at just 24 years old, his potential is as high as anyone’s. In 2017, Diggs led the NFL in contested catch rate, graded eighth in Pro Football Focus’s wide receiver ratings, was ninth in Football Outsiders’ DYAR (and fifth in DVOA, which measures value on a per-play basis), and his quarterbacks had a 120.4 passer rating when throwing to him, second in the league among wide receivers. He’s racked up those gaudy numbers by becoming one of the NFL’s most exceptional route runners, as well as a receiver who can haul in passes even with a defender draped over him. His body control at the point of the catch is nearly unrivaled, and he’s adept at creating separation. Oh yeah, and he also already owns one of the greatest highlights in Minnesota’s franchise history:
There are a few reasons advanced stats are kinder to Diggs than the raw numbers are. First is Adam Thielen, the 27-year-old Minnesota native lining up next to him who has quietly emerged as a Pro Bowl–level talent, and second are the groin injuries Diggs battled in 2016 and 2017. With this extension, the Vikings are betting that his advanced numbers prove predictive, and that his clear talent and efficiency ensure that the more traditional stats—yards, touchdowns, etc.—will follow once Diggs doesn’t have to also contend with injuries.
In 2015, before Diggs’s rookie year, former Steelers wideout Mike Wallace said Diggs reminded him of Antonio Brown. It would be foolish to say Diggs is the next Brown, but the comparison is there. The two both display exceptional route-running ability and body control, and both were relatively forgotten draft prospects who were picked in the fifth round or later. Diggs still has a long way to go, but what he has shown on the field makes it clear that he’s a special talent.
On the team side, the Vikings have locked up virtually their entire starting core for at least the next few seasons.
Adding Stefon Diggs to this list, the Vikings now have 13 starters signed through 2020. (via Spotrac) pic.twitter.com/iYUkClV8o3— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) July 31, 2018
Only linebacker Anthony Barr, who will hit free agency after this season, remains as a player the Vikings will look to give an extension to soon. With that core, Minnesota had enough juice to make the NFC championship game last year, and the team is gearing up to solidify itself as a conference contender for at least the next couple of seasons. Just like Diggs, the Vikings have as much potential as anyone.