Now that Stefon Diggs has a new contract, Adam Thielen has become the biggest bargain in the Minnesota Vikings receiving corps — maybe one of the biggest in the NFL.
His four-year $19.2 million contract, signed prior to last year, has the 1,000-yard receiver locked up through the 2020 season at a conservative annual rate of $4.8 million. Diggs’ new deal gives him $14.4 per season.
Couldn’t be happier for him and his family,” said Thielen. “Couldn’t be happier for us as Vikings players because we’re glad he’s on our team, a guy that works as hard as he does. I’ve never seen anybody grind the way he does in the offseason, during the season, so if there’s anybody that deserves getting a contract like that it’s him.”
Asked if he felt the need to reevaluate his own contract, Thielen didn’t reveal any discontent.
“That’s why I have an agent,” he said. “He takes care of that stuff so I don’t have to worry about it. When I signed my contract before last season, that’s why I did it because I didn’t want to have to worry about money. I didn’t want to have to worry about my contract — I just wanted to go play football, and it allowed me to do that.”
The Vikings have a contract decision to make next year on potential third-string receiver Laquon Treadwell, who has shown signs of improvement thus far in camp. Minnesota will have to decide in the spring whether to pick up Treadwell’s fifth-year option.
“He knows he’s a good player, and he’s always known that, but he hasn’t always walked around with that when he was a young player,” Thielen said. “It’s so fun for me to see a guy like that grow from year to year, and he’s just having fun. Before, I don’t know if he was necessarily having fun. He was getting frustrated and things like that, so it’s obviously great to see him having success out here.”
Zimmer talks defensive line
The Vikings’ front four is set, but there are still depth spots to solidify.
Minnesota has a healthy dose of young talent vying for for roles on the defensive line, including a pair of draft picks from last season, fourth-round pick Jaleel Johnson and seventh-round pick Ifeadi Odenigbo.
Johnson played 41 snaps last season and has gotten second-team reps at defensive tackle in camp. The Vikings are trying him out at nose tackle, as well as 3-technique.
“He’s improved a lot,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “I think one of the biggest things is he’s a wrestler, so he wanted to get in wrestling matches with guys as opposed to locking them out and then playing the gap that he’s supposed to be in. A lot of times when a guy would come to block him he would knock him back and then jump inside and then his gap would be open, so he’s been a lot more disciplined that way, and like I said not getting in wrestling matches.”
Minnesota has often partnered Johnson up with Odenigbo, who has taken on an inside role after working off the edge last year.
“I feel like that’s the best position for him,” Zimmer said. “His quickness shows up, he’s a tough, heavy-handed kid, and he probably didn’t have the juice we need for that [outside] spot, so I think inside is a better spot for him.”
Another second-year player looking for a backup job on the line is the undrafted LSU product Tashawn Bower. He’s also been taking second-team reps after getting just 10 snaps in his rookie season.
“He’s a really hard work, got good size and length, good speed, and he’s becoming better and better with the techniques,” said Zimmer. “He’s more of a power-rushing end than a speed-rushing end, but there’s a lot of guys like that. His skillset is different than Danielle Hunter.”
Offensive line up in the air
Training camp injuries have once again kept the Vikings from fielding their preferable Week 1 offensive line.
Last year Minnesota was missing left tackle Riley Reiff for most of the preseason. Currently, they are missing center Pat Elflein (ankle/shoulder) and right guard Mike Remmers (ankle).
The injuries have forced Nick Easton to take reps at center in place of Elflein, Tom Compton to slot in at left guard and Danny Isidora to play right tackle.
“We’re looking at a guy here, we’re looking at a guy there, we’re moving guys around a little bit,” said Zimmer, “and we’ll continue to do that because there’s a possibility one guy may have to play guard, he may have to play tackle, he may have to play center, something like that.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can get the best five in there and how they work best together, so it’s always going to be a work in progress.”
Zimmer said he plans to use several more line combinations to get players used to multiple positions. The Vikings have rarely had stability on the line during Zimmer’s tenure. Even last year when the unit had success in protection, they used seven different line combinations in the season’s final 12 weeks.
“Some of them are less likely to go to another spot than others, but when you’re talking about Easton and Elflein and Remmers playing right and left,” said Zimmer. “We haven’t moved O’Neill to the other side yet, but we will at some point. Isidora’s played right and left guard. When you’re only dressing seven on gameday you have to have people prepared for anything.”