EAGAN, Minn. – Plan on Stefon Diggs being in Purple next season.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman took to the podium in Indianapolis for his NFL Combine media session and fielded a question about Diggs and rumors that have surfaced in the social media world.
"Stefon, last year, had probably his most productive year. He's a young receiver we just extended," Spielman said. "He's not only a major part of our offense and a major part of our organization winning games, but he also does a lot of things for this organization off the field, as well.
"There's no reason, or the rumors or whatever you're talking about, to anticipate that Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking," Spielman added.
In 2019, Diggs recorded 63 catches for a career-high 1,130 yards. He scored six touchdowns for Minnesota and averaged 17.9 yards per reception, easily surpassing his previous high average of 13.8.
Diggs originally joined the Vikings as a fifth-round draft pick in 2015. Since then, the receiver has played 70 games, starting 63 of them, and racked up 4,623 yards and 30 touchdowns.
The Vikings signed Diggs to a contract extension in July of 2018.
Spielman emphasized the strength of Minnesota's offense and the key role Diggs plays in it.
"When you have some of the offensive talent that we have, with him and [Adam] Thielen together, and with [Kyle Rudolph] and Irv Smith, and with Dalvin Cook and [Alexander] Mattison, we have a pretty good support cast around our quarterback," Spielman said.
Here are four other topics Spielman discussed during his presser:
1. Excitement around Cousins entering Year 3
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is set to enter the third and final season of the contract he signed as a free agent in March 2018.
Spielman was asked if Cousins' contract situation was a top priority this offseason, and he responded that he and his staff have "a lot of things on our priority list." He opted against getting into Cousins' contract details but reflected on his 2019 campaign.
"Just assessing where Kirk was last year and putting him in a system that pretty much emphasizes what he does well, with the play-action and establishing a running game, and his accuracy is second-to-none in this league, I believe, when he has time in the pocket – not only short and intermediate but also what he throws down the field," Spielman said. "I think the second year, which I don't think he's been in, to go into a system for two years in a row, we just see him progressing and improving more.
"From a business side, I won't talk about anything on contract negotiations or what we're doing, but I do know we're very excited," he added. "And I think the other thing that Kirk answered last year was, can he win the big game?"
Spielman specifically mentioned Minnesota's prime-time win in Dallas, Cousins' role in helping the Vikings execute an historical comeback win over Denver and his performance in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, when Minnesota scored a walk-off touchdown in overtime to stun the No. 3-seed New Orleans.
"So, you're seeing [good] things," Spielman said. "And I give a lot of credit to [Head Coach] Zimmer and [Offensive Coordinator] Gary Kubiak [for] putting him in situations to have success. I think it's even going to go farther next year, being in the same system."
2. O-Line observations and look ahead
The Vikings offensive line in 2019 looked a little different than the previous season.
Minnesota used its first-round pick to draft Garrett Bradbury, who started at center from day one. Pat Elflein moved to left guard, and the Vikings added right guard Josh Kline in free agency. Riley Reiff and Brian O'Neill remained at left and right tackle, respectfully.
Spielman said the offensive line is "still a work in progress" heading into 2020, but he also acknowledged the unit's steps forward.
"I think when we went to the outside zone, there are specific guys that have to have specific physical traits that we're looking for. I think that'll be an area that we continue to try to improve," Spielman explained. "But we made tremendous strides from last year, and I give a lot of credit to Gary Kubiak, and I give a lot of credit to Rick Dennison and Andrew Janocko for what they did to develop those guys.
"I think we have two really good, cornerstone-type players in Brian O'Neill and Bradbury, and I think we're going to continue to grow and develop that," he continued. "Because to me, all the passing and everything in this league, you're going to win up front in the trenches, both on the offensive and defensive side."
3. Appreciation for Cook-Mattison duo
Alexander Mattison made an impact for Minnesota as a rookie.
The Vikings drafted the running back out of Boise State last April, and Mattison relieved Cook from time to time earlier in the season and stepped in when the Pro Bowler battled a couple of injuries later in the year.
Spielman called the Vikings "very fortunate" to have a running back duo like Cook and Mattison.
"I know when Dalvin went down last year and Mattison had to play, we really didn't lose much on offense," he said.
"Mattison, we felt very strongly about what he could do, especially in this offense," he later added.
Spielman also was asked about the value of running backs in the NFL and whether the Vikings will look to extend Cook, whom Minnesota drafted in 2017.
"I put Dalvin in the same class as I have all our other young guys … we've always tried to keep our core, young talent that we draft and develop," Spielman said. "[Running backs coach] Kennedy Polamalu has done a phenomenal job with that position, and we'll look at that.
"Usually we do not look at extensions until after we get through the draft," he added. "Right now we have so much ahead of us and a lot of decisions to make before the free agency begins and the new league year begins. And then we look at the draft and once we settle down and everything. But I consider Dalvin into one of those core group of players that we definitely want to try to keep."
View throwback photos of Vikings players from their performances at the NFL Scouting Combine over the years.
4. Success in finding late-round gems
The Vikings have had had success in recent history of finding players in the late rounds of the draft – or even afterward with undrafted rookies – who not only make the roster but develop into significant contributors.
Spielman was asked about things he and his staff seek out during their late-round process.
"I think we're all on the same page on the physical traits we're looking for," Spielman said. "I know not only our scouts, but our coaches, really, we take [Day 3 of the draft] and that college free agency just as serious as we do [the early rounds]."
He also credited Vikings Director of Analytics/Pro Scout Scott Kuhn for his role in the process.
"We've implemented some analytics as another tool. It's not a decision-maker for us, but they can really vet out guys that legitimately have a chance from guys that don't," Spielman explained. "So when you have 700 guys on your back board, they may pull out 20 or 30 guys that have a legitimate chance to make a roster, and then we kind of hone in on those guys to see if they're a fit for the Minnesota Vikings."