The Vikings know how to draft and develop pass rushers. The bigger challenge is finding a way to keep them around beyond their rookie deals.
Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that both sides are willing to explore a contract that would supplant the final year of Weatherly’s seventh-round rookie deal. The 2016 draft pick is due to make $720,000 this season.
“If that’s what they want, by all means I’ll be down for [an extension],” Weatherly said, via Tomasson. “If they think I’m good enough to keep around, then that would be amazing. I was drafted in the seventh round and worked my way up. That would be a pretty good story to tell my kids one day.”
Agent Blake Baratz told Tomasson that there’s a chance an extension will happen.
“We’ve had some discussions,’’ Baratz said. “He definitely would like to be here. I know the Vikings want him here. They don’t have the most cap room in the league, so who knows if it will happen before this season, during this season, after this season? I don’t think there’s a timetable on it, but I think it makes sense for both parties. A lot of things have got to play out first, but I think it’s a desire on both parties.”
One of the things that will have to play out relates to cap space, because the Vikings currently have little more than $600,000 for 2019. But if the Vikings wait too long, Weatherly could end up getting even more expensive to keep around.
“The thing that Stephen, when he played last year, was he made a lot of plays,” coach Mike Zimmer said, via Tomasson. “He’s improved in a lot of areas. I anticipate that he’ll have a much larger role for us this year as we continue to go forward. He continues to get better. You can just see he’s much more confident in everything he’s doing.”
The 25-year-old Weatherly, who played college football at Vanderbilt, appeared in all 16 games last season, with six starts. He stepped up during Griffen’s absence, and Weatherly proved that he belongs at this level. Though he had only three sacks for the year, Weatherly became a solid complement to Hunter.
If the Vikings truly believe that Weatherly will continue to improve, now is the time to make him an offer that he can’t refuse. With a solid season in 2019, he’d be in position to refuse a lot more than what the Vikings would pay now, given that free agency or the franchise tag would be waiting for him.