Notebook: Vikings must find money for Barr, Diggs

Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today Sports Images

Barr and Diggs are up next in extension conversation; red zone offense getting a lot of attention

EAGAN, Minn. --In the last two years, the Vikings have used lucrative long-term deals to lock up star defenders Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter.

There's one more to go as training camp nears: Anthony Barr, the ninth overall pick five years ago.

Somehow, the Vikings still have the cap room to work deals with Barr and receiver Stefon Diggs.

Barr sent a subtle message by not showing up for an early OTA session not too long after the Vikings did a long-term deal with close buddy Kendricks. Barr returned quickly and said the contract situation won't affect his play.

Barr is an extraordinarily versatile linebacker that can rush and cover downfield. But, as head coach Mike Zimmer has pointed out before, there are times when Barr will "coast."

It's not as though Barr will be underpaid if he doesn't get a long-term deal. In the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, Barr is set to make $12.3 million, the most by a 4-3 outside linebacker.

"If there's something there, (my agent] will run it by me," Barr told reporters. "I'm making $12 million this year, man, I can't complain. I'm coming to work, working hard. I've done all I can do to prove my worth. Hopefully they see that."

--The red zone was an area the Vikings excelled in last season with Case Keenum at quarterback and Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator. It's also an area the team paid very close attention to during an offseason that saw Kirk Cousins and John DeFilippo take over at quarterback and coordinator, respectively.

A year ago, only four offenses scored more than the Vikings' 5.11 points per red-zone trip, according to Football Outsiders. In a 38-30 win over Cousins and the Redskins, the Vikings scored five touchdowns inside the 10-yard line.

Meanwhile, the Redskins ranked ninth, 28th and 14th in points per red-zone trip with Cousins at quarterback.

"That's why we're working so hard at it," Cousins said after a fourth straight day of heavy red-zone work during OTAs.

Head coach Mike Zimmer allotted extra time to offensive red-zone work a year ago. He's not letting up this year. If anything, it's more of a focus with new faces at the two key spots on offense.

"We've spent an awful lot of time," Zimmer said. "I think it's just important we get a lot of work in there. We put a big emphasis on it last year. We're going to continue to do so."

Cousins learned a lot during offseason work. For example, there was one particular play where he looked away from Kyle Rudolph thinking the big tight end was covered.

After the play, quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski had a talk with Cousins about trusting Rudolph to make the play even when he appears to be covered. Later that day, Cousins viewed the play using the team's virtual reality headset and saw exactly what Stefanski was explaining to him.

"He said, 'Hey, in that situation, you might want to give Kyle a chance even though he looks covered,'" Cousins said. "You have to throw him the ball. He's really open."

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