A multiyear contract extension for Mike Zimmer has been on slow boil since he left the Superdome in January with his second playoff win as Vikings coach.
Zimmer, who was entering the final year of his deal, was rewarded with a new contract Wednesday afternoon, a league source confirmed, a day before the team’s first group of players are scheduled to report for training camp. The terms were not immediately available.
Six months ago, Zimmer said he expected contract talks in the “near future” after a playoff loss at San Francisco.
“I love these players, this organization. The owners have been outstanding to me,” Zimmer said Jan. 13 at his season-ending news conference. “I believe that there will be conversations here in the near future and whatever happens, I’m happy with it.”
But a deal was not imminent as recently as earlier this week, according to a league source, and there were a few reasons Zimmer’s contract extension could have been placed on the back burner.
The possibility of a season inches closer now that NFL teams are gathering again this week. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, teams have not been allowed to hold in-person workouts or meetings for four months, and only recently received testing protocols for camp.
Ultimately, the Wilfs didn’t make Zimmer wait any longer. They rewarded the 64-year-old tactician, who has called plays for five consecutive top-10 scoring defenses and is 57-38-1 (. 599) in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs over six years. He’s tied for the seventh-longest tenure among NFL head coaches, behind Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and Andy Reid.
Zimmer’s new contract arrives just before the players do, and the coach’s to-do list may be as long as ever this season.
Seven new starters will be required on offense and defense, with new assistant coaches on both sides of the ball. While every NFL team faces unusual challenges this year, Zimmer will be dealing with the most roster turnover since his initial Vikings season in 2014.
The Wilfs might also address General Manager Rick Spielman’s contract, which is also entering its final season. In the meantime, Spielman is expected to continue working with running back Dalvin Cook’s representatives on an extension to prevent a possible holdout.
Cook did not attend a few virtual meetings last month and said he won’t report to camp without a new deal. The problem facing Cook is, by NFL rule, he can’t become an unrestricted free agent next spring without reporting to camp on Tuesday.
Perhaps helping the two sides find common ground was Derrick Henry’s recent four-year, $50 million extension from the Titans, which a source said is closer to the Vikings’ offers than the $16 million average Christian McCaffery received from Carolina in April.
Zimmer has spoken fondly of Cook, equally effective as a rusher and receiver, as the spearhead of a balanced offense, boding well for Cook’s chances of getting a new deal as well.