Vikings Rumors

Vikings, Sheldon Richardson Discussing Deal

After spurning a potential return to the Browns, Sheldon Richardson is considering another reunion. The Vikings have the defensive tackle on their radar and have entered discussions to bring him back.

Richardson, who played the 2018 season in Minnesota, is on the cusp of re-signing there, Field Yates of tweets. KFAN’s Jack Day was the first to report a Richardson-Vikings reunion was on the radar (Twitter link). Richardson spent the past two seasons with the Browns but has opted not to accept a reduced offer to return for a third season. The Browns released Richardson in April.

The Vikings have already devoted considerable resources to their defensive tackle position. Last year, they poached Michael Pierce from the Ravens in free agency. Pierce, however, opted out in 2020. In March, the Vikes added ex-Giants starter Dalvin Tomlinson. Richardson returning would give Minnesota one of the best D-tackle groups in the NFL.

Minnesota’s defense ranked fourth in yardage yielded during Richardson’s Twin Cities season, but a much younger group dropped to 27th in 2020. Mike Zimmer‘s first bad Vikings defense was without Danielle Hunter for all of last season and missed Anthony Barr for most of it. The Vikings now have Hunter back in the fold, after adjusting his contract earlier Monday, and are clearly serious about bolstering their D-line.

A veteran of four teams, Richardson has started 118 games in his career. The former first-round pick and Defensive Rookie of the Year started 16 games with Minnesota three years ago and remained a quality starter during his Cleveland stay. The 30-year-old defender has 31 career sacks and 58 tackles for loss in eight seasons.

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Vikings Adjust Danielle Hunter’s Contract

Danielle Hunter reported to Vikings minicamp and soon received some additional cash. The Vikings, who signed Hunter to a team-friendly extension in 2018, adjusted their top pass rusher’s deal Monday.

The team converted $5.6MM of the veteran defensive end’s contract to a signing bonus, Ian Rapoport of tweets. This will give the seventh-year veteran a nice cash influx and also put the Vikings to a decision next year. While Hunter is still signed through the 2023 season, this contract adjustment may change that.

Hunter’s deal now includes an $18MM roster bonus due on Day 5 of the 2022 league year, Rapoport tweets. This will put the Vikings to a decision on their Pro Bowl sack artist. Hunter being part of the Vikings in 2022 will likely depend on his health. He missed all of last season due to a herniated disk in his neck, placing the 26-year-old defender in a less-than-ideal negotiating position.

Hunter’s injury, however, greatly impacted the Vikings. They sported a porous defense for the first time in Mike Zimmer‘s tenure, with a younger group battling other injuries and lacking for reliable pressure threats. Bringing Hunter back into the fold stands to be significant for a Vikings team that devoted key offseason resources to upgrading its defense.

When Hunter signed his five-year, $72MM deal three summers ago, a consensus emerged that the Vikings scored a big win. Hunter then made the next two Pro Bowls with 14.5-sack seasons in 2018 and ’19. Less accomplished pass rushers then cashed in. Going into the 2021 season, Hunter is the NFL’s 17th-highest-paid edge defender. The Vikings, however, have given him a path to change that status.

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter To Report To Minicamp

Danielle Hunter will join the Vikings for the start of mandatory minicamp (Twitter link via James Jones of NTAF). Hunter has been hoping for a new deal, but it sounds like he’ll be a good sport and dodge the potential fines for skipping. 

Last year, we heard that Hunter would demand a trade if the Vikings didn’t give him a fresh contract. It’s not clear where things stand, but the defensive end wouldn’t necessarily be negotiating from a position of strength. Hunter had 14.5 sacks in both 2018 and 2019. But, last year, he didn’t play at all due to a herniated disk in his neck. At last check, GM Rick Spielman said his rehab was going well and expected him to be on track for the start of the season.

Before the injury, Hunter graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 ranked edge rusher in the league, ahead of Cameron Jordan, Myles Garrett, Demarcus Lawrence, and a host of other big names. As it stands, the Vikings have him locked up through 2023, thanks to the five-year, $72MM extension he inked a few years back.

That deal gives him $12.15MM in base salary for each of the next three years, plus ~$14MM in potential bonuses. Hunter’s an elite pass rusher when he’s healthy, so he wants a better deal to match.

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Vikings’ Bashaud Breeland Had Surgery

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland was on the free agent market for a while, finally inking a one-year deal worth up to $4MM with the Vikings earlier this month.

One reason for his delayed signing may have been that he underwent shoulder surgery shortly after playing in the Super Bowl with the Chiefs, the veteran corner revealed earlier this week, via Andrew Kramer of the Star Tribune. Kramer notes Breeland still remains sidelined, and although the Clemson product said he’s “on track,” he also said “doctors tell me when I’m ready to get on the field.” It sounds like he should be ready for the start of the season but will end up missing a good amount of practice time with his new team.

Interestingly, Breeland also said his original plan was to return to the Chiefs for a third season. Breeland said his “heart was sold” on returning to Kansas City, but a couple weeks after his visit to the Vikings’ facility Minnesota came in with a financial offer he couldn’t pass up.

Originally a fourth-round pick of Washington in 2014, Breeland started 11 games for the Chiefs last year after serving a four-game suspension to start the season. He’s started both of the Chiefs’ recent Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl LIV with the team.

The Bears also expressed interest in him last month. After having a very youthful group of corners that often struggled last year, Mike Zimmer made overhauling the position a priority this offseason. In addition to signing Breeland, the team traded away former first-rounder Mike Hughes and signed Patrick Peterson.

In his seven-year career, Breeland has made 88 starts and racked up 81 passes defended to go with 14 interceptions.

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Texans Wanted Kellen Mond At No. 67?

The Texans just drafted Davis Mills in the third-round, giving them some quarterback insurance as they wait for the Deshaun Watson saga to play out.

Tyrod Taylor is also on the roster, but if Watson ends up traded or suspended it seems like there’s a good chance the rookie from Stanford makes some starts. New head coach David Culley recently raved about Mills, but as it turns out it sounds like the Texans originally had their eye on a different signal-caller. Houston was planning to take Texas A&M passer Kellen Mond at 67 before the Vikings nabbed him at 66, Mond’s father Kevin told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

(There was a) phone call from his agent, text message, and the agent said, ‘Hey, the Houston Texans are getting ready to select (Mond) at pick 67,’” the elder Mond said. “It wasn’t supposed to be Mills,” he added. “It was going to be Kellen.”

Getting drafted by the Texans would’ve meant staying in his home state, but Kevin said that Kellen is happy to be headed to Minnesota.

Mond might’ve had a better path to immediate playing time in Houston, but going to the Vikings might prove to be better long-term. He’ll start his pro career behind Kirk Cousins, but if the Vikings elect to move on from Cousins after this season he’ll definitely be in the mix as a potential successor.

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Vikings Sign CB Bashaud Breeland

After two seasons with the Chiefs, Bashaud Breeland will return to the NFC North. The veteran cornerback agreed to a deal with the Vikings on Friday, according to the team.

The Bears showed interest in Breeland, who played for the Packers in 2018. But the seven-year veteran will instead become the latest in a run of Vikings free agent corner signings. Minnesota added Patrick Peterson and brought back Mackensie Alexander this offseason. Earlier this week, the Vikes signed Tye Smith. Breeland will bring extensive experience to the Vikings’ secondary.

Since a long-term Panthers pact fell through in 2018, the former second-round pick has settled for one-year agreements. This is likely another one-year deal, with Mike Garafolo of tweeting Breeland can earn up to $4MM on this accord. Breeland has signed one-year contracts worth $3MM (2020), $2MM (’19) and $880K (’18) since leaving Washington.

Breeland spent the past two seasons as a key contributor for Chiefs Super Bowl-qualifying teams. The 29-year-old defender has started 88 career games and will be the second-most experienced corner on Minnesota’s roster. Pro Football Focus graded Breeland as a midlevel corner in 2020, slotting him 57th at the position. But PFF has viewed Peterson as a declining player in this span, slotting the All-Decade corner lower in each of the past two seasons. Like Peterson, Breeland has worked as an outside corner in recent years.

This signing would seem to add to the uncertainty surrounding Jeff Gladney. The 2020 first-round pick was arrested on an assault charge in April. Given the ugly details of that arrest, a suspension is likely for the former high-end prospect. On their respective short-term contracts, Breeland and Peterson stand to provide both starter upside and insurance against a lengthy Gladney ban.

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Vikings To Sign CB Tye Smith

The Vikings are adding another veteran to their cornerback room. They agreed to a deal with Tye Smith on Wednesday, according to veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson (on Twitter).

A former fifth-round Seahawks pick, Smith has played for the Titans since 2017. Tennessee re-signed the veteran backup to one-year deals in 2019 and ’20. Smith’s Vikings pact is a minimum-salary agreement, Anderson notes.

The Titans deployed Smith as a part-timer on defense, using him just under 20% of their defensive plays in each of his active seasons (2017, ’19 and ’20). Last season, he logged 125 defensive snaps. Smith, 27, has experience on special teams but only saw action on 15% of Tennessee’s special teams snaps in 2020. The Division I-FCS product started three games in 2019 as well and forced two fumbles that season.

Minnesota has been active at cornerback this offseason. Mike Zimmer‘s team reunited with sixth-year veteran Mackensie Alexander; he will join All-Decade corner Patrick Peterson, who is entering his 11th season. They agreed to one-year deals in March. The Vikings used first- and third-round picks on corners in 2020, but an offseason arrest has injected uncertainty into first-rounder Jeff Gladney‘s career. Minnesota traded 2018 first-rounder Mike Hughes to Kansas City a few weeks back.

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Vikings Wanted Justin Fields At No. 8

Recently, the Panthers shared a behind-the-scenes look at the 2021 NFL Draft, which showed the Vikings calling on their No. 8 overall pick. Ultimately, the offer wasn’t up to snuff. But, had the Panthers said yes, the Vikings would have selected Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (via PFT).

The Vikings were connected to Fields in the weeks leading up to the draft, hoping that he’d fall to No. 14 overall. Now, we know that they were proactive in trying to land him. It’s an interesting footnote, especially given the presence of Kirk Cousins. Cousins has two years and $56MM to go on his deal; Fields could have prompted them to trade the veteran sometime between now and the end of the pact.

The Vikings offered up their No. 14 pick, their third-round choice at No. 90, and a fourth-round pick to jump to No. 8. Panthers GM Scott Fitterer wanted a 2022 first-round pick in order to move down, so the talks didn’t progress from there. Instead, the Vikings moved down to No. 23, tapped Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw, and added to their third-round stockpile. That’s where they selected Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond, who could be groomed as an eventual successor to Cousins.

Kirk Cousins is our quarterback,” GM Rick Spielman said in March. “I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around out there, but Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. We felt that he played very well, probably the best that he’s ever played down that stretch last year. Kirk is our quarterback going forward, and I look forward to him (having) another year in this system.”

Cousins is indeed the Vikings quarterback, but it’s worth nothing that his contract no longer includes a no-trade clause. Meanwhile, the Vikings will see Fields twice per year when they face the Bears.

Vikings LB Cameron Smith Medically Cleared

Vikings LB Cameron Smith might not be a household name, but his return to the practice field is still noteworthy. The 24-year-old, who missed the entire 2020 campaign due to open-heart surgery, has been medically cleared to play, as Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.

Smith has had a tumultuous start to his pro career. Despite less than impressive measurables, his instincts and collegiate production as a four-year player at USC got the Vikings’ attention, and Minnesota selected him in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. He did not survive final cutdowns at the end of his first training camp, though he was quickly signed to the Vikes’ practice squad after he cleared waivers. He was promoted a few weeks later, saw action in a couple of games, and was waived again, only to end up back on the Vikings’ taxi squad before getting another promotion.

In all, he played five games in 2019, compiling eight tackles. Last August, during a COVID test, doctors discovered his heart condition. “COVID saved my life,” Smith said (Twitter link via Tomasson). The Vikings put him on waivers in a procedural move when they realized he would need heart surgery, and he subsequently reverted to season-ending IR (the club paid him his full $675K salary).

Now, Smith has rejoined his teammates, though he will still have an uphill battle to see significant burn on the defensive side of the ball. The Vikings are returning Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, and Minnesota also nabbed North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt in the third round of this year’s draft. Surratt is likely the favorite to land the weakside ‘backer job alongside Barr and Kendricks, but Smith will try to push him for playing time. If nothing else, he could carve out a role on special teams.

Speaking of Barr, the four-time Pro Bowler was also back on the practice field this week, as Tomasson tweets. Barr missed all but two games of the 2020 season due to a torn pec, and he reworked his contract this offseason. He will now be eligible for free agency next March.

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