The Minnesota Vikings are determined to shore up their woeful special teams.
The Vikings officially announced Wednesday they have agreed to terms with 11 undrafted free agents, and, as expected, three are specialists. Minnesota had reached agreement on deals with Memphis kicker Riley Patterson and San Diego State long snapper Turner Bernard last Saturday and with LSU punter Zach Von Rosenberg on Monday.
After last season, the Vikings did not renew the contract of special-teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf and replaced him with Ryan Ficken. They signed kicker Greg Joseph in February, released kicker Dan Bailey in March and required punter Britton Colquitt in March to take a pay cut or be cut. And in last week’s draft they selected Iowa State running back Kene Nwangwu and Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, two of the nation’s top kickoff returners.
“We did struggle on special teams last year,” general manager Rick Spielman said after the draft.
Patterson will compete with Joseph at kicker, Von Rosenberg with Colquitt at punter and Bernard with incumbent Andrew DePaola at long snapper.
Patterson got a $5,000 signing bonus and $15,000 of his $660,000 rookie contract for 2021 guaranteed, the details of Von Rosenberg’s deal are uncertain, and Bernard did not get a bonus or a guarantee on his rookie deal.
The Vikings don’t have a lot tied up in the three veterans battling for jobs. Joseph has just $35,000 of his $780,000 contract guaranteed, Colquitt’s $1.075 million deal is nonguaranteed and DePaola’s $990,000 contract is nonguaranteed.
The names of the other eight undrafted free agents the Vikings announced already had been reported as having reaching deals. They are linebackers Tuf Borland of Ohio State and Christian Elliss of Idaho; wide receivers Blake Proehl of East Carolina, Myron Mitchell of Alabama-Birmingham and Whop Philyor of Indiana; defensive tackle Zeandae Johnson of California; nose tackle Jordan Scott of Oregon, and running back A.J. Rose of Kentucky.
Proehl got $100,000 of his contract guaranteed, plus a $15,000 signing bonus. Johnson received a guarantee of $10,000 and a signing bonus of $10,000.
All the players will compete in a May 14-16 rookie minicamp. Joining them will be tight end Shane Zylstra of Minnesota State Mankato, who agreed to terms on a deal Tuesday and said he signed it on Wednesday morning. Zylstra, the brother of former Vikings wide receiver Brandon Zylstra, was considered a street free agent since he had gone undrafted in 2020. He said he did not get any of his salary guaranteed or receive a signing bonus.
Vikings trade talk
The Vikings last Thursday traded down in the first round of the draft from No. 14 to 23 and got two third-round picks out of it from the New York Jets. But before they took tackle Christian Darrisaw at No. 23, general manager Rick Spielman revealed after the first round that they had tried to move back up.
Spielman didn’t name any teams, but it appears the Vikings might have made an offer to Las Vegas in an attempt to move up from No. 23 to 17.
“Just when we got on the clock a team did call us and inquired about moving up but they gave us a very poor trade offer and it was a team that needed a tackle,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock told reporters. “So the combination of the poor offer and their need kind of pushed us away from that.”
The Raiders ended up taking at No. 17 Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood, whom many draft analysts did not list as a potential first-round pick. It is believed the Vikings would have taken Darrisaw had they moved up to 17.
As it turned out, the Vikings ended up with the tackle they apparently had wanted after Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater was taken No. 13 by the Los Angeles Chargers. And they didn’t have to give up any assets after having dropped to No. 23.
The Vikings have assigned uniform numbers to the 10 players they took in the draft following Darrisaw. Darrisaw last Friday was given No. 71.
The other numbers for the draftees are: Quarterback Kellen Mond (11), linebacker Chazz Surratt (41), guard Wyatt Davis (51), defensive end Patrick Jones II (93), Nwangwu (26), safety Camryn Bynum (43), defensive end Janarius Robinson (95), Ihmir Smith-Marsette (15), tight end Zach Davidson (40) and defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman (76).