Vikings agree to sign tight end Josh Oliver, restructure linebacker Jordan Hicks’ deal
A source said Oliver's deal is a three-year, $21 million contract with $10.75 million guaranteed.
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Vikings are still working to get under the salary cap but that didn’t stop them from making a big splash on the first day of the free-agent negotiating period.
A source said Minnesota agreed Monday to sign tight end Josh Oliver to a three-year, $21 million contract with $10.75 million guaranteed. Oliver, who could make as much as $24 million with incentives, is a top blocking tight end who caught 14 passes for 149 yards last season with Baltimore.
The Vikings entered Monday about $7 million over the salary cap but to drop that number have agreed to restructured deals with linebacker Jordan Hicks and offensive lineman Chris Reed. They still have work to do, and must be under the cap by 3 p.m. Wednesday, the first day of the NFL new year.
Cap reasons played a role in the cornerback Patrick Peterson not returning with the Vikings for a third season. Peterson, who wanted to re-sign, said Monday on his podcast that “business” prevented it from happening and that he will sign as a free agent with Pittsburgh. NFL Network reported it is a two-year, $14 million deal.
Entering his fifth season, Oliver will team with Pro Bowl selection T.J. Hockenson to give Minnesota a strong one-two punch at tight end. It’s generally been known since the Vikings acquired Hockenson from Detroit last November that they won’t be re-signing free-agent tight end Irv Smith Jr.
Oliver was a third-round pick by Jacksonville in 2019 out of San Jose State. He was on injured reserve in 2020 before being traded to the Ravens in 2021. He has 26 catches for 230 yards in the three seasons in which he has seen action.
By agreeing to a new contract with Hicks, the Vikings are assured they won’t lose both their starting inside linebackers. Eric Kendricks was released March 6 in a salary-related move. Media reported Monday night that Kendricks will sign with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Vikings entered last week more than $24 million over the cap before letting go Kendricks, wide receiver Adam Thielen and cornerback Cameron Dantzler to get that number down to about $7 million. Dantzler was claimed Monday on waivers by Washington.
It was not immediately known how much money the team saved on Hicks, who was on the books in 2023 for a base salary of $4.45 million and a salary-cap number of $6.5 million. ESPN reported that restructuring Reed’s deal saves $1 million on the salary cap. Reed had been on the books in 2023 for a $2.45 million base salary and a $2.75 million cap number.
Hicks signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Minnesota last March. He started all 17 games in 2022 and had 129 tackles, second on the team behind Kendricks. He also had three sacks and an interception.
Hicks is in line to start in a 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Brian Flores, who replaced the fired Ed Donatell. Second-year linebacker Brian Asamoah is the most likely candidate to replace Kendricks.
Reed, who played at Minnesota State Mankato, signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with Minnesota last April and competed to start at right guard. He lost out to rookie Ed Ingram and was inactive for the first 10 regular-season games. He played in the last seven, including taking over at center in the final two games after Garrett Bradbury and Austin Schlottmann were injured.
Monday marked the start of the NFL’s free-agent negotiating period. While agents can talk to all teams about their clients, free agents can’t sign deals with another team until the start of the new league year. So, the earliest Oliver officially could sign would be Wednesday.
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