It’s round two with the Vikings for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, and this time they got him at half the price.
Richardson re-signed Tuesday with the Vikings after playing for them in 2018 on a one-year, $8 million deal. A source said Richardson’s latest contract is for one year at $3.6 million, although incentives could make it worth as much as $4.35 million.
Richardson signed a three-year, $37 million contract with Cleveland in 2019, but the Browns released him after two seasons on April 16 in a salary-related move. Due to the timing, Richardson figured he wouldn’t be getting the kind of money he was getting in previous seasons.
“The way the business works, they hold you (until) five days (actually 13) before the draft, and there’s no more money in free agency,” Richardson said after taking part in a practice to start the Vikings’ three-day mandatory minicamp in Eagan. “You’ve got to take what they hand out.”
Richardson, 30, considered re-signing with the Browns after his release, but then Minnesota entered the picture.
“Got presented with an offer a couple of weeks ago, but I told them I was waiting to hear back from Cleveland,” Richardson said. “Honestly, just couldn’t come to an agreement with what I wanted from Cleveland, and me being cool with the organization here (made it) a perfect fit.”
One thing that wasn’t a perfect fit was Richardson’s jersey number for his first minicamp practice. He wore No. 9, which belonged to punter Zach Von Rosenberg before he was waived Tuesday to make room on the offseason 90-man roster for Richardson.
Richardson said he chose No. 9 over No. 67 for minicamp, but figures he’ll be wearing a different number during the season.
When the season comes around, Richardson will join a defense that looks to be much better on paper than it was in 2020, when the Vikings finished 27th in the NFL in total defense. They have gotten back defensive end Danielle Hunter, who missed all of last season due to a neck injury; linebacker Anthony Barr, who sat out the final 14 games because of a shoulder injury; linebacker Eric Kendricks, who missed the last five games with a calf injury; and nose tackle Michael Pierce, who opted out of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Other defensive free agents coming aboard include cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander; defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson; defensive end Stephen Weatherly, and safety Xavier Woods. Like Richardson, Alexander and Weatherly are back after previous stints with the Vikings.
“You’re kind of sitting back as a fan just like everybody else,” veteran safety Harrison Smith said. “Love having all the new guys (on defense), and we’re building some good chemistry, whether it’s in the secondary or up front. … Sheldon’s a baller. … Just a really athletic guy, has a good feel for the game.”
Richardson said the Vikings are “very stout on the defensive front.” The marquee player on the line is Hunter, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who was at minicamp Tuesday but did not practice.
Hunter was dissatisfied with his contract and did not attend voluntary organized team activities. But the Vikings agreed to rework his deal Monday, a move that could result in Hunter making about $20 million in 2022, roughly $8 million more than he previously was on the books to earn.
“His contract’s a little bit bigger now, so that’s the difference between me and Danielle (from 2018),” Richardson quipped.
Richardson started all 16 games for the Vikings at three-technique defensive tackle in 2018, and has started 118 of the 121 games he has played in eight NFL seasons. But Richardson, who also plays nose tackle, is prepared now to come off the bench in a likely three-man interior line rotation with Pierce and Tomlinson.
“This will be the first year where I’ve not started, so I’m just getting in where I fit in,” said the 6-foot-3 Richardson, who said he now weighs 286 pounds.
But not starting and having a lesser salary won’t temper his expectations.
“I still want to be one of the dominant guys in the league, like I’ve been,” he said.