Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was caught in the crosswinds of the business of the NFL.
Barr, the third-longest tenured player on the Vikings roster, was among several veteran players whose contracts were on the chopping block this past offseason. Minnesota cut Riley Reiff and Kyle Rudolph, who were unwilling to take pay cuts for their prospective roles on the team moving forward.
Barr went a different route. With three years left on his deal, the four-time Pro Bowler agreed to restructure his contract to a one-year, $10 million deal that saved the Vikings over $6 million in cap space for the 2021 season, per the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling.
The 29-year-old linebacker spoke on his decision to restructure, which bears a stark resemblance to his decision to return to Minnesota after verbally signing with the New York Jets three years ago.
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‘I Didn’t Want to Go Out Like That’
Barr hasn’t spoken to the media since suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2 last season that required season-ending surgery.
Barr came clean on his decision to take a pay cut on Wednesday after OTAs.
“It’s a number of reasons. The most important one really was I didn’t want to go out like that with my last game being one in which I got hurt and then missed the entire year,” he told local media. “I didn’t want that to be my last memory as a Minnesota Viking, so that played a big factor in returning, taking a pay cut, to be back with this organization.”
Barr’s contract restructure essentially places him in a prove-it year for the 2021 season, testing his recovery from his torn pectoral. Minnesota will likely revisit negotiations to re-sign him next offseason.
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Barr’s Loyalty to Vikings Shines Through Again
This offseason tested Barr’s loyalty to the Vikings once again after he entertained a lucrative contract from the Jets in 2019 that didn’t sit right with him.
ESPN’s Courtney Cronin detailed Barr’s free-agency process that offseason:
[Barr’s agent] Ryan Williams got back on the phone. He told the Jets his client was in and they were ready to get the deal done.
Williams had a three-way conference call with Barr and his mother Lori. In the background, Williams struck up the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, “Theme from New York, New York” to set the mood. This was supposed to be a celebration.
Instead, it felt like a funeral.
Barr was quiet on his end of the phone. There was no joy in his tone of voice.
Meanwhile, someone inside the Jets’ organization apparently leaked the news that Barr was leaving Minnesota, frustrating all three on the phone call.
Barr instantly felt regret for the decision he had just made.
“He said, ‘I feel like I just made the worst mistake of my life,’” Williams said.
Williams worked fast to untangle the agreement and give Minnesota a chance at a final offer. When the two sides agreed to a deal, Barr’s reaction was the polar opposite of his response to the Jets.
“I said, ‘Congrats, dude, you’re a Viking,’ ” Williams said, per Cronin. “And he literally screamed that this was the best day of his life. I said to him, ‘That’s the reaction I was hoping to get yesterday and now that I have it, I actually have to call the other teams and let them know your decision.’ ”
“I was trying to convince myself of something I knew that in my heart didn’t feel right, and I think if you follow the heart, I can live with the results,” Barr said following his return to Minnesota in 2019.
Harrison Smith’s reaction to Barr’s return is all you need to know about his impact on the team.
Barr’s Plans in His Contract Year
Coming back from a serious injury for the first time in his career, Barr detailed the difficulties he faced in the past year — which primarily came from his isolation from his teammates and inability to attend meetings and practices due to COVID-19.
“Last year was tough for a number of reasons. I missed playing. I missed being with the guys,” Barr said last Wednesday. “But I think it was a year of learning and reflection, and I’m looking forward to this year. We have some high expectations and high hopes, and it’s a fresh start, so looking forward to what’s to come.”
As one of the team’s most veteran players, Barr maintains he’ll lead by example for a Vikings roster that is the second-youngest in the league.
“You want to do your job at a high level, and we want to come to work every day and lead by example. Having a lot of younger guys, and they’re looking at you to see how things are done. I don’t think I’m doing anything differently,” Barr said. “The culture here has always been good, and we want to keep that the same, and we have a good group of guys who are willing to buy in.”
Looking ahead to potentially one final ride in Minnesota, Barr hopes to make the most out of this upcoming season.
“It’d be a pretty sour note to end on with all the great memories that I have. I think that one would be the most lasting so trying to put it in the backseat and move forward and look forward to a healthy and productive season,” he said.