On the first day of free agency, the Minnesota Vikings made their signing of former Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Nick Vigil official.
Vigil signed a one-year contract Wednesday that could be worth up to $2.29 million if he hits all $550,000 of his incentives, per Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson.
And with that, likely are content to move forward this season without starting linebacker Eric Wilson after restructuring Anthony Barr’s contract this offseason.
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Wilson’s 2020 Performance Was Beyond What the Vikings Could Pay Him
Undrafted in 2017, Wilson worked his way as a special teams star before getting the full-time starting job after Anthony Barr’s torn pectoral injury knocked Barr out of the season in Week 2.
Wilson flourished in the final year of his contract with the Vikings.
Wilson, who started 15 games at outside linebacker this season, was what teammate Eric Kendricks called a “walking turnover” on defense. He tallied three interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries. He proved effective on both sides of the line of scrimmage, posting eight tackles for loss and eight passes broken up.
This offseason, Minnesota found itself with the dilemma of keeping either Barr or Wilson. Mike Zimmer’s defense, which utilized only two linebackers and three cornerbacks in nickel packages 72% of the time in 2019 — good for the fourth-highest percentile in the league.
It didn’t make sense to pay three linebackers sizeable salaries with Barr and Kendricks already garnering lucrative contracts.
General manager Rick Spielman addressed the dilemma of having too much talent at linebacker approaching free agency on March 7.
“We went through a lot of different scenarios. If we got Danielle Hunter and [Michael] Pierce back, and then you have Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks back – you can’t fill every hole with expensive players,” Spielman said. “Anthony is a critical piece — I know Coach Zim has spoken about it — of our defense. Just him on the field creates some offensives coaches, they have to scheme for him… But it’s all going to depend how the pieces are going to fit in place.”
Wilson’s fate ultimately came down to Barr’s willingness to take a pay cut. Barr accepted a $2.9 million pay cut in a contract restructure that will allow him to reach free agency in 2022.
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Vigil Expected to Compete for 3rd Linebacker Spot
Vigil, entering his sixth season, played in 14 games for the Chargers last season. He was a three-year starter with the Bengals where he spent two seasons with new Vikings senior defensive assistant Paul Guenther.
In his final year in Cincinnati, Vigil totaled 111 combined tackles, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, an interception and a sack.
Vigil is expected to compete for the weakside linebacker role with 2020 fourth-round pick Troy Dye, 2020 seventh-rounder Troy Dye and 2020 free-agency signee Ryan Connelley — an Eden Prairie, Minn., native.
Minnesota is likely to find more competition at linebacker this offseason but is likely to pluck from the bargain bin with big free-agent moves on the horizon elsewhere.
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