The Minnesota Vikings were relatively quiet on the first day of the legal tampering period before free agency — when teams can offer and reach verbal agreements with unrestricted free agents.
That was before the Vikings reached a deal with New York Giants nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, signing the 27-year-old to a two-year, $22 million contract with $16 million guaranteed, per Ian Rapoport.
The writing was on the wall Monday night that Vikings nose tackle Shamar Stephen would likely be cut. Minnesota made the move official on Tuesday morning, cutting Stephen and saving $3.09 million in 2021 cap space, Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson reported.
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Tomlinson Revitalizes Run Defense
Tomlison had been a cornerstone for the Giants defense for four seasons, totaling 207 tackles and eight sacks. Dominant on the line of scrimmage, Tomlinson, standing 6-foot-3 and 318 pounds, made his mark as a run defender early in his career.
He had a breakthrough as an interior pass rusher in 2020, generating 28 total pressures and a career-high four sacks and 18 hurries. Tomlinson produced a 75.1 Pro Football Focus position grade and was ranked the top free-agent defensive tackle this offseason by NBC Sports. Jacob Camenker called Tomlinson “one of the best run stuffers in the NFL.”
Dalvin Tomlinson has the 2nd-highest run stuff rate (5.1%) among interior DL since entering the league in 2017 (min. 800 run snaps).
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 16, 2021
Joining nose tackle Michael Pierce, who the Vikings acquired in free agency last season, the Vikings have a revitalized defensive interior that could rival the days of the Pat and Kevin Williams.
Pierce said he is “super excited” to play next to Tomlinson and has watched his future teammate since Tomlinson’s days at Alabama.
“He’s another guy like myself who dominates the line of scrimmage,” Pierce said of Tomlinson, per Tomasson. “He’s found a way to get to the quarterback for 3.5 sacks the past two years. It’s going to be fun to play next to him.”
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Shamar Stephen’s Contract Didn’t Warrant His Prospects Next Season
After Pierce opted out of the 2020 season, Stephen was moved from the three-technique to nose tackle. Co-defensive coordinator
Adam Zimmer called Stephen “as good a nose as there is.” The offseason signing of Pierce begged to differ, however, Stephen proved to be a versatile piece that bailed the Vikings out at the time.
Minnesota uses a three-man rotation on the defensive interior, and after loading up with Pierce and Tomlinson, the Vikings likely cut Stephen to save some cap space and supplant the last spot with the likes of James Lynch, Hercules Mata’afa and Armon Watts.
Stephen was a seventh-round pick by the Vikings in 2014 and played three seasons before he was released and signed with the Seattle Seahawks. He returned in 2019 on a three-year deal, which he accrued two seasons on before his release.
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