The Vikings announced Friday they signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a one-year contract, and at 4 p.m. they introduced him at a news conference at their Eagan headquarters.
Here are five quick thoughts on the signing of Richardson — who was with the Jets from 2013-16 and Seattle last season — and what it might mean for the Vikings:
*Much like the signing of Kirk Cousins on Thursday, the Richardson move speaks to a team that believes it can take the next step after reaching the NFC title game a season ago — and players who are eager to latch onto that.
When Richardson was asked if it’s “Super Bowl or bust” for the Vikings in 2018, he said this: “I’m not the predicting type, but that’s what we’re chasing. … I wanted the best opportunity to win a Super Bowl. I feel like this is it.”
*Richardson seems like he might be a good talker in the locker room. He was asked about the Vikings’ new headquarters/practice facility, and he quickly called it the “best building in the league.” When asked why he feels that way, Richardson looked a bit incredulous. “Have you seen the building?” he said, even though he was still inside it. “It’s pretty nice, ain’t it? Smells like new paint, don’t it? Everything is state of the art, top notch. And it’s a beautiful stadium. … I could see myself making a lot of plays in that building.”
*Richardson was chosen in the first round of the 2013 draft, No. 13 overall — 10 picks ahead of Sharrif Floyd, whom the Vikings took No. 23 overall. Richardson is essentially a replacement for Floyd, who has battled nerve damage in his leg after a promising start to his career. Floyd played just one game in 2016 and missed all of last season. He is now a free agent.
*Richardson’s best season came in 2014, playing as a defensive end in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme. That year, Richardson had eight sacks and was the second-highest graded 3-4 defensive end in Pro Football Focus’ metrics.
But even last year playing as a defensive tackle in the Seahawks’ scheme, Richardson showed he can still influence the passing game. Though he only had one sack, he was credited by PFF with 28 quarterback hurries in 2017 — tied for seventh-most among all interior linemen in the NFL.
Geno Atkins — who was coached by Mike Zimmer with the Bengals before Zimmer joined the Vikings — had 50 last year for Cincinnati to lead interior linemen in hurries. Tom Johnson, the Vikings’ primary tackle next to Linval Joseph last year, had 20 hurries.
“We felt like one of the positions we needed to get better at on defense was our 3-technique,” Zimmer said Friday. “Those guys can affect the quarterback as much as any position along with defensive ends. … Sheldon was a guy that has been one of the most disruptive defensive linemen. … Sacks are not our number one goal. It’s about disrupting the quarterback and getting him off his spot and timing.”
*It’s clear the Vikings are loading up for 2018 while still saving resources for 2019 and beyond. The structure of Kirk Cousins’ three-year deal — with cap hits rising from $24 million to $29 million to $31 million over the length of it — was an indicator the Vikings had another significant move to make in free agency. Otherwise, it would have made sense to front-load the deal before having to pay other expensive extension-eligible players in 2019 and beyond.
They clearly had to pay for Richardson, but the fact that it’s just for one year means he could end up just being a stopgap while a low-cost replacement is perhaps drafted in April and groomed to take over in 2019.
In fact, Zimmer said that when Richardson stopped by his office during his free agent visit, Zimmer was studying 3-technique tackles available in this year’s draft.