Madieu Williams was expected to make a major impact on the Vikings defense when he signed a $33 million, six-year free-agent contract in 2008 that included nearly $13 million in guarantees.
That never happened and Thursday -- the first day players could be placed on waivers since the NFL lockout ended -- the veteran safety was released along with veteran defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy ($250,000 salary for 2011) and receiver Freddie Brown. The Vikings also added to their roster, agreeing to terms on a three-year, $9 million deal with free-agent nose tackle Remi Ayodele, who had been with the Saints.
The fact that Kennedy and Brown would be let go had been known for two days, but the decision to jettison Williams was under wraps. Nonetheless, the move did not come as a surprise, given the fact the Vikings were looking to clear money as they attempt to reach the $120.3 million salary cap by the Aug. 4 deadline.
Williams' salary cap number for this season was $5.5 million and his departure is believed to save the Vikings' $3.5 million against this cap. He was scheduled to make a base salary of $5.4 million each of the next three seasons. An NFL source said Williams was not asked to restructure the deal for the second time since he signed it.
Ayodele's signing, which will become official at 5 p.m. Friday, likely means the Vikings will part ways with veteran free agent Pat Williams. Ayodele is the second free-agent to agree to terms with the Vikings, joining wide receiver Devin Aromashodu (Chicago). Aromashodu isn't the last receiver the Vikings are eyeing.
A day after Sidney Rice accepted a five-year deal from Seattle, the Vikings entered in talks with James Jones (Green Bay) and also appeared to show interest in Malcom Floyd (San Diego) and Braylon Edwards (Jets). Bernard Berrian ($6.3 million cap number) was believed a candidate to be cut by the Vikings but remains on the roster, in part because the team can't afford to give up depth at receiver. There is a chance, though, the Vikings could ask Berrian to restructure a contract that calls for a base salary of $3.9 million in 2011.
Madieu Williams, 29, who spent his first four seasons in Cincinnati and was known for his ability in coverage, never appeared to be the same player after he suffered a severe neck injury during his first training camp with the Vikings that cost him the first seven games of the season.
He played in 14 games in 2010, missing the final two because of a concussion, but often took poor angles on tackles and struggled in coverage.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who was the Bengals' defensive coordinator in Williams' rookie season in 2004 and held the same job with the Vikings when the safety arrived, had given no indication that Williams would be let go when asked.
The move has to be considered good news for Tyrell Johnson, a second-round pick in 2008, who played in only seven games last season but should get a chance to win the free safety job. The Vikings also could continue to look on the free-agent market for help at the position.
The 6-3, 318-pound Ayodele is entering his fifth season and has been a starter for the past two in New Orleans. The 28-year-old joined the Saints in 2008 after stops in New England, Baltimore, Dallas and Atlanta. Last season, he had 37 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Ayodele's name should ring a bell with Vikings fans. He was the player who hit quarterback Brett Favre in the upper body during the third quarter of the Saints' overtime victory in the 2009 NFC title game as Bobby McCray hit Favre low. Favre suffered a sprained ankle on the play and the NFL later admitted a penalty should have been called.
Ayodele, whose brother Akin is a linebacker for Buffalo, was part of a Saints defense that was 16th against the run last season, giving up 112.3 yards per game.
Ayodele, however, is considered to be strong against the run and likely will step into the first- and second-down role (at least) playing alongside Kevin Williams.
Ayodele became expandable in New Orleans when the Saints signed Shaun Rogers to a one-year deal in early March before the NFL lockout.